Here we are in the middle of February, the calm before the storm for many in student ministry. You’ve finished your retreat or disciple now event and are taking a quick breath before working feverishly towards spring break mission trips with summer programming following closely behind. It seems so strange to even mention summer this early in the year, but as you know all too well, once you get to spring break it is a sprint of activity all the way to fall. I’m not saying all of this to get you stressed out in the middle of your short programming gap. I do, however, want to draw your attention to an important part of student ministry that is easily lost when the ministry is structured to live from event to event to event: volunteer leader recruitment.
The programming, or events, of your student ministry are important and they have an impact in the lives of your teenagers, but they don’t measure up to the lasting impact that one of your volunteer leaders can have in the life of a student.
Yet 47% of student pastors report that they spend time recruiting volunteers once a year or less.
Over the last seven years serving here at Lifeway Students I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of student pastors and I’ve been so encouraged by the passion and heart for teenagers and their families that exists across the country. At the same time, I’ve also seen a gap that’s reinforced by this earlier statistic. Simply put: student pastors aren’t spending enough time recruiting adult volunteer leaders to join them in ministry.
I’ve been in your shoes as a student pastor. I’ve had a full plate of work responsibilities and there have been times when recruiting leaders has been the last thing on my priority list. After all, the current spots are filled and things seem to be working just fine. The problem with this thought process is that it is very near-sighted. Yes, things may be working fine and volunteer spots may be filled in that particular moment, but that doesn’t take into account planning for growth. In student ministry, even more pronounced in the area of volunteer recruitment, you need to plan and implement for where you want to be in the future, not where you are right now. When you choose to recruit leaders for where you want to be in the future you will be able to take advantages of opportunities that come up along the way. The opposite is also true, if you don’t have the leadership structure in place you may actually miss out on ministry opportunities that present themselves.
I didn’t always have an “always be recruiting” mindset, and I believe that our ministries suffered because of it. There were times of growth that we weren’t ready for because we had just enough leaders to survive, which caused a strain on our small group structure with groups getting too big, which resulted in less effective discipleship and leadership burnout. Both are outcomes that are unacceptable. The solution is to embrace the ‘always be recruiting’ mindset. Never allow the thought or utter the words “we are full on volunteers.” As you recruit, install, and train new volunteers for your ministry you are preparing for future growth and opportunity, investing directly into people who can multiply your discipleship influence, and setting the teenagers of your ministry up for more opportunities to build spiritual mentoring relationships that will have a lifelong impact. Recruiting isn’t an option, and recruiting once a year isn’t enough. Always be recruitin’.
Research data is from Lifeway Research and the book Within Reach: the power of small changes in keeping students connected