Most pastors and ministry directors cringe when it comes to volunteer recruiting. It often feels like a never-ending effort with limited return. Year after year, “We need more help!” is one of the most common phrases uttered in children’s and student ministries. And, if anyone responds to volunteer recruiting efforts, “help” is really all you get.
You see, volunteers are a dime a dozen. They show up to meet a need and then they’re gone. It’s why disaster relief efforts spike but much less attention is given to a long term, sustainable rebuilding plan. It’s why families experience a sudden job loss or death, but few people come to check on them within a month or two. And, it’s why church ministries rally a bunch of people around a cause early on, but only a relative few pour their hearts into it long term.
Don’t get me wrong; volunteers are great. It’s just not enough when it comes to reaching kids with the gospel and engaging them in lifelong discipleship.
Children’s and student ministries need more than “help,” they need leaders who are being developed as disciple-makers.
It’s Leadership Development…and More!
If you’re fed up with finding “help,” it’s time to be reminded that it’s more than volunteer recruiting—it’s leadership development. Inviting others into the adventure of disciple-making ministry is more important than any other mission on planet earth. Jesus sent His followers into the world with these words in John 14:12: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Can you imagine Christ, the Son of the living God who died and rose from the dead, speaking this to you? Well…He did! The Lord was serious about sending His disciples into ministry with His blessing, authority, and resources. Jesus wasn’t about volunteer recruiting, He was about developing leaders who would influence others to know, love, and serve Him forever.
When you catch yourself falling back into the volunteer recruiting rut, here are nine additional reminders that will help you keep from finding “help” to fill open children’s and student ministry slots.
1. It’s Spiritual Gift Engaging
Scripture is clear that the Holy Spirit entrusts believers with spiritual gifts (cf. Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4). It’s negligent for church leadership to deny disciples the opportunity to serve in alignment with God’s equipping. Push beyond volunteer recruiting. Pursue leadership development by getting familiar with spiritual gifts. Then, match the people God placed in your congregation with a role that fits. Ephesians 2:10 is a great passage to lean on—you can trust that the Lord made each believer for a special ministry purpose.
2. It’s Team Building
Christ modeled bringing together a team of unlikely people for ministry purposes (cf. Luke 6:12-16). And, as you know, not all of them were first round draft picks by the world’s standards. You don’t need to choose perfectly to build a team; you just need to invite a small group of willing followers together around a common, God-honoring mission.
3. It’s Servant Equipping
In Luke 10, Jesus sent out thirty-six pairs of servants. He told them to anticipate a dangerous mission and gave them a list of what not to bring. Do you think they learned a little or a lot on this kingdom advancing adventure? Volunteer recruiting gets someone to complete a task or do an assignment. Leadership development builds into the character, unique gifting, and sacrificial nature of true servants.
4. It’s Burden Bearing
No ministry leader is designed to do everything in the body of Christ. The church’s Messiah already came, and He’s coming back soon! In the meantime, believers are called to share in the disciple-making mission and care for one another. Leadership development requires awareness of personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as how others thrive or take a dive. Spend some time reading Galatians 6. How can you and your leaders start bearing one another’s burdens?
5. It’s Passion Igniting
The story of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the wall in Jerusalem is an amazing example of vision in action. In just fifty-two days, the Israelites fixed a structure that had been rubble for over 150 years. How did this happen? As part of God’s hand being on this grand project, Nehemiah invited the Jewish leaders to step up—and they did! Nehemiah 2:18b retells it best: “They said, ‘Let us rise up and build.’ So they strengthened their hands for the good work.” And, the names of all involved are recorded for all history in Nehemiah 3. You can ignite passion in God’s people by developing them as leaders, not just recruiting a bunch of nameless volunteers.
6. It’s Disciple Multiplying
Children and students need to be surrounded by a family of godly kid-influencers for faith to take root. When kids of all ages are known, loved, and served in the way of Christ, the likelihood that they will come to know, love, and serve Him for life skyrockets! This is the essence of making disciples who make disciples—the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. More than volunteer recruiting, you’re developing leaders who will reproduce their attitudes, convictions, and practices in apprentices of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 11:1).
7. It’s Perspective Changing
It’s easy for leaders in children’s and student ministries to stay isolated or surround themselves with just a few trusted people. Proverbs 15:22 says: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” A better approach is to widen your circle of kid-influencers to reach as many kids and teens for Christ as possible. This allows you to gain greater perspective on what matters most, how to plan and proceed wisely, and a broader impact on a variety of children and students. If you view volunteer recruiting as leadership development and invite others in, how will this change your ministry perspective.
8. It’s Mission Maximizing
What’s your primary reason for running a children’s or student ministry? Who are you seeking to serve first and foremost for the sake of Christ? Ideally your focus is on reaching kids of all ages with the gospel. If you want this mission to come to full fruition, you will need to develop a team of leaders toward this end. You can’t maximize this mission without God’s favor or involving the people He’s prepared to serve with you.
9. It’s Future Shaping
Christ spoke powerful words to His followers in John 20:21: “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’” Not long after, the Lord declared that the disciples would be His witnesses all over the world (cf. Acts 1:8). The future of God’s kingdom involves faithful followers of Christ in and through His church. You can recruit volunteers or you can develop leaders as disciple-makers. When they build into kids and teens, it will shape the future and have a lasting impact. What greater legacy can you leave behind than one that keeps moving God’s redemptive mission forward?
Which One Moves You Beyond Volunteer [Recruiting]?
If you’re reading this post, you probably weren’t recruited to “help” as a volunteer in children’s or student ministries. Your heart is in it. Your life is in it. So, which of the nine reminders above is grabbing your attention today? Which one will you spend time reflecting on and implementing in your ministry? How will you press past volunteer recruiting to leadership development with those who are—or will be—serving kids and teens in your church? Pick one and put a plan together so you will begin developing leaders like never before.