Volunteers are the backbone of our student ministry. Without them, I’d be dead in the water. Their time investment, passions, gifts, and heart for students make it all work. In a student ministry of any size, a team of volunteers who love Jesus and love teens is the difference between success and failure.
With that said, there are a lot of things to consider as new volunteers get involved. Their impact on the chemistry of your team and greater student ministry is very important to consider. Finding the place where their giftedness and passion intersect and enabling them to serve from that place is the key to longevity. These are just a couple of things you’ll want to think about as you welcome new volunteers into your ministry.
The best thing you can do is have an intentional process that all potential volunteers go through before being formally invited to join your team and before they commit to volunteering long term. An effective process can identify strengths, expose weaknesses and concerns, and help you get each potential new volunteer into the right place of service.
This post is a snapshot of how we conduct volunteer recruiting, interviews, and initial engagement with our student ministry. There are samples of some of our volunteer resources at the bottom of this post.
For the benefit of our potential volunteers, our existing team, and the students who are led by our team, we have a process that we ask all potential volunteers to go through as they explore getting involved.
- Apply – Fill out and submit a Student Ministry Volunteer Application. It asks questions about their background, spiritual journey, family life, and why they’re interested in volunteering in student ministry. They must also submit to a background check that ensures that they don’t have any significant or outstanding charges and are not a sex offender. I love being able to tell the parents of our students that we have done this to ensure another layer of safety for their kids. Once the application is filled out, they submit it to our student ministry office for review.
- Attend – Once they have submitted a volunteer application, we review it and conduct the background check (we use an organization called Protect My Ministry for background checks). If they are cleared (and they almost always are), we invite them to visit Elevate, our main student ministry gathering. One of our current team members gives them a guided tour of our gathering space and walks them through the program, introduces them to some students and other leaders, etc. They get to peek “under the hood” to see how we do things, how our volunteers interact with students, and get a better idea of what we’re all about. They can see with their own eyes what volunteering in student ministry looks like before they commit to anything. If, after attending Elevate, they are interested in continuing the process of getting involved, the next step is:
- Interview – Each potential volunteer meets with me to discuss volunteering in student ministry. I ask some questions about them, about their family, about their passions. I also ask about their experience visiting Elevate and how they’re feeling about things after that. The chemistry of our team is important, and as much as w are in constant need of volunteers, if I ever get the sense that a volunteer would be a “problem” for some reason, we shut things down (or at least slow down to investigate further). The intention of this meeting is twofold: (1) to get to know them personally to ensure that they’ll be a good fit for our team, and (2) to identify the best place for them to plug in within our student ministry. At the end of the interview, I thank them for their time, but make no final determinations. This allows me to process our conversation and take time to pray. After this, if all things look and feel good, the final step is to
- Plug In – Simply getting involved. I have two important beliefs about this. First, I believe in getting new volunteers into their spot and letting them get going as quickly as they are comfortable. We don’t gradually guide them into volunteering…if they feel good about it, we let them dive right in. In fact, if they don’t feel good about it, we still let them dive right in. It’s important for them to get acclimated to our culture as quickly as possible. Second, I believe in a “no strings attached” trial period. We allow volunteers to serve up to 30 days just to check things out. If, at the end of 3o days, they’re in love with student ministry, they sign the commitment pledge and they’re in. If they realize the idea of volunteering in student ministry is a big mistake for them, they can bow out gracefully. Most of the time, though, they find that it’s rewarding and they’re hooked.
Here are some samples of some of the volunteer resources we use during the interview process: