In my first church staff position as a minister to children, I asked my supervising pastor what the secret to success was for a great Vacation Bible School. He boldly replied, “Recruit, recruit, recruit, recruit! And when you can sneak up on them, recruit some more!”
I’ve never forgotten those words. But in my career in ministry, I’ve often wondered: Is that what we must do to engage people in the most rewarding tasks of doing God’s work? We often fall into traps of overselling or underselling the service role.
We can sometimes be dishonest with people in our efforts to “fill every slot.” Out of desperation, we will try these tricks:
#1 Church Volunteer Recruiting Trick to AVOID:
“Anybody can do it!” Well, if anybody can do it, why not let him or her ! If we believe the Bible’s teaching that God created each person with a unique gift, passion, and set of experiences and skills, then people are justified in turning you down with this type of approach. If anybody can do it, what is my gift for? If anybody can do it, why have passion? If anybody can do it, why did God provide that person with a unique family history, education, travel, language, and skill set? The real truth is that anybody cannot do the work of the church, but somebody—uniquely gifted and called—can! The church must learn to provide many opportunities to help every person discover those gifts, passions, and skills, and uncover the gold mine that we often overlook in trying to fill slots.
#2 Church Volunteer Recruiting Trick to AVOID:
“It won’t take much time.” Another desperate attempt, which minimizes the importance of tasks of the church as low value. Most often, this isn’t even true! Even small tasks, such as bulletin folding, can become time-consuming—but also time-fulfilling—when those performing the task take the time to reflect on its significance to the church, the humility it takes to do the task, the fellowship and community building to do the task in a team, and the opportunity to train someone else to do the task that “not just anybody can do.” If it’s of value to the church, let’s be honest: It will take time!
#3 Church Volunteer Recruiting Trick to AVOID:
“I couldn’t get anyone else to do it, so I asked you” -or its variation, “You’re the fifth person I’ve called.” Well, doesn’t that make you feel special? This is dishonoring to our God who created us with a purpose, passion, and gifts for each ministry unique to us. If four other people have turned you down, a prudent person will want to know why. And the person doing the asking should learn the better processes of relationship-building and invitation, rather than the desperate last minute plea.
#4 Church Volunteer Recruiting Trick to AVOID:
“Will you help me since you’re my friend?” This can only lead down one of two paths. First, pretty soon you’ll have fewer friends because you’ve abused the friendships by asking people who aren’t called, gifted, or qualified (not to mention passionate or skilled) to do work simply to fill slots. They do the task out of their loyalty to you and your friendship rather than “unto the Lord.” The second path is the creation of cliques in the church, and the perpetuation of the 90/10 rule (where 10% of the people do 90% of the work).
If you look around the average American church, you’ll find that many people are in their places of service because they were recruited in one of these ways. Through God’s grace, they can sometimes be productive and fruitful-but this is the exception and not the rule.
If you’re frustrated in your efforts at recruiting church volunteers, you’re not alone! Download Church Volunteer Recruiting: 7 Keys to Helping Believers Discover their Spiritual Gift of Faith and the Rewards of Service today and discover new strategies for building dynamic ministry teams.