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4 Monster Mistakes

Al Newell

Slaying Monster #3

To avoid the wrong bait technique, think like a fish. That is, think like volunteer prospects, not like those already on the team. Make a list of potential objections volunteer prospects might have to serving in your children's ministry. Now list the potential benefits the position offers, again from the perspective of the prospects. Then take the list and turn it into a recruitment ad. Better yet, invite a passionate volunteer to talk about the benefits of his or her involvement in your ministry.

A bank executive's office sign reads, "We are not our customers." Similarly, we are not our volunteer prospects, but if we hope to attract them, we must connect with them on their turf, just as Jesus did in his compelling recruitment message. Here's my paraphrase of Matthew 4:19, "Hey, you know the joy of fishing, the thrill of the catch; come with me and I'll make you successful at catching people and changing their lives." Using the right bait will at least get the attention of many who otherwise may never have even come close to your line.

MONSTER #4: "Workers Wanted" Message

I collect ineffective volunteer recruitment messages like this one: "Looking for a place to utilize your talents? We are looking for people interested in writing, drama, choir, orchestra, praise band, children's music, ushers, dance, communion, props and costumes, multimedia, deaf ministry."

Here's another: "PLEA FOR HELP! We need people to make copies of tapes for the message each Sunday."

Perhaps no recruitment ads bother me more than the workers wanted message that depicts exciting ministry as a boring task: "Third-grade teacher needed. Four people needed to tutor. Big brother needed. In need of VBS helpers." Task-oriented ads like these appear in organizational newsletters or church bulletins. The authors of such ads have good intentions but fail to realize the far-reaching implications these messages have.

Often as a recruiter, I neglected to grasp that the way I presented my recruitment message spoke volumes about the ministry itself. What do unimaginative or stilted ads communicate about the jobs listed? For a moment try to imagine you're a potential volunteer reading the following ad:

Two nursery helpers needed.

Write a list of thoughts or internal responses you would or actually do have when you read that ad. Personally, I'd hardly glance at the ad because I'd never imagine it was talking to me. I don't see myself as a helper. I want to do something significant! Now let's imagine that somehow the pastor has drawn attention to the ad and I'm obligated to take a look. Now what would I think? The nursery -- dirty diapers, screaming babies. Work. No fun. The thought of ministry would never cross my mind -- solely based on the way the ad was presented. The workers wanted error of recruiting to a task denies any possibility that the ministry itself might be compelling or interesting in the slightest way.

Slaying Monster #4

The workers wanted tactic can be corrected. Simply determine never to recruit to a task and instead recruit to a ministry. Take a look at recruitment messages throughout your ministry. Do the messages attempt to recruit volunteers to a task, or do they describe a compelling ministry opportunity?

Rather than writing "Four tutors wanted," perhaps you might write "If you can read this, God can use you dramatically in the life of a child who can't read." Think about that message for a moment, and compare it with the former message. How are the messages different? The second message surpasses the first because it calls people to the vision rather than the opening. It paints a picture of how a yes response will change a volunteer's life through making an eternal impact.


Al Newell, a volunteer management consultant, has 22 years experience developing volunteer ministries in churches and Christian organizations. His company, Newell & Associates, publishes the High Impact Ministry Report, a monthly resource for those who lead volunteers. (Available at 800-519-9941 or www.ananet.com.) Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to change.

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