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How to recruit (and keep!) volunteers

Finding people to help with youth work can be challenging – volunteers seem to have been in short supply in lots of areas of church life since the pandemic. What’s more, youth work can be intimidating, especially if you feel out of touch with teenagers. “What have I got in common with a 14-year-old!”

Presented by Youthscape

So how do you find the volunteers you need? Here are five ways to get started.

Talk about the youth work more!

For most people in your church, a youth group is a mystery! It happens somewhere out of sight. They won’t necessarily know what the group does week to week and the difference it makes to the young people. That makes deciding to volunteer much harder. So try talking about the youth work more, especially in services. Share stories, show pictures, get the young people themselves to talk about it. Make it more real and visible to the whole church. You are much more likely to volunteer for something that you know a little about.

Think outside the box!

Who makes a good youth work volunteer? Do you have to be young yourself? Does it matter if you’re retired and listen to Tchaikovsky more than Taylor Swift? The short answer is, there are more potential youth work volunteers out there than you may realise. Some of the best I know are their eighties! Young people value being listened to more than cultural relevancy – and if they can provide that, they may make a good volunteer. In fact, knowing less about a teenager’s world may be exactly what you need to start a conversation – young people will love educating you! Of course there are important safeguarding factors at play, but age, gender and background are not a barrier.

Use plenty of lemon drizzle cake!

Rather than asking someone straight out to be a youth work volunteer, start a little further back with an easier request. Invite prospective volunteers to come round for coffee and cake to hear more about the youth work and being a volunteer. No commitment to say ‘yes’ required! When you have everyone together, share a little about the heart for the youth work – why it’s important and the impact it’s having. Perhaps you could get people to reflect on the difference youth work made to them in their own teenage years? 

Try before you buy

Don’t ask someone to become a youth work volunteer for the rest of their lives! That’s a big commitment and it’s difficult to imagine people being very keen on that idea. Instead, invite people to consider helping out for a few weeks or a term. They can see what it’s like and then make a decision about what they want to do.

Training is Essential!

Make training and supporting your volunteers part of the package from the start. Youthscape offers a ready-to-use training programme called Youthscape Essentials you can run with your volunteers a little like an Alpha group, meeting for ten sessions. The programme is split into three parts:

  • Listening and learning from young people. Ten short films take us into the world of young people and their experience of school, friendship, social media and more. It helps volunteers grow empathy and understanding about what it’s like to be a teenager.
  • Basic skills every volunteer will find useful. Like how to talk about your faith, hold a discussion or manage boisterous behaviour. Even volunteers with experience of young people will find them helpful.
  • Deepening your own faith. The real impact of youth work is not likely to be the programme, it’s the youth workers themselves. In years to come young people are more likely to remember a volunteer who really cared for them than anything they said! So what we bring to our youth work, our own life and faith, is vital.

Youthscape Essentials is easy to set up and run – we provide all the teaching videos and we train whoever will lead the programme. And we know it works. Youth work volunteers who take part in Essentials are more confident about what they’re doing, make a bigger impact and stay longer as a volunteer.

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