An Invitation Into Ministry: Eight Tips for Recruiting Youth Group Volunteers 

Relational discipleship with students is at the heart of effective gospel-centered youth ministry. One of the best ways to practically pursue relational discipleship is through a team of mature adults who will disciple teenagers. No matter the size of your student ministry, you, the youth minister, simply won’t have the capacity for impactful relational discipleship with every student. Yet, youth ministers can significantly expand their influence through a team of volunteer adult disciple-makers. 

As we think about inviting volunteers into our ministries, two of the most foundational passages come from the apostle Paul’s ministry. In Philippians 2:19-29, Paul shares his intention to send Epaphroditus to the Philippians, as well as his hope that both he and Timothy might also come to Phillipi soon. Writing about Timothy, Paul says in verse 20, “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.” Timothy was a partner in the gospel who genuinely cared for the interests of Jesus Christ and the spiritual welfare of others, even above his own. 

In 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12, Paul reminds the Thessalonians of how deeply personal and relational his ministry was to them, even though he was not able to remain in Thessalonica for long. He writes in verse 8, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you become very dear to us.” Paul felt so much love and affection towards the Thessalonians that he was not content to only teach them from a distance. He became personally involved in their lives and allowed them to become personally involved in his too. 

These two texts give us a beautiful picture of relational discipleship in youth ministry. As we think about inviting other adults into our ministries to partner with us in discipleship, we look for those who will minister like Paul and Timothy. We look for those who are “genuinely concerned” about the spiritual welfare of the next generation to such a degree that they are willing to get personally involved in the lives of teenagers. We look for people who are willing and able to share the gospel, but who are also willing to share their very selves with teenagers

With that in mind, I’d like to offer eight practical considerations as to how youth ministers can invite these brothers and sisters to partner with us in discipling the next generation. 


When it comes to recruiting volunteers, it can be easy to immediately jump to planning and skip right over prayer. If we want the right people to join us in discipling teenagers, we should pray for God to raise up and provide for our needs. Ask God to give you discernment regarding whom to pursue, and for him to raise up leaders who will make a significant spiritual impact on those whom they disciple. 

Start early

Determine when you will need volunteers to start serving (for example, on a trip or for next year’s weekly gathering), and then begin the recruitment process at least six months ahead of time. This gives potential volunteers plenty of time to think and pray about the opportunity to serve. It also gives you time to pursue other candidates should anyone decline your invitation.

Make a wishlist.

Personally, I don’t publicly advertise the opportunities to serve in our student ministry. Blanket invitations tend to either attract no one in particular, or perhaps a person who might not be a good fit. 

Instead, I make a wishlist of people whom I think would make great disciplers of students. I dream big and then extend a personal invitation to each person on the list. In that invitation, I make sure to affirm them as someone I see as spiritually mature and who could make a real impact on teenagers. This isn’t flattery or salesmanship. It’s a genuine affirmation meant to dispel the thought that you have to have a special calling from God to work with teenagers. 

When making your wishlist, be sure to include people from multiple generations. In my context, I currently have young parents, empty nesters, and even retirees serving as adult leaders. This allows students to build relationships with multiple generations before they graduate and to experience the fullness of God’s Church. 

Ask around

While you may have a wishlist a mile long, it’s still a great idea to ask current volunteers or other trusted church members for recommendations. This is true especially if you’re new to your church or ministry and you simply don’t know whom to ask. Current volunteers already know what the expectations are and how the ministry operates, so they’re more likely to recommend people who would be a good fit

Provide clear expectations

As part of the personal invitation, I also include a document that outlines the requirements, expectations, and even the benefits of serving in youth ministry. You might consider including a letter that shares some of your heart for discipling youth and the necessity of partners in this important work. You might also consider including your ministry’s vision, mission, and strategy. This lets candidates know from the very beginning to what they would be committing. 

Engage one on one.

If the potential volunteer hasn’t immediately declined your personal invitation, follow up with a one-on-one conversation either over the phone or in person. This gives you an opportunity to walk through the document with them, to answer questions they have, to clarify expectations, and to address any hesitations they might have about serving. 

Offer a sneak peek

As you’re able, invite potential volunteers to attend events to get to know some of the other volunteers, teenagers, and the overall feel of the ministry. You could invite them to a night of worship or teaching where they can simply observe from the back of the room. You could also invite them to a ministry party or event that gives them the opportunity to casually interact with teenagers. Be sure that you’re in compliance with any child protection policies that your church may have when it comes to adults interacting with children or youth. 

Facilitate onboarding and orientation.

Once you have your team in place, walk them through a clear onboarding and orientation process. Be sure to provide volunteers with any documents they’ll need such as child protection policies, event and teaching schedules, and student and parent information. 

The Mission of Jesus

When we look at Jesus, we see that his strategy for reaching the world was to invite a handful of others alongside him, and to eventually entrust them with the mission itself. Perhaps even more amazing is the fact that we are the ones to whom he has entrusted his ministry and mission.

We may be flawed, sinful, and weak, but Jesus has seen fit in his grace to not only call us to himself, but to send us out with the gospel of grace and the command to make disciples (Mat. 28:18-20). The work of gospel ministry is simply too great to carry out alone. Jesus’ discipleship strategy involved inviting others to partner with him in order to spread his influence, and he invites us to do the same in our ministries. 

Looking for more practical tools for youth ministry? Rooted Reservoir offers training videos for youth ministers and other church leaders, as well as Bible study curriculum and an illustrations bank.

Ryan Wood is the student minister at First Baptist Church in Fort Payne, AL. He is happily married to Ashley, and they have two children, Harper and Haddon. He has an M.Div in Christian Ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Prior to serving at FBC, he served in student ministries in Georgia and North Carolina. Ryan loves spending time with his family, the outdoors, and making and drinking good coffee. He desires to see students increasingly love God, the church, their neighbors and the nations for the rest of their lives.

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