"For Those Who Are Passionate About Reaching The Younger Generation"

Youth Ministry Topics Recruiting Adult Leaders


Dr. Mark Senter

There are some things a person does almost instinctively. Publicity was one of those areas for Jeff Thompson. Perhaps that's why his conversation over lunch at the regional Sunday School association meeting had seemed so unusual.

The conversation was triggered almost incidentally after a workshop on leadership development. As Jeff was leaving the room with four other men, one of them threw out to his colleagues what seemed to be a simple question.

"What do you fellows do to promote Christian education ministries in your churches?"

The question seemed straightforward enough, and Jeff waited for the others to start tossing answers to the man. No one spoke. Each person seemed to be waiting for his companions to open up first with ideas, insights, methods tested in the fire of experience. But the only sounds in those few seconds were their own footsteps on the gleaming hallway floor.

"We've tried a few approaches," Jeff finally volunteered. "They might seem old to you but they've worked for us." As the group made its way to a nearby restaurant, the assistant pastor from Walnut Heights Bible Church shared his experiences and ideas about publicity as well as why he used each method of promotion. The response of the group surprised Jeff. His thoughts had seemed so simple, so logical, so obvious. Yet the ideas appeared refreshingly new to his colleagues.

"Pastor Thompson," said one of his new friends, "I think you're the one to do the workshop presentation on publicity and recruiting at next year's regional Sunday School association meeting." Jeff was too surprised to respond.

The following year the CE pastor from Walnut Heights Bible Church had refined the random hash of ideas he'd shared with his colleagues the previous year and packaged them in a logical progression he felt would make sense to pastors with or without experience in the areas covered. The word had apparently made its way through the grapevine; over forty pastors and Christian education directors were present.

Publicity and Recruitment Workshop

The purpose for providing publicity as a part of the recruitment process is to maintain a high visibility for the ministries in which volunteers participate. Publicity stimulates and sustains a high level of motivation and interest on the part of congregation members in being involved. This includes the removal of false impressions or information.


1. Keep the joy and responsibility before people. The focus of each piece of literature or public statement about volunteer service should be positive and based on Scripture. Guilt and other forms of manipulation are not acceptable tools for securing workers. Such approaches are not scriptural, and they are counterproductive over the long run. The emphasis should be placed on sharing our gifts and talents with others in anticipation of the joy with which the Holy Spirit rewards those who are faithful.

2. Publicize often. Look for ways to place information about ministry before the people of the church. Don't wait for routine times such as late summer and early fall, when members of the congregation are anticipating recruitment plugs and may have developed a built-in resistance to the content of what is being said. Instead, publicize Christian education throughout the year, reporting frequently on what the Lord has been doing. At Walnut Heights Bible Church the pastors sit down together at least once a year to plan monthly times when visibility can be provided for the educational ministries of the church in one or more of the following: morning and evening services, bulletins, newsletters, business meetings, and church board meetings.

3. Prepare carefully. Don't waste the time of the congregation with useless clich?s and ill-prepared announcements. Respect the integrity of your people by putting as much time and care per minute of delivery into public announcements as your pastor places in the preparation and delivery of his sermons. This will allow people to gain confidence in the ministry before they make commitments to serve.

4. Visualize meaningful elements. If one picture is worth 1,000 words, one well-chosen illustration is worth at least 500 words. Statements convey knowledge whereas illustrations. communicate feelings which frequently "hook" the motivational instincts of the listener. Testimonies of changed lives are perhaps the best source of meaningful illustrations.

5. Use a variety of voices. Though the pastor will usually be the most effective spokesman for recruitment purposes, even his influence will be diminished by overexposure. The pastor of Christian education, the education committee chairman, Sunday School superintendent, and club leaders might be other voices as long as they are gifted, or trained in basic communication skills. The mere fact of their positions, however, doesn't automatically "qualify" them to bring visibility messages before the congregation. In fact, unofficial and unexpected voices might be more effective at times. One pastor of a very large church invit-ed his early childhood workers to bring one entire preschool department into the morning worship service during the announcement time and interviewed a couple of the children be-fore putting in a plug for teachers of the department.

6. Piggyback on success. The best time to enlist new staff for ministry is immediately after God has accomplished some exciting results through service in the church. But this type of enlistment will not take place unless the people of the church know what's been happening. Tell them. Then ask for new volunteers. Church camp, rally day, high school ministry projects, and special family activities can serve as launching pads for renewed awareness of ministry potential.


In addition to the normal means of "making announcements" about ministry opportunities, the following methods should be considered.

1. Interviews. An interview can be rehearsed, and this may give effective but shy volunteers the confidence to share what God has been doing through them.

2. Testimony. In many churches testimonies of meaningful service are spontaneously shared within the time normally al-lowed for testimonies or body life experiences. Planned sharing in worship services is also effective.

3. Skits or dramatic vignettes. This means of communication is best when it is carefully planned and tied into a theme that is being developed elsewhere in the service.

4. Slides. Close-up pictures (no more than two or three people in each picture) can easily be shown in church services to illustrate the types of ministries which are happening; they can also be used with a rear-projection device in the front lobby of the church to visualize the ongoing ministries of the church.

5. Video cassettes. A VCR can be placed in the lobby of the church once a month to provide recorded highlights of church ministry activities during the preceding month.

6. Media presentations. Sometimes equipment can be rented or borrowed from a school district or community college which will allow a person to program a tape with narrative, music, and sound effects which can be synchronized with two slide projectors to provide a dramatic, exciting "show-and-tell" presentation communicating the joys of service.

7. Movies. From time to time Christian films featuring the Sunday School or other avenues of ministry in the local church can be shown as part of the church service.

8. Ministry bulletin board. One large display area in a highly visible location and changed on a regular basis can become a focal point for honoring special people, posting pictures, displaying awards, and featuring ministry needs.

9. Pins and name tags. Some means of identifying those al-ready involved in ministry serves as a reminder to other people in the church that they too may become involved.

10. Posters. Either the original or purchased variety can reinforce the message that everyone needs to be involved in service. (Don't leave the same posters up longer than two weeks.)

11. Opportunity sheets. These can be attractively typed up and distributed periodically through the adult Sunday School classes.

12. Bulletin announcements. Though this is often the first means that we use to recruit volunteer ministers, it should be used in harmony with the many other methods of publicity.


Mark H. Senter III is chair of the Department of Educational Ministries and associate professor of educational ministries at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He has been at Trinity since 1982. Prior to that, Senter served as youth pastor for 11 years and as pastor of Christian education at Wheaton Bible Church for 7 years.

Senter's areas of expertise include youth ministry, volunteerism, administration, and continuing education. He is a member of the North American Professors of Christian Education. He is a consultant for churches and parachurch agencies in periods of transition.

Senter's publications include Reaching a Generation for Christ (co-edited with Richard Dunn) (Moody 1997), The Coming Revolution in Youth Ministry (Victor 1992), Recruiting Volunteers in the Church (Victor 1990), and The Complete Book of Youth Ministry (co-edited with Warren Benson) (Moody 1987). He contributed to More Than Conquerors and his numerous articles have been published in periodicals such as Youthworker, Moody, Christianity Today, Leadership, and Christian Education Journal. Senter has also written chapters for other volumes on youth ministry.


This article was originally chapter nine of Recruiting Volunteers in the Church, by Mark Senter III, Victor Books, copyright 1990 by SP Publications. Currently out of print. Used by permission of Mark Senter.