For many people in the church, the only thing to know about volunteers is how to recruit them — how to get them to serve where needed. Readers of this newsletter and TheEquipper website know that I advocate a much bigger volunteerism view, that the church thrives when it equips people to serve, by encouraging them to carefully consider where God wants them to serve and by supporting people as they serve.
Recruiting is a part of that big picture. When we’re seeking Sunday school teachers for open positions, or people to serve on a governing board, or a staff of 100 for Vacation Bible School, we’re recruiting. But recruiting by arm-twisting, bait and switch tactics, pleas of desperation and using guilt is counterproductive. So here’s a collection of tools and thoughts on good recruiting.
- Ask those serving what worked. At the first meeting of a newly-formed team, as part of the introductions, I asked each person to share why they decided to serve on this team. The answers were interesting, and I learned what motivates people to say ‘yes’ when invited to serve.
- “If you…..” When I invited people to join me in improving volunteer scheduling, the email first explained the goal and then asked, “If your mind is already beginning to churn through ways to do this, you’re probably the right person for this team!” At the first meeting of the team (see previous tip), more than half of the people said that statement was influential. The “If you…” statement can be adapted to any type of service.
- The “Spark Plug Theory” of Volunteer Recruitment — Learn from a spark plug how to make ministry NOT sound like a job!
- The weekly announcements and monthly newsletter. This is actually an anti-tip. Although it’s a good idea to advertise ministry needs in these mass publications, don’t hold your breath. They don’t work well, as we all find out when we rely on them. A personal invitation is much more effective. Put your effort there.
- Who do you know? To find people whose gifts match the needs of a ministry, ask 4 or 5 people, “Who do you know with the gifts for this? Who do you know who would enjoy doing this?” Then, when you approach these individuals, say, “Elizabeth thought you’d be good at this because you ….” or “Martin thought you might enjoy this because …”
- Use a job description. Writing or reviewing a job description before you recruit makes you a better recruiter because you’ve through the needs and responsibilities of the position. Having a summary on a piece of paper assures the person you’re recruiting that there won’t be unpleasant surprises down the road. Click on the tag “job descriptions” at the top of this article for more resources.
- Enthusiastic volunteers are the best recruiters. The person who loves teaching Sunday school will enjoy inviting others to join him.
- Gather and share stories. Talk to those who are serving. What do they like about it? How has God blessed them through this service? How have they seen God bless others through this ministry? Let others know.
- “Recruit” is a handout on personal invitation, the best recruitment method. Click on the ‘recruitment’ tag in the right navigation panel for all the recruitment resources on this site.
- 101 Volunteer Recruitment Secrets. VolunteerMatch.org, an organization whose website matches volunteers with serving opportunities, collected these tips from volunteer coordinators across the nation.
- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Recruiting and Managing Volunteers. Not for idiots only, this book by John L. Lipp, available at Amazon.com, has excellent advice. Like the “101 Volunteer Recruitment Secrets,” above, the primary audience is people in non-profit agencies who recruit from the broad community, but the majority of the content is still applicable for those of us who recruit in the church community.
- Ministry Fair ideas from Immanuel Lutheran in Batavia, Illinois and Grace Lutheran, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.
Share your recruiting tips here. We’ll add them to this article and include them in a future newsletter!