The Cokesbury Kids blog is all about ministry!

Our goal is to provide ideas and examples to assist you as you minister to families and teach the gospel to the kids in your community.

Building Relationships: The Key to Recruiting and Working with Youth Volunteers

by Kimberly Orrock -

Youth Volunteers are the icing on the cake when it comes to a successful Vacation Bible School. They add youthful energy, extra hands on deck, and serve as superb role models. Recruiting them can be time-consuming and require a great deal of patience, but it is well worth the effort. Ask for God’s guidance and wisdom during this process. 

I’ve been in ministry for 6 years and I have learned that “building relationships” is the key to recruiting volunteers. 

Building relationships with youth can be done in quite a few different ways. Perhaps you will already have worked with many of the youth as kids in your children’s ministry. If that is the case, it’s much easier to recommend jobs for kids you’ve worked in the past. 

Volunteering in youth ministry is a great way to build relationships. Even though my paid position is with birth through 5th-grade children, I volunteer with the youth group, from grades 6th – 12th. Volunteer opportunities will offer times to get to know them better. Start conversations with the youth in your church. Good conversation starters can be as simple as a compliment, a question about school, a question about school vacations, really anything, as long as you are showing interest in them as individuals. 

Parents can be a valuable tool for recruiting youth volunteers. If you don’t cross paths with certain youth or you are having trouble connecting to a young person, pursue a relationship with their parent. Start conversations with parents by commenting that you’ve noticed that their child seems like a good fit for working in children’s ministry. Ask if the parent thinks their child might enjoy volunteering. Then go a step beyond and ask about the parent. Make a point of learning their name and speaking to them frequently, even if only briefly. 

Once relationships begin to form, social media can be a fantastic way to continue the growth. Choose the favorite social media platform in your church and use it to learn fun things about the youth and their families. Everyone enjoys when someone at church shows interest in their sports activities or recent accomplishments. Social media is a great reminder for birthdays too. Who doesn’t love for someone to say “Happy Birthday” to them at church?

Once the relationships are established, the recruiting youth can begin. Start with small tasks. If you are unsure of a child’s willingness to volunteer, ask them to volunteer in small capacities, such as moving chairs, setting up tables, preparing a snack, or something similar. If they seem uncomfortable with these small tasks, give them more time. If they seem amiable, ask them to serve in other capacities, such as helping a younger youth age child with a task or helping an elementary-age child in a Sunday School class. Always praise youth for their work. All tasks are important. Make sure youth (and adults) remember that all tasks large and small are valuable to the success of the program.

Begin recruiting youth for VBS at least 3 to 4 months ahead of time. Market the beginning of volunteer recruitment in an exciting way and advertise it on all your communication paths. Do not use the word “NEED” in any advertisements. You don’t need help. You’re looking for youth to listen for their calling. Rephrase any advertising to take out the word need. 

Use these options:

- Do something valuable with your time this summer!
- You can make a change in the community!
- Join the team and make new friends!

Recruitment Tips!

When recruitment begins, create several engaging posters. Display these posters in a high traffic area. Make sure you can be available to answer questions that youth or parents may have during this time. 

Clearly label a list of the tasks that need to be done. Make sure all tasks seem exciting and important. Also, these tasks are fun, so treat them as such.  Be excited when youth sign up! Assure youth that you will follow up with their parents/caregivers on their availability. It helps parents to know that their youth is interested in serving.

Make sure youth and their families know the dates and times of VBS.

Once youth have been enlisted, provide a youth training session. During this training session, make sure all youth know the expectations. Address the following topics for all to hear:

- cell phone guidelines
- proper language to use around kids
- staying on task
- participating with the kids
- appropriate dress code

Have a seasoned adult volunteer on hand to give helpful tips on volunteering. Next, break the group into their specific jobs for individual instruction. For example, give the storyteller volunteers copies of their skits and allow them to assign roles and highlight scripts. Give the puppeteer and assembly leader their scripts to practice. Provide time for youth to make the crafts they will be teaching. Remind them often that their presence at VBS makes the experience so much more fun for the children. If any youth miss the training session, offer a make-up time for them.

During VBS, touch base with all the youth volunteers. Call them by name and ask how they are doing. If a youth seems stressed, ask them if there is another job they might prefer to have and then reassign them. Check on them frequently after reassigning to make sure they are more comfortable. At our church, we offer a luncheon once VBS is over to reward volunteers. This opportunity will allow everyone to relax and get to know one another better. Offer proof of hours to youth who are interested. Many school groups require proof of volunteer hours. 

Thank God for the magnificent volunteers and the wonderful work God is doing in their lives and yours.

Pray for the youth that will be volunteering! Be patient. You may not have a full set of youth volunteers until the very last minute, but you must have faith that they will volunteer. Never use guilt when speaking to youth. Accept them for who they are and encourage them all through the process.