Recruiting 101: Want Volunteers? Avoid This

“Help! We need more volunteers!” You hear that a lot around churches. If you’re working with volunteers, you probably don’t have enough. It’s true whether you are a pastor, church staff or a volunteer yourself. Volunteer recruitment is not only a continual concern, it’s a vital concern for the church.

The church is the body of Christ “and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Cor. 12:27). From Christ, the Head, “the whole body . . . grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Eph. 4:16, emphasis added). Healthy churches have healthy volunteerism, and that begins with healthy recruitment. In this set of four articles, we’ll cover the basics of healthy church volunteer recruitment.

We start with two Thou Shalt Not’s.

  1. Thou shalt not delay. Asking people to help is not your favorite thing to do, and you’re busy, so you put it off. And put it off some more. Then you’re desperate, in panic mode, and that’s not going to help. (See #2!) So start early; the earlier, the better. Give yourself plenty of time. It’s the only way to do it right.
  2.  Thou shalt not recruit by twisting arms, by pleading, by sounding desperate (see #1!), by applying guilt or pressure, or with a bait and switch (after they’ve agreed to help with the rummage sale, then you let it drop that they’re in charge of it). These recruitment practices have no place at all in good recruitment. Don’t do it. Ever.

Have you been recruited at the last minute, by someone who was desperate, and you felt too guilty to say no? We all have. It’s the norm in many churches. So why avoid practices that, while not ideal, seem to work? Although people respond, it’s usually because they are kind-hearted. In fact, in all honesty, we’re likely aiming for those folks who just can’t say no. They probably aren’t the best qualified, but all we basically want is someone with a pulse. They’re probably over-committed, too. So most likely they’ll either put in some time and then give you a reason why they have to back out, or they’ll stick it out and burn themselves out. So the task isn’t as likely to be finished, or done well, and we’re back to needing more volunteers. Unhealthy recruitment leads to undesirable results.

Let’s give our Lord our best, and recruit the best people for his work. You can avoid these common, but bad practices. Yes, you can. Really. Who enjoys feeling desperate anyway?


Search for Recruiting 101 in the search box at right for all four articles in this series.

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