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You Need More Staff: How To Recruit More Laborers

I will be the first to admit that this title was a little bit click-baity. However, I think many of us in collegiate ministry have thought to ourselves, “I need more staff.” 11 years ago, when I first started our campus ministry, I remember seeing other ministries with seven to 10 interns and staff members zealously teaming together to make disciples on campus. I was tempted to go ask them if they could spare a few of them for our ministry.

From the start of our ministry I have made a conscious effort to pray for and recruit staff from our graduating class of student leaders. By the grace of God we now have a staff team of 15 full-time support-raising staff laboring to share the gospel on our campuses reaching various pockets of people. All of them are alumni from our ministry whose lives have been radically changed by intentional disciple-making. Because they all came up from within our ministry, they totally understand our vision and know, love and trust me as the leader, and genuinely love another. This is what Stephen M.R. Covey calls “The Speed of Trust.” It’s a blast to work with a team that truly feels like a family!

As a result of having a larger staff team, we have been able to start 4 different niche ministries to reach greeks, athletes, internationals and a nearby community college. Having a larger staff has provided a depth of discipleship for our student leaders that wouldn’t be possible without all the staff working together to make disciples on campus.

With the addition of every staff laborer that we add we have been able to see more students come to Christ! It’s almost as if Jesus was telling the truth when He said, “the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.” (Matthew 9:36-38) In my opinion, the role of a campus ministry staffer is closer to a missionary than a pastor. It has been powerful for us to unleash teams of staff and student leaders to build relationships and sow broadly with the gospel into new, less reached “people groups” on campus. This school year, some of these outreach ministries began to gain momentum and we saw 207 students indicate decisions to follow Jesus! Having a larger staff team helped us reach and disciple a bigger harvest of students than ever! The problem is not with the harvest. The harvest is plentiful. The problem is a lack of laborers. The more student leaders that you have sharing the gospel, and the more staff that you have modeling evangelism and training those students to share the gospel, the more students you will lead to Christ! Crazy how that works.

Here is a question to determine how big your staff team should be: how big is your vision? The bigger your vision is, the more staff you will need to pull it off. Our vision is to send teams of 4-6 staff to plant new ministries on strategic campuses all over California. In order to do that, we will need a steady pipeline of staff coming through our ministry, being trained up and sent out to plant new ministries. Of course, the only way I have seen this happen is if a ministry fully embraces the personal support raising model of funding staff. This provides the most potential for ministry multiplication.

How do you create a culture where joining staff is considered an honor and privilege, and where people are practically begging to join the team? I am glad you asked. Here are five key cultural values that have contributed to our staff recruitment culture.

1. Double Down On Evangelism

Evangelism fixes everything. When you have a culture of evangelism, it makes every other part of your ministry more healthy. It makes your fellowship more meaningful, your disciple-making more intentional, your prayer meetings more vibrant, and your worship services more electric. Nothing breathes new life and momentum into a ministry more than watching students being brought from death to life right before your eyes. Nothing creates more of a buzz on campus than when you start seeing the most zealous partiers becoming the most zealous evangelists.

When you have a campus ministry that is intentional about building a culture of evangelism, it is not uncommon for a student leader to graduate having been a part of personally helping over 10 other students come to Christ by the time they graduate. Those are the kinds of students we keep an eye on as potential staff. By the time we even consider bringing someone on our staff team, they already have experience in evangelism, following up with new believers and sometimes they even have a “downline” of disciples who are also making disciples.

2. Raise The Bar For Student Leaders 

The way to raise up more staff is to start treating the student leaders you have more like staff. One key to developing leaders is expecting more out of them, not less. I am not saying we should put unrealistic expectations on student leaders, but I believe far too many ministries struggle to raise up laborers because they are afraid to call the laborers to actually… labor. The average student on our leadership team in Chico gives at least 10-15 hours a week towards training, grassroots sharing the gospel, and making disciples on campus. What we have discovered is that most student leaders respond really well to a combination of deep personal discipleship and strong vision to reach the campus. We love and care for each of them deeply but we also challenge them to join us in laying our lives down for the lost on campus. A motto we share with our students and staff is one by John Wesley: “You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work.”

It’s all about discipleship in the context of evangelism. We have discovered that as we are laboring together to share the gospel, almost always these students see conversions and lives change right before their eyes. Nothing mobilizes people like changed lives. As a student leader gains experience carrying a heavy load of school, work, and grassroots disciple-making ministry, we start to see some students thrive more than others. Some are so fruitful and passionate about what God is doing that they start asking us for more training and opportunities. Those are the ones we give even more leadership responsibilities to. Our goal is to stretch them and see if they can handle the heavy load of ministry responsibilities that are necessary for a staff member.

I am not saying you should pressure people into more and more time commitments. That is not healthy. What I am saying is that your vision should be so compelling and your strategy should be bearing fruit in such a way that students are begging to be a part of it. You want to create an environment in your ministry where leadership is a privilege and not a burden. This can only happen if God’s Spirit is moving to develop character in students’ lives, and there are new people being added to the ministry through evangelism and conversions. If this kind of momentum sounds impossible to create, don’t be discouraged. It is impossible. But God specializes in doing the impossible!

3. Start The Conversation Early 

I love to start talking with a student that I see potential in joining our staff team early junior year or sometimes sooner. This is not an official job offer, but I do let them know that I see potential in them and if they stay on the path they are currently on there is a great chance they could join the team. I only do this with students who are really showing initiative and fruit in personal ministry and an attitude of diligence and humility. I will touch base with them about this on occasion and as soon as I am sure I want them to join our staff I will set up the recruiting conversation with them. These staff recruiting conversations are very simple. Keep these 7 principles for effective recruiting in mind. I will set up an appointment with the student and the staff member discipling them. I start by encouraging them with what I have watched God do in their lives and then I simply let them know I would love to work with them and could see them potentially being a huge asset to our team. I go over a simple staff “roles and expectations” sheet but also share these 3 reasons to consider staff.

  • It’s an incredible opportunity to pour back into our ministry. If you are already having a fruitful ministry, you will be able to continue multiplying disciples on campus full-time with no classes to worry about. This is often when you get to watch spiritual multiplication really start to take off!

  • It’s the perfect way to continue your training as a laborer and grow into a leader.  The staff who have been investing in you already know you and can take your training to the next level as you gain more hands on experience in leadership and disciple-making. Harold Bullock says, “Your 20s are for training,” and time spent working alongside wise leaders who can offer development and feedback is an investment in your foundation as a lifelong laborer.

  • It’s an ideal choice to explore longer term vocational ministry or missions.  Raising support, reaching out to various ministry spheres on campus, discipling multiple students and leading groups will be a great test drive for what a lifetime of missions or vocational ministry could look like. The skills you develop as a staff member can help launch you into a lifetime of ministry whatever God calls you to do long-term.

I ask those joining our staff for a two year commitment upon graduation. I let them know that this is still considered “short term” missions. They don’t need a “warm fuzzy” or a “liver quiver” to take this step of faith. They simply need to have a desire to gain more training and pour back into the ministry. We have had staff that serve for a little bit and then go into various secular jobs. We celebrate their contribution and send them into the workplace to make disciples. The goal is to create a culture where every top level student leader at least considers joining staff.

4. Be Selective About Who You Recruit 

It’s better to have a small staff team that’s committed and vision driven, than a large unhealthy staff team full of the wrong people. It is so important that you don’t add people to your team out of desperation or sense of neediness. The worst thing that you can do for the future of your ministry is to recruit staff who are lazy or struggle with attitude issues. You want those on your staff to help you with your ministry not to be your ministry. Potential staff don’t need to be perfect but they do need to have a baseline social, emotional and spiritual maturity to handle the realities of ministry.

There are two areas that automatically disqualify a potential student leader from being recruited by our ministry. The first one is work pattern issues and the second is attitude or teachability issues. If a staff member has not proven themselves to be diligent and able to carry a heavy load as a student leader, then they will not be a very effective staff member. More importantly, if they are a person that is often at the center of “drama” in your ministry or has even the slightest smidge of an unteachable attitude, I would not ask them to join your team. No matter how gifted they may be, if they are lazy or arrogant they could do untold damage to your staff team culture, and as a result, your entire ministry. This is one reason our ministry does not advertise joining staff to the entire ministry. We also want to create a privilege mentality about joining staff. We want students to see it as an immense honor to be asked to join our staff, not that they are doing us a favor if they decide to make the “ultimate sacrifice” to join our team. You want to create an elite squad of disciple-makers for your staff, not simply pack it with warm bodies that have nothing better to do. Over time, this will attract more people to join the team, not less. You want your staff to be the kind of people student leaders look up to and aspire to be like. Don’t sacrifice quality for quantity when it comes to staff. If you insist on quality during the early years of your ministry, you will have all the quality you will need in due time.

5. Love, Train and Send Your Staff Well 

Once you bring a staff member on the team, they should become a VIP in your life. Make sure you spend regular time with them for encouragement, accountability, and training. Spoil your staff when possible, and make sure they know that you love them. Pray for them everyday and let them know you are doing so. Help them sort out the many issues that come up doing life in the “real world” such as budgeting, taxes, marriage and more. Make sure they are fully connected to a healthy local church where they can have community with others besides college students. Your role as their leader is to serve them and set them up for success. They are not helping you with your ministry. You are helping them with their ministry.

Turn up the heat in training every staff member. Make sure every staff member is getting personally discipled and kept accountable in the basics. Give them books to read and podcasts to listen to. Make sure you are helping them understand the “Why” behind every “How” that your ministry is doing. One way we do this is every staff member of ours goes through the 10 month training process put together by Campus Multiplication Network. This has helped them understand the behind the scenes of effective campus ministry strategy and sparked some great conversations among our staff. It has also helped them start thinking more like a director. My prayer is that many of them will be called to go plant new campus ministries in California and around the world.

Sending teams of staff out to plant new ministries is the most strategic thing that you can do with staff. Strategically sending out leaders actually creates a leadership vacuum that creates more leaders! Once you have a leader who is ready to go plant, put together a small team around them and send them out! I know of no one better at sending out staff than my friend Clayton Bullion who writes about how to create a culture of sending staff to multiply ministries here. J.D. Greear in his must read book “Gaining by Losing” explains the need to send our best out this way: “God calls his leaders, not to a platform to build a great ministry for themselves, but to an altar where they die unto themselves. This means sending out our best with abandon.”

My greatest joy in ministry is seeing our staff being used by God to multiply disciples and initiate new ministries all over our campus and beyond. Raising up a growing number of staff is the only way that we will be able to plant new ministries on the hundreds of campuses that have little to no gospel presence. Lets ask the Lord of the harvest to send out more laborers into his harvest field!

Originally published on Campus Multiplication Network