Learn It Live It


These 10 recruiting missteps
can cost you new volunteers. Here’s how to avoid

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Remember that person you had such a crush on in high school? Maybe
you flirted and worked overtime to impress your crush, delighted
when your efforts resulted in a first date. And things went
beautifully on that magical evening; the two of you set a second
date and leaned in to say good night. Then it happened: You said or
did something that sent your date running to the next county, never
to be seen again. Maybe you mentioned something about kids, or
perhaps you revealed a personal idiosyncrasy even your mother would
cringe at. Whatever happened, you closed your front door that night
with the gut feeling that you’d blown any opportunity for a
relationship with your crush.

So it goes with potential volunteers who are hesitant about
whether to commit to your ministry. As a volunteer recruiter, you
think you’ve done what’s necessary to win and impress, only to
discover that your words or actions sent the potential volunteer
running for the exit — never to step forward or show interest in
your ministry again.

Here are 10 ways not to lose a new volunteer — and tips
to transform those flirting with ministry into dedicated and
enthusiastic volunteers.

Misstep #1:

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Failing to Recognize the Person in a Crowd

So often children’s ministers make this plea from the pulpit:
“Just drop your name in the offering and we’ll contact you to
help.” So Mary drops her name in the plate, she likes kids and
would like more information — maybe children’s ministry is where
she can finally plug in. But a week goes by, then two, and still no
one’s contacted her. Then, there’s hope. Her email inbox has a
message from you, but when Mary reads it, she realizes it’s a mass
email to everyone who responded to the plea. Yes, position openings
are listed with a contact number, but Mary hits delete and decides
to pass on volunteering if this is the experience she can

Sweep ‘Em Off Their Feet: Always follow up within
48 hours of an announcement from the pulpit or in the church
bulletin — and make the contact personal. Call potential
volunteers personally or meet with them face-to-face to go over
your needs, their interests, and to answer any questions they have
about the ministry. People appreciate the personal attention from
someone who’s currently a leader in the ministry.

Misstep #2:

Asking People to Help As a Favor

Nothing can ruin a relationship, new or seasoned, faster than
asking someone to help in your ministry as a favor to you. Of
course it’s difficult for a person to turn you down if you’re
positioning your volunteer need as a personal one. Friends may fill
your volunteer needs out of obligation to you, but their volunteer
experience will be unsatisfactory and unfulfilling if they’re
serving in an area that’s not a good fit for them and is done out
of guilt.

Sweep ‘Em Off Their Feet: If you have friends or
acquaintances who want to serve in children’s ministry, you already
have a recruiting advantage because you’ve got an established
relationship with them. But don’t assume that children’s ministry
is a good fit for your friends. Have all potential volunteers —
regardless of your relationship with them — fill out an interest
inventory or spiritual gift assessment to make sure the volunteer
opportunities available are a good fit on both ends.

Misstep #3:

Throwing Newbies to the Lions

A potential volunteer has filled out all the paperwork and passed
the background check — and you desperately need someone in the
preteen class, which hasn’t had a consistent volunteer leader in
weeks. So you hand over the materials and send your new recruit
into the trenches, only to get the materials back at the end of the
service with a polite, “Thanks, but I think I’ll pass,” as your new
recruit exits the building — and your ministry.

Sweep ‘Em Off Their Feet: Make sure potential
volunteers can observe different areas of service under a seasoned
volunteer’s leadership. People considering volunteering in
children’s ministry may want to shadow a current volunteer for a
time, or maybe they’d prefer to volunteer with classroom prep or in
the kitchen rather than in the classroom. Provide new volunteers
with entry point opportunities — or “ministry in small bites”
opportunities — especially if they’re inexperienced. Serving pizza
at a preteen event may result in a person realizing that he or she
likes kids that age and wants to be more involved in that ministry
— or it may be an eye-opener and solidify that the nursery is a
better fit.

Misstep #4:

Giving Potential Recruits a False Impression

A cardinal rule of dating is to be yourself because the truth will
eventually come out. The same can be said about courting someone
for a volunteer position in your ministry. If you paint a picture
of the ministry or volunteer position that isn’t accurate, your new
volunteers will feel they were recruited under false pretenses and
won’t be in it for the long haul.

Sweep ‘Em Off Their Feet: Describe your ministry
accurately. Don’t say you have classroom ratios of six kids for
every one leader and then stick a new volunteer in a room alone
with 15 kids. Develop a volunteer manual for potential volunteers
to read that includes your ministry values and mission. Let
recruits know what each job’s time commitment is each week and what
their role would be on the team, including who they’d report to and
what team they’d serve on. Have ministry descriptions available for
every service opportunity, from small group leaders to clean-up

Misstep #5:

Talking the Talk, But Not Walking the Walk

As a leader you may give a great first impression, presenting your
ministry with enthusiasm and passion. But after chatting with
current volunteers and observing you in action, a potential
volunteer sadly realizes that you’re not that excited about the
ministry — and actually feels sorry for you because you’re
obviously in a job you dread.

Sweep ‘Em Off Their Feet: If you love what you’re
doing, it shows. Your enthusiasm about the ministry is contagious.
Your attitude goes a long way in converting interested people into
committed volunteers, so check it when you’re having a tough time
getting volunteers to commit. People may be hesitant because you
are, too.

Misstep #6:

Making Assumptions

Isn’t it obvious? We have a need in children’s ministry for
volunteers — everyone knows that. But maybe not. You may
assume that parents see the lack of help in your ministry (which is
obvious to you). In reality, though, parents may be willing to
help, but they assume you have it all covered. After all, you’d ask
if you needed help, right?

Sweep ‘Em Off Their Feet: Clearly communicate
your needs with everyone — not only potential volunteers, but also
other ministry leaders, current volunteers, and individuals at the
church who work with new members or gift assessments. Keep
up-to-date volunteer needs posted on your church Web site and in
your bulletin or newsletter. If a position becomes available and
you know someone who’d potentially be a good fit, personally make a
call and explain why you feel he’d be perfect for the job. And
don’t be afraid to ask for help — people can’t respond to a need
they don’t even know exists.

Misstep #7:

Failing to Share the Mission

People want to feel they’re part of something important; they want
to know they’re making a difference. If you talk to potential
volunteers and fail to communicate the mission of your ministry,
you’ve probably failed to win them over or convince them of the
vital role of your ministry.

Sweep ‘Em Off Their Feet: Share your ministry’s
mission with everyone you speak to because often the person you’re
talking to may be a potential volunteer. When people realize that
changing a diaper isn’t just ridding the room of a stinky
substance, that it’s actually an act of caring for a little one as
Jesus would, it suddenly becomes a job that matters. Or playing a
guitar as kids worship is modeling that it’s cool to love and
worship God. Potential volunteers need to know there’s a reason
behind the job you ask them to do — so share it, and share it

Misstep #8:

Offering No Options

“We only have one opening right now, so if you can’t help in the
4-year-old room then I’m sorry, we can’t use you.” Or maybe you
shut the door on a 15-year-old because you think teenagers are too
young to volunteer in your ministry. Inflexibility will definitely
result in a potential volunteer’s quick exit.

Sweep ‘Em Off Their Feet: Create many entry
points into your ministry for potential volunteers. Even if every
teaching position is filled (Hallelujah!), find an opportunity for
potential volunteers and grow them into other positions as they
become available. You can often hook a volunteer with a clearly
defined, short-term task. Never turn people away who are willing to
give their time and talent to your ministry. Have opportunities for
people to serve in some capacity so they feel connected with you
and the team.

Misstep #9:

Not Equipping People for the Job

Volunteers won’t last long if they don’t feel they’ve
been trained or equipped to do the job. And volunteers who’ve been
around awhile will quickly become bored if they don’t feel they’re
growing in skill and expertise.

Sweep ‘Em Off Their Feet: Be clear with potential
volunteers about how you’ll equip them for the job. If they’re
leading a small group, provide training on the curriculum and group
facilitation techniques. If you want someone to supervise a craft
station, make sure they have all the supplies and instructions to
do the craft. Offer ongoing training for all volunteers to help
them stay fresh and equipped to minister to children.

Misstep #10:

Being Void of Gratitude

If your current volunteers are invisible to you, chances are new
volunteers will notice the lack of appreciation for those who serve
in your ministry. If potential volunteers feel that you expect
participation rather than welcome it, they’ll likely pass on the

Sweep ‘Em Off Their Feet: Be generous with
gratitude, thanking volunteers often. Always speak positively about
current volunteers and demonstrate how important they are by
showering them with praise and appreciation. Remember that happy
volunteers often serve as your best recruiters.

The next time you make a big push to fill volunteer needs, keep in
mind the things you say and do that could turn off potential
volunteers. Remember, those flirting with your ministry might just
be a match made in heaven when it comes to impacting kids for
Jesus. Don’t lose them!

Carmen Kamrath is the associate editor for Children’s Ministry



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