4 Monster Mistakes

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Take a deep breath and slay those boogeyman issues in
your recruiting closet

I cracked an egg to create an omelette. As if the yolk were
trying to escape, it fled the shell much quicker than I’d
anticipated. Splat!

A wet paper towel cleaned up the mess. I grabbed another egg and
virtually erased the mistake from my memory. Some mistakes — such
as my dropped egg — are easily remedied. Other errors, however,
have a more lasting impact.

Take, for instance, the time I failed to heed the warning of the
sulfur-like aroma that surrounded our car as we traveled across
Nebraska. I surmised that the smell had emanated from the nearby
stockyards. Entrenched in denial, I finally awakened when the car
died, leaving us stranded miles from any town. We were forced to
cram into a filthy tow truck. My wife, Wendy, waited in a
near-deserted restaurant with our three whiny, hungry children
while I visited the mechanic, who assured me that we wouldn’t be
leaving town anytime soon. The five of us stayed in “the” hotel.
Did I mention that one of my children had a high fever and that
they all were under 3? As I said, some mistakes are easily remedied
and forgotten, while other mistakes become bloated and downright
scary.

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So it is with recruiting children’s ministry volunteers. Some
recruiting mistakes aren’t too costly, while others become
monstrous. We may innocently repeat errors, but like unchecked
smoke, these monster mistakes create a nasty atmosphere in which
recruiting becomes more difficult — even next to impossible. Let’s
look at the four most common monster mistakes in volunteer
recruiting for children’s ministry.

MONSTER #1: The Painless Position

Research shows that most volunteers are willing to serve three
hours per week. In Volunteer Management, Steve McCurley and Rick
Lynch point to the trend of volunteers opting for short terms of
service. With that understanding in mind, many well-intentioned
leaders design positions accordingly. They make the children’s
volunteer position easier to attract more volunteers. Five short of
the desired 30 volunteers, a children’s ministry director reasons
that because she has trouble recruiting the necessary volunteers to
serve in the children’s ministry each week, she makes the position
less painful by requiring volunteers to serve only once every four
weeks.

This solution and others like it are typically welcomed because
they provide temporary relief; however, a closer look shows that
making the position easier actually creates a monster of a
recruiting environment for several reasons. First, by opting for
the painless position, you quadruple your recruiting problem.
Instead of 30 volunteers per month, you now need 120 from a
recruitment pool that hasn’t grown. Second, requiring less
commitment cheapens the ministry position itself, making it
difficult for volunteers to see their role as anything more than a
once-every-four-weeks-baby-sitting-duty. This has the unintentional
result of chasing away passionate volunteers who were hoping to
change lives but who don’t want to play with the junior varsity.
Third, many volunteers will now interpret this once-a-month
commitment as their entire service to the church, creating a drain
on overall human resources. Last, by easing the requirement, you’ve
placed a burden on your children, requiring them to adapt to a new
teacher every week.

Slaying Monster #1

How do we solve the common recruitment problem of the painless
position? To begin, realize that creating easy jobs is never the
long-term solution. Can you imagine ministry positions in the New
Testament being offered in such a way? “Follow me, and I will make
you fishers of men in less than three hours a week.” If you ask for
a noble commitment, you’ll get a noble commitment; if you ask for a
mediocre commitment, you’ll get no commitment. Look for fewer
volunteers with greater commitment. Strangely, setting the
standards higher will eventually create greater interest.

Marine recruiters understand this perfectly. When they stand in
front of high school classes, they say, “I’m not talking to
everyone here, but to the one person who might have the makeup to
be a Marine.” A former Marine boasted that recruits would wait in
line. This 1860 ad for pony express riders in a San Francisco
newspaper similarly makes the point:

“WANTED: Young…fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders
willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.”

Despite the challenge, or maybe because of it, a lack of riders
was never a problem. Today’s Christians need a challenge, not an
easy way out.

     

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