Think of volunteer recruitment as dating. No one expects a long-term commitment on the first date—so don’t ask volunteers to jump into a lengthy position of involvement until you’ve given them a chance to see what it’s all about. Invite your volunteers on a first date by creating a “first serve” event.
First Congregational Church of Hudson, Ohio, just completed their fourth annual churchwide day of service. They hold this event each September as a way to invite people to a short-term serving opportunity. It gives them a taste of being in ministry. This day also kicks off the fall schedule of events and activities.
Karen Joshi, connections ministry coordinator, reports, “Each year approximately 500 volunteers fan out across three counties. This year we extended service to Cleveland and partnered with the efforts of the Cleveland Police Foundation.”
Karen starts the planning about six months out by developing a team of crew leaders. This team helps develop the projects they’ll do in the community. With the aid of a social worker, they reach out to organizations and city groups to discuss needs and coordinate work tasks.
Crews include children working side by side with their parents, teens, and seniors. All ages are included in multi-generational crews.
The day begins with an opening worship service. Crews then go out to their assigned sites. Projects run throughout the day, with crews receiving a packed lunch to enjoy onsite. Crews are invited back to the church for an evening meal to celebrate and share God Sightings. Crew leaders take photos of the action, which are uploaded to a slideshow so everyone can see the impact they’ve had on the community.
In his book The New Breed: Understanding and Equipping the 21st Century Volunteer, Thomas McKee states, “The effective recruiter recognizes that getting someone to volunteer is like the dating process. The goal is to get to know each other before you ‘pop the question’ and ask the person to join your volunteer team. This means that you can’t rush to close the deal.”
First Congregational Church has found that this annual event gives people a chance to see what serving is all about and many join ongoing ministries as a result.
Give your volunteers opportunities to date. A short-term event gives prospective volunteers a “taste” of what serving is like. By the time you do “pop the question” for a longer ministry commitment, you can be pretty confident they’ll say yes!