My friend’s mum vowed she could sense when rain was coming. It would be the middle of a hot summer day and she would quietly mention that “it’s going to rain a lot this afternoon”. She could smell it. We would giggle (quietly). However, sure enough at 4pm it would bucket down.
I don’t have the ability to sense weather events. But each September I would be struck by an inevitable ‘event’ on the horizon: leader recruitment.
There was always the temptation to ignore it. But as next year’s calendar landed on my desk, I knew that delaying leader recruitment was foolish. The time to enact the plan for building children’s and youth ministry teams for the following year started in September, not December.
My attitude towards leader recruitment changed from dread to excitement over many years. The key to this change was having a recruitment plan and implementing it. The plan identified key principles to uphold and essential actions to complete. The plan enabled me to see the joy and privilege it is as a minister to equip the saints for works of ministry (Ephesians 4:12) and enable God’s people to sacrificially serve the next generation in partnership with parents (Psalm 78:5-8). The plan helped me focus on leader development more than filling rosters.
Getting your plan ready
Every children’s and youth minister needs to develop their own plan. The plan will be shaped by the needs of the ministries, the capacity of leaders, the culture of leadership and the significance of the ministry within the church. The plan will develop over many years as you learn from mistakes and improve your systems and articulation.
As you develop your leader recruitment plan here are five things I have learnt:
1. Recruit with a clear job description in your hand
A clear job description is the foundation of any leader recruitment conversation. It outlines the purpose of the ministry, the task you are asking the leader to do, and the expectations of being a leader (convictions, competency, character). Clarity is king when it comes to recruitment. Use this example as a basis to start from.
2. Recruit in partnership with other ministries
We all have a tendency to build our own kingdoms, even if it means recruiting (poaching) leaders from other ministries. One of the best decisions I ever made was to recruit leaders in partnership with other leaders. It was hard work developing common objectives and expectations for all leaders of young people. It taught me humility as I saw my ministry in light of others. Most of all it was exciting to work together raising new coordinators, equipping the saints and praying for one another.
3. Recruit widely
Too often we only recruit 18-22 year olds into children’s and youth ministry teams. The argument is that they are available, passionate and relatable. This is all true. But a team of only 18-22 year olds limits the effectiveness of our ministry. The Sticky Faith team contend that churches and families wanting to instil deep faith in young people should help them build a web of relationships with committed and caring adults, some of whom may serve as leaders (1). It is our role to create ways for people of all generations to play a significant role in the lives of the young people. Read here for some other tips for recruiting new leaders.
4. Recruit to a team not a task
One of the great blessings of serving young people is doing it as a part of a team. Yet this is often forgotten in the recruiting process. Ginny Olson states, “We saw youth ministry as an opportunity to develop a team of people who love God and enjoy each other and as an overflow of that, seek to minister to young people” (2). Avoid recruiting leaders to simply do a task. Invite them to join a team of 2 to 50, who have a clear culture and expectations, and who love serving together.
5. Recruit and develop junior leaders
Many of your future leaders are in your ministries right now. They are ideal leaders because they understand the vision of the group and have watched leaders for years. Identifying potential future leaders begins with giving young people opportunities to serve their peers. As you recruit young leaders, try to avoid using them as ‘cheap labour’. Instead develop a program that invests in them for the long term. This pathway will include training, ministry experience and specific encouragement. Use resources like LiT as part of your junior leader development program.
The key to any recruiting leaders is developing a plan and to implement that plan each year. What is your plan? Are you starting to implement the plan soon enough?