Leadership | Volunteers

Ronald is the Middle School Pastor at Wayside Chapel in San Antonio, TX. He has a beautiful wife named Bekah and three girls: Sophie, Penny and Ruth. He eats Mexican food at every opportunity, plays video games, blogs, and writes. Check out 128ministries.org to see some of his other Bible studies.

Maybe you’ve heard the expression that all some volunteers need to be is a warm body?

Aka, someone who is actually alive.

There was a time in my ministry where I would have taken someone with a moderately lukewarm body.

I’ve never been really awesome at seeking out volunteers. I love it when I have them, but when it comes to recruiting volunteers to serve as small group leaders I really struggled early on.

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And so whenever someone said they were “interested in helping with the kids” they would be given a copy of that month’s curriculum and shoved into a room of eight 7th grade boys.

Can you say “recipe for disaster?”

Your students and your church deserve your efforts in interviewing and vetting potential leaders.

Here’s what I should have done back then, and what I currently do to bring on volunteers. I wish I had a cool acronym, but IBISO isn’t actually a word. Sorry.


This is the phase where someone approaches you and says they are thinking about serving in student ministry. This could also be when you approach someone else to see if they want to begin serving because you see potential in them.

Background Check

Your church’s reputation will thank you down the road that you did this step and found out that the new person to your congregation has a history of “helping” with the student ministries of other churches. This is not an option. This is a requirement. My church takes it a step further and says that a volunteer can’t serve in any capacity until their background check has been in the church’s possession for a full two weeks.


Have a sit down interview with the potential volunteer. Ask them their testimony, their story, and why they want to serve in student ministry.  Make your expectations clear at this point. How long are you asking them to serve? In what capacity? What happens when they need to be out of town? What are the church policies? Line out your vision for the student minister here as well.

Don’t hold back. You want them to completely understand what they’re signing up for. That way you can reference this conversation later down the road if neccesary.


Set a period of time where this potential volunteer shadows another veteran for a time. Maybe it’s one month, maybe its three. You want them to be “in it” before they make their final decision and before you make yours. They may be an awesome person, who can’t connect with students whatsoever.

You also want them to see how you “do student ministry.” If they disagree with the fundamentals of something you do, having them on your team may be more harmful than helpful later on.

Having them shadow works out any of the potential kinks that may hinder their service to the ministry.


After they are done with their shadowing, have a follow-up. You may find that they are no longer willing to help out in the capacity they thought they wanted to. You may find out you don’t want them to help out. They may be better helping out with the student ministry in a way that doesn’t involve…students.

Either way, this is your chance to encourage them if you both are still good to go and give them the offer for a set time.

But This is A Lot of Work

Take it from a guy who has failed when it comes to volunteers in the past. This may seem like a lot of work. Doing it this way will save you a lot of heartache and headache down the road if your interview process can be summed up in one question: “When can you start?”

Don’t just settle for a warm body.

Do the work on the front end and you’ll find out that you have a stellar team surrounding you. It’ll be worth every minute!

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