Early in my career in youth ministry I had a lot of trouble recruiting and retaining enough volunteers for our ministry. We’ve done a lot over the past 8 years to try and change that and one of the most important things we’ve focused on is trying to make it fun to volunteer with us. Our thought is if a volunteer has fun when serving, they’ll be more likely to stay for years and even do the recruiting for us by talking about how much they love serving in our ministry with their friends. Here are a few things we do…
1. We empower them as much as possible. We try to give our volunteers a lot of different roles and responsibilities – they communicate our messages, they lead our cafe, they plan our games, they help plan our events, we give them as many jobs as we can and we let them do it their way (to a point). That’s a lot more fun than just showing up.
2. We give them a frame work and freedom. Small group leaders have the freedom and flexibility to lead their group with their own personality and skill set. We provide the framework (small group discussion notes), but they have the freedom to be as creative as they want and even take the discussion in a totally different direction if they think that’s best. Of course we ask to be kept in the loop if they decide to do something completely different, and need to keep a balance of rouge mavericks and creative ministry, but our leaders appreciate our trust and flexibility. No one wants to be told what to do and then micro-managed.
3. We give them a budget. We actually take money out of our budget for events and supplies and give it to our volunteers to use in their small groups. Every month each small group leader can submit up to $25 in receipts and we will reimburse them. That allows broke college kids serving with us or those volunteers struggling financially, to have fun with their small groups without having to worry about spending some cash.
4. We tell them they are the youth pastors. If you look at the definition of a pastor – they are. Small group leaders are the ones that are shepherding students. They are the ones that are emotionally connected and investing into the personal lives of students. We remind them that they are the youth pastors to their students and in-turn they feel more important and are more fulfilled. It’s fun to have you’re own little clan of middle school students that look up to you, that you are responsible for.
5. We make it fun for our students. When the students you’re trying to invest in actually want to be there, it makes your job as a small group leader so much easier. I sent a text message out to some of our volunteers and asked them why they enjoy serving with us, and I heard multiple times that if their students are having fun, it directly effects how much fun they have as a volunteer.
6. Encourage, Encourage, Encourage! It’s fun when your hard work is noticed and appreciated. So we try hard to tell our volunteers (and show them) what a great job they’re doing and how much we appreciate everything they do. Thanks Matt Beeman for reminding me how important this is!
7. We give them free food as much as possible. I realize that not every youth ministry has a budget, let alone a budget for food. But we feel like one of the smartest ways to use our budget is to invest in our volunteers and make sure they love coming to our meetings/gatherings/events. One thing that always works is free food. When serving they get a free item and drink from our cafe, and when at meetings we always try to provide lunch.
What do you think?
We value you’re input and want to have discussion with you. What do you do to create a fun place to serve? How are you investing into your volunteers’ experience? Please, leave a comment and join the fun!