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Is THIS Why You Can’t Find Youth Ministry Volunteers?

In last year and a half, my family and I have visited an impressive number of churches in our search for a new spiritual home. It’s amazing how much you can learn about a church in one single visit.

The same is true for youth ministries and youth pastors.

Since one of my main interests in any new church is the youth ministry, I’ve also spoken to my fair share of youth pastors. Those conversations have ranged from really awkward to plain painful, with everything in between.

Let me ask you this: if someone you don’t know approached you and told you he/she was interested in serving in your youth ministry, what would be your first response? I’m talking about the very first thing that comes out of your mouth.


Because let me tell you, that gut reaction may very well be why you can’t find youth ministry volunteers. Here’s what I encountered:

  • We don’t need volunteers at the moment.
  • We have a process for that.
  • You need to be a member in order to serve in the youth ministry.
  • I don’t think we’ve met, have we?
  • How long have you been coming to our church?
  • What do you do for a living? [I’m a former youth pastor.] Oh, we don’t allow women to serve in leadership positions here.
  • Why don’t you find me next week and we’ll talk some more?
  • Oh, okay. Here are two students from our high school ministry. They can tell you everything about what we do.

And my all time favorite: “Oh, but it’s not that easy. There are steps that need to be taken, starting with a background check.”

Really? Someone walks up to you and tells you she wants to serve in youth ministry and the first thing you say is that?

Yesterday, we visited another church for the first time. A coworker of my husband had invited us. I talked to one of the pastors for a few minutes and when she heard I was a former youth pastor, she introduced me to their youth pastor. Here’s how he responded: “You’re a youth pastor? That’s awesome. When can you start? No seriously, can I take you out for lunch, coffee, anything? I’d love to pick your brain and of course we’d love to have you in our ministry.”


That’s how you respond when someone tells you he or she wants to be a youth ministry volunteer. Over the top? Maybe. He hadn’t realized it was my first visit by the way, and when he did, he even apologized for maybe going too fast. But honestly, I loved it. He made me feel welcome, appreciated, valued.

And that’s how you get new youth ministry volunteers.

Of course I can’t serve after visiting just once. Of course there are questions that need to be asked before I could start doing anything. Of course this church has a process too and I’m counting on there being a background check.

But his gut reaction was enthusiasm and it made all the difference. Wanna take a wild guess which church we’re going to again next week?

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