Leaders / Volunteers

How to Recruit Volunteers


Stage time and announcements, along with notes in the bulletin, may help create awareness for Children’s or Student Ministry–or any other ministry, but they rarely elevate the importance of the ministry.

There is a difference between awareness and importance. Most announcements designed to recruit people turn into pleas for help. They draw attention to what’s wrong.

Not enough volunteers = Something must be broken

People want to join winning teams because they don’t like to lose. They experience enough failure in other areas of their lives to readily sign up to experience more of it in another area.

Rather than illustrate the significance of working with children and students, or any other groups, pleas for help make people more aware of the problems within the ministry—problems they hope someone else will fix before they consider serving.

Myth: We need more announcements to recruit more volunteers.

Truth: You need to elevate the importance of Children’s and Student Ministry (or your specific ministry) in the church.

Announcements are only a small part of an overall communication strategy. A ministry cannot live on announcements alone.

There are four elements of great communications strategies and four myths that will sabotage your recruiting efforts.

Communication Strategy Basics

  • Message: What you are saying.
  • Audience: Who needs to hear it.
  • Channel: How you are going to say it.
  • Frequency: How often they need to hear it for it to make an impact.

Message: What are you saying?

When your goal is to elevate the importance of specific ministry rather than make an announcement about what you need, what you say changes. It becomes more about why your ministry exists. It is about the vision that God has given you for ministry. You can think of it as your “I Have a Dream” speech.

Your message should be about 80% vision and 20% information about how to get involved. It should answer the following questions:

  • What do I need to know?
  • Why do I need to know it?
  • What should I do about it?
  • Why should I do it?

If this sounds a lot like a mission or vision, it’s because it basically is.

Several years ago I was directing the build-out of a large group environment for children and parents. We were building a full sound stage and set for weekly productions for parents and kids together. It was quite an undertaking and I was leading a large team of volunteers who were constructing the stage and set. While we were spending a significant amount of resources to build this environment—it was kind of a big deal—there were still people in the church who had no idea what we were doing in the building across campus that they rarely walked into. Throughout the building project people from other parts of the campus would hear the noise and stop by to see what was going on. When they would come in and ask about the racket we were making I would launch into a mini-monologue (that was well rehearsed by now) about how we were creating this environment for parents and kids: there would be sound and moving lights and an incredible stage and set that would look like the attic from “Bear in the Blue House.” We were going to be doing an interactive theater production that was a multisensory environment that included a cast of characters like on “Saved by the Bell,” dancing, music, singing, video and zany audience participation games based upon a monthly virtue. After I finished my monologue, most people were generally satisfied.

One day, after about the third time I had done this, a volunteer named Orv who had been listening to what I was saying pulled me aside. He said to me, “Why don’t you just tell them, ‘We are building this to help lead kids and parents to Jesus?’” Out of all the things I had said, I left out the most obvious. While I was painting a picture of what the environment was going to look like, I failed to state the whole purpose of what we were doing. Sometimes the purpose is enough. Sometimes you need to paint a picture of what the vision looks like, but most of the time they are not interested in the details.

You simply need a message that connects emotionally to your mission.

Our message is generally very simple. In our communication strategy these messages look something like this:

  • We exist to lead kids and students in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
  • Family ministry changes lives.
  • If you want to make an impact that lasts, invest in the next generation.

Our message begins with a statement, but it doesn’t end there.

Elevating the importance of Children’s and Student Ministry is built on telling compelling stories about why your ministry exists and why your mission matters. It’s about telling stories that illustrate the message you are trying to communicate. Remember, the best stories are not just about the kids you are serving, but the people serving in the ministry itself. Kids are not the only people whose lives are changed; volunteers lives are changed too.

The Right Kind of Announcements:

  • honor people who are serving–so others can see that everyday people volunteer in children’s and family ministry.
  • show the impact a volunteer can have on the life of a child or student or other specific ministry group
  • give people a vision for the significance of serving in children’s or student ministry or student ministry
  • show people how serving others will change their own lives and grow their faith
  • share stories of life-change happening in Children’s and Student Ministry

For a great example of a video that does this CLICK HERE. You can use this video or, even better, create your own with your own people and own stories. If you don’t have a video crew, consider interviewing a super star volunteer. Ask them why they serve in their particular ministry, how it has changed their own lives and grown their faith.

Help Wanted: Get, Keep and Grow New Volunteers - eBook PDFFor more on recruiting volunteers, purchase the ebook from which this article is adapted, Help Wanted: Get, Keep and Grow Volunteers: A Volunteer Recuiting Guide for Next-Gen LeadersRead it Today, eBook Instant PDF Download only $9.99 More…


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