There are few things in ministry that can get a youth pastor more excited than finding out someone wants to serve in student ministry! The effectiveness, reach, and long-term impact of a youth ministry comes from the volunteers who serve week in and week out. But, as with anything else involving leadership or positions of influence, we want to make sure we carefully vet and train up those serving teenagers. In addition to vetting all potential staff and lay leaders with a national background check and checking their references, you will also want to carefully interview them to learn more about their interest.
The following five considerations are worth talking through with a prospective volunteer. While this list is not exhaustive, it will help you start the conversation and give you some talking points for future interactions.
“Now this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)
All potential volunteers need to know that you care about their relationships with Jesus. It is crucial to talk through their own time with the Lord to find out how they are growing in their faith. A youth leader’s effectiveness in ministry will be directly impacted by their own time with Jesus. Be sure to ask for prayer requests and commit to praying for their spiritual growth throughout their time of service in the student ministry.
Ask the potential volunteer: How have you seen God working in your life in the past six months? What do you do to stay grounded in your faith? Bible reading? Prayer?
Commit to the Gospel
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
Be sure potential volunteers have a right understanding of what the gospel is and how the gospel impacts the Christian life. We want them to understand that the gospel is the good news of what Jesus Christ has done on the cross in his death and in his victory over death in the Resurrection. In your meeting with potential leaders, it’s worth spending significant time asking them to explain the gospel, why it matters, and how it transforms lives every day. We want our leaders to be able to talk and engage with students in such a way that the gospel shapes everything they say and do.
Ask the potential volunteer: How would you explain the gospel to a student in two minutes or less?
Cast the Vision
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
When Jesus left the disciples with the Great Commission, he knew that what they began, we would continue. It is essential to cast the vision of the student ministry and allow leaders to see the role God has for them in fulfilling that vision. Most volunteers aren’t interested in being mere chaperones, standing in the background only to step in for crowd control or to get pegged in dodgeball. People will commit to a vision, to something larger than themselves, and nothing is more significant than God’s vision for transforming the world through discipleship.
Volunteer leaders are not just warm bodies to make our lives easier; they are there to make an eternal deposit in the lives of teenagers with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Make sure they know that the deposit they make will have a lasting impact on the lives of teenagers and the church.
Ask the potential volunteer: Why do you want to serve teenagers? How do you believe your gifts and strengths can help the student ministry?
Count the Cost
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’” (Luke 14:28-30)
One of the most important things you can do with potential volunteers is to help them count the cost of what being a youth leader means. A few practical things you must talk through with them about are 1) the other commitments on their calendar, 2) what other ministries they participate and/or serve in, and 3) what are the different roles and expectations are for leaders. You want to make sure they know exactly what is expected of them so that they can determine if they have the time and energy to serve without burning out.
An excellent investment of your time is defining the different roles you can see leaders having in your group. These descriptions can include how many hours a week they can expect to engage in student ministry-related activities.
Ask the potential volunteer: What area in student ministry gets you the most excited?
Finally, there’s one more thing you should do (and encourage them to do) before, during, and after meeting…
Commit to Pray
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” (Luke 6:12)
Right after Jesus finished praying in Luke 6, it says that when morning came, he called the disciples to him and chose the Twelve. Jesus knew the importance of prayer, and when we have potential volunteers, we want to pray for them and with them. Not every potential volunteer will end up serving in the student ministry, and we want everyone involved to be unified in a decision to pursue volunteering or not.
Conclude by making sure potential volunteers have had all their questions answered, tell them you will be praying for them throughout the process, and encourage them in their desire to serve the Lord. A gospel-centered student ministry needs gospel-centered volunteers who will always point their students to Jesus!