Some Rules For the Road
If you talk with any leader, at any level, at any size, they will always say they need more people. In the Bible when God called leaders in the Old Testament, they often responded by making excuses, demanding signs, or running away. Jesus, in the New Testament had outright rejection, people followed for a short time, and then abandoned or betrayed Him. So recruiting people has always been and will always be difficult. But, there are some methods that may make this difficult task a little easier.
In ministry we begin with the assumption that God will supply what we need, so we must trust God in this area, just as we trust him in other areas of our lives. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus says, “I will build my church.” It is God’s responsibility to build his church and to provide the resources that the ministry needs to do the work. The leader must therefore, stay in tune with God’s plan through prayer and repentance of sin.
The following are some suggestions for the leader to apply to their recruiting effort:
Start with vision — what are you trying to accomplish that is so big that you need their help to accomplish it? and then. . . .
1. Cultivate a positive attitude and expect God to guide us to the people whom He’s already chosen. If you say to yourself, “I guess I’ll just do it all by myself,” you will stop looking for the people that God may have put right in front of you to help you with the work. So, when the person does come (finally), you can say to them, “I have been praying that God would bring you, and here you are!”
2. Pray before you approach someone. God will lead you to the person. Remember this is God’s work, and He has created a person to fit the role that His ministry needs, in His timing. So the person we may be imagining for the task, may look completely different than we imagined or were looking for. Listen to God for His plan (not yours.)
3. Create an atmosphere that is conductive to recruitment. Tell them why this position important. People don’t want to be involved in something that is not important. Why do we then tell them that, “this will not take a lot of time,” or “this will not really cost you anything,” or “this really isn’t that important, but we want it to be done.” You should have a ministry explanation or description of the every task you are seeking people to fill.
4. Tell the congregation about the great things that are happening in your ministry. Always publicize your success. How many of us have heard (or heaven forbid have done) of a person begging for people to come and help with a particular area of ministry and trying to guilt them into service.
The problem with this approach is that the commitment level is really low, as soon as the perceived crisis is over, so will the volunteer. But if they understand how important the role they are playing truly is, they will stay past the “recruiting pinch.”
People want to be involved in areas where God is moving and they want to be apart of that, not the ministry that is sinking and people are grabbing for anyone like a drowning man.
5. Introduce pizzazz into your activities. Is your ministry exciting? When the leader is already overwhelmed with tasks, and needs people to be apart of the ministry they must resist the temptation to downsize and take away those little things that makes the ministry shine. If you go back to bare minimum, then that’s what people see, show them that the ministry is important by adding special touches that make it shine. You are putting in extra effort, they will follow your example.
6. Emphasize the joys of ministering to others, you are not filling slots, but giving people opportunities to serve the Lord. This is not about a task to be done but a “ministering opportunity” for them to make a difference. You are presenting an opportunity for them to serve God, have an eternal impact on people, and a way for them to get connected into their church.
7. Make Your Area Fun! Serving in the church should be fun, encouraging, and life changing. Tell a joke, honk a horn, smile, laugh — make what you do fun. Volunteers want to use their gifts to serve the Lord, but they also want to make friends, build relationships, and feel like they are making a difference. Don’t always focus on areas that need improvement, celebrate success together!
Selecting Qualified Workers
You have now added some pizzazz to your ministry, talked about how wonderful it is constantly, and have your job descriptions together and people have stopped running away when they see you coming. One person has even approached you about “maybe” having an interest in helping,” so what do you do? Wait! Before you tackle them and handcuff them to the ministry, think about these things:
1. God wants quality, not perfection. God doesn’t necessarily choose the best and brightest to do His work (1 Cor. 1:26-29,31; 1 Cor. 2:1-5). Instead He works with those who love Him, and desire to de their best to serve Him. If you wait around for perfection, then you will be doing the ministry all by yourself forever (or until you burn out).
2. God doesn’t necessarily pick the most appealing: We will be working with “diamonds in the rough,” We may need to spend time challenging them, training them, guiding them, and encouraging them. God may have put a person in front of you so that you can mentor them and build them up into the role you need. That fully trained, mature, and perfect person rarely if ever parachutes into ministries. Look around and see who is willing to do their best, loves Jesus, and is willing to learn. Then go to work.
3. Jesus selected average men. It has been said that “God set the world on fire with low grade fuel.” Of course you would never say this about people in your ministry area, but you can see how it may be true for other churches. But, be on the look-out for an average person who is ready to go to work. Jesus chose fishermen, tax collectors, everyday, average people to “turn the world upside down.”
4. Most important, Put people in positions where they are gifted. If you do this then they will enjoy what they do, and those they minister to will be blessed. If you just fill slots with people who hate or dread what they are doing, that will spill out into the people they minister to, and the overall effort will suffer. The volunteer will be frustrated and will quit because they feel they are not effective. Even if a person volunteers (and you really need someone) don’t let them serve in an area where they clearly are not gifted. You may feel it helps right now, but it will not be very long before the mismatch will begin to cause other problems.
This is not to say that people should not be allowed to experiment with service in your area. People need to feel freedom to come in and try your area, and they should also feel the freedom to leave if it not a good match for them. While at the same time there must be an understood level of commitment (either for length of service or responsibilities).
Before the volunteer begins someone (preferably the ministry leader) should sit down and talk with them about what is involved in the ministry position and ask them questions to determine if they would be a good fit. They should be given the ministry/job description and review it together. The interviewer may ask questions about their spiritual maturity, other places of service, or what they think about the church as a whole. Allow the potential volunteer an opportunity to ask questions, and have a plan in place for training before they begin. The personal interview also allows the leader to develop a relationship with the volunteer.
For more information on a personal interview with a volunteer see, Arlo Grentz, The Confident Leader: Getting a Good Start as a Christian Minister (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 113-16.
Some Last Thoughts on Recruiting and Volunteers
1) Most leaders go to what they know (first) — they will ask their friends, spouses, relatives, etc. to help in volunteers roles. While this is easy and potentially quick, avoid the temptation to do this all the time. Yes, they will help you, but you will burn everyone out around you if you don’t expand your recruiting circle. Don’t make them your first “go to” every time someone calls out sick, there is a hole in the schedule, etc.
2) Don’t burn out your faithful! There are those noble few who will be with you no matter what — their spiritual health is just as important as anyone else’s. Give them breaks, let them go to the service, etc. They will help you build (Or rebuild), but avoid burning them out as you are bringing other new volunteers along.
3) If you are the new leader, don’t be surprised when your current volunteers want to step down as you are coming on board — they have been holding the line until you arrived, and now they are tired, and may have been tired for a long time. Let them rest, and recover, but let them know you want them to come back when they are ready. When they come back back, take them through the process above so that they are serving where they are gifted, serving an appropriate length and amount of time, and are having fun!