I hear a lot of questions from youth ministry leaders I meet across the country. A few questions seem to pop up in nearly every youth ministry conversation though. These questions stem from common problems and tensions that we all face in youth ministry. I hear them from large churches, small churches, and all sizes in between. Youth ministry leaders across all denominations ask them. I even hear them from youth workers in both urban and rural contexts. I love these questions, and not just because they’re great questions, but because they’re questions that bind us all in the commonality of youth ministry. These questions prove to me that I’m not alone, and that we all face common problems that we can best solve together in this thing called youth ministry. They’re great questions, and I want to share what I’ve found about one in particular: “How do I find great volunteers?”

Now, to be fair, this is a big question that no one has all of the answers to. I don’t claim to have all the answers either. However, for this article I want to focus in on a more specific part of this question: “What makes a high capacity volunteer?” If we know what makes a high capacity volunteer tick, then it becomes easier to recruit them. When we know what makes them so high capacity then we can know what to look for when recruiting. So today I want to share five things that I’ve found in every high capacity volunteer I’ve worked with. I believe these are markers that you can look for that will help guide you to the right kinds of people to lead your youth ministry to the next level!

5 Things to Look for When Recruiting High Capacity Volunteers

#1: Doers Over Thinkers

When recruiting high capacity volunteers, look for doers. Strategic thinkers and highly intelligent people are great to have on your team. They have a lot to offer. They make you better. Here’s the deal though, by itself thinking is not enough. Analysis without action is useless. Ideas without implementation are a waste of time. You need action from your team. You need people who will roll up their sleeves and DO the work. So look for action oriented people.

The old adage is true: Actions speak louder than words. High capacity volunteers are always predisposed to be people of action. They’re doers, not simply thinkers. It doesn’t matter how many smart people you have serving with you if no one is doing the work. And let’s face it, the work of youth ministry is difficult and dirty work. We need doers in youth ministry. A person with a lesser idea that acts on it will make a greater difference than the person with a perfect idea that does nothing! We don’t want people who do stuff without thinking, but sometimes waiting for the perfect strategy will mean missing the window of opportunity. Its easier to get a doer to think than to get a thinker to do, so look for volunteers who will think, but won’t miss their opportunity to do!

#2: Owners Over Renters

High capacity volunteers are owners, not renters. Owners care more deeply because they have more at stake. Owners don’t just attend your church, they make an investment in it! The best volunteers I’ve served with over the years have all been owners. They go the extra mile and do whatever needs to be done because they feel like it’s their ministry.

Renters are different. We all probably have some renters serving in our ministries. A renter will do what’s easy, but never go the extra mile. They will do what they are told, but won’t take the initiative to do much else.

When recruiting volunteers for your youth ministry, look for owners. Look for people who stop to pick up trash in hall instead of just walking by. Look for people who show up early and stay late. Look for people who will ask permission to try new ideas rather than those who wait to be told what to do. When you recruit owners into your ministry you instantly get better, so recruit people who will make you and everyone around them better!

#3: Team Players Over Super Stars

The best volunteers are the ones who care more about the team’s vision than their personal vision. They are volunteers who seek after the team win before a personal win. Why? The reason is simple. These volunteers know that everyone gets better when the team gets better. They know they will only be their best when the team is at its best. They are team players.

Not all volunteers are team players though. Some are what I’ll call “Superstars.” Beware of superstars. So who are these so called superstars? Well, they are often some of the most talented and charismatic  people you will meet. On the outside they seem like they would be a great addition to your team, but please heed my warning: Don’t recruit them! Superstars seem like they are great on the outside, but their talent and gifts mean little if they are in it to win it. Superstars are not about making the team better, they are about making themselves better. They don’t work to advance the team, they work to advance their own agenda. The truth is that they tear apart great teams.

Now please don’t get me wrong, you want talented people on your team. Just be careful when recruiting them to make sure they are team players and not superstars. Your team will only be great when the team members focus on making it that way, and one superstar out for themselves can wreak all kinds of havoc. So, when recruiting high capacity volunteers, look for team players, not superstars.

#4: Contributors Over Questioners

This one is a small distinction that has incredibly powerful results. When recruiting for your team, look for contributors over questioners. The truth is you want people on your team who will ask questions. Questions and the people who ask them have powerful potential to make us better. The distinction between a contributor and a questioner is one of attitude and heart though. For instance, a contributor will ask tough questions in order to make the team better. They will ask questions because they see things that could be better and want to help the team get there. Questioners, on the other hand, tend to ask questions simply to point out what is wrong. Their questions are not designed to make things better, but to point out what is wrong and complain about it. Simply put, contributors bring solutions when questioners only bring complaints.

Recruiting high capacity volunteers is often about recruiting contributors over questioners. Look for people who care enough to ask good questions and take time to offer possible solutions. Steer clear of people, no matter how talented, that ask needling questions just to complain. Contributors are driven by solutions, questioners are driven by frustration.  A contributor will make you grow when a questioner will make you groan. Recruiting contributors is a great way to recruit high capacity volunteers.

#5: Lovers Over Fighters

Have you ever heard someone speak the phrase “I’m a lover, not a fighter?” The truth is that all lovers are fighters, but not all fighters are lovers. When recruiting for your team, look for lovers and not fighters. The difference is huge here. Lovers are volunteers who fight for people. Fighters just fight against people. Lovers will fight tooth and nail to do what’s best for the people they serve. They will fight for changes that make them personally uncomfortable if it means reaching students far from Christ. Fighters, on the other hand, just seem to like conflict. They fight for what they want, not necessarily what’s best for others. They don’t fight for people, they fight to win. You want strong people on your team who are willing to fight when necessary, just make sure they are fighting for people and not against people.

When you recruit volunteers, look for people who fit this profile. If you do, you will build an incredible team! What do you look for in great volunteers?

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