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Keith Johnson

The art of "selling" your volunteers on anything.

Believe it or not, you're a salesperson for your ministry -- if selling is defined as convincing. Think of everything you do to try to convince your volunteers of something -- to attend training, to call absent children, to move into greater leadership, and more.

So what kind of salesperson are you? A used car sales-man whose selfish ambition and egocentric manipulation makes a customer feel coerced? Or a Starbucks barista whose smile and winsome words create a climate where people don't mind committing five bucks for a cup of coffee because the experience overshadows the price?

A manipulative salesperson can force people to comply with requests, but compliance isn't your goal. Commitment is your goal. Using guilt or fear to motivate only leads to outward action without internal commitment. Creating a culture of compliance isn't consistent with a long-term ministry mind-set. Your goal is to prepare people for productive, life-changing service that fulfills their needs for significance, belonging, and kingdom productivity.

The best way to convince people to do something is to focus not on what you need, but to instead focus on what they need. You must sell in such a way as to enhance people's satisfaction. Tap into what motivates people at each stage of their level of satisfaction, and you'll help people buy into your ministry's good goals. Once you understand the stages people go through, adjust your role to fit their needs.

• Learn as a Student. Some of your volunteers might be ready for change-they just don't know it yet. They're content to just sit in the choir or just observe on the sidelines. What should your role be?

You must become a Student to learn all you can about what's important to these potential volunteers. Ask questions. Do they have time to serve? Do you know their passion or heart for service? Do they have children? This is the first step in the process of selling your ministry.

• Diagnose their need as a Doctor. Once you have all the information you need to understand people, you're ready to diagnose their need to serve in your ministry.

A Doctor diagnoses discontent to arrive at a need the patient unknowingly wants. Too often, our potential volunteers don't even know that working in children's ministry is beneficial to them. Your role as a Doctor is to persuade a person as to the benefits of his or her service.

Frankly, too often we don't feel that what we're providing is beneficial, and thus we're hesitant to recruit or too timid to expect good attendance at our teacher training. A good Doctor shows what healthy patients look like, is passionate about good habits, and is gentle in persistence.

• Build a picture of the solution as an Architect. Once you've convinced people they need what you're offering, design unique solutions by playing the Architect.

An Architect arrives at a simple solution to your volunteers' needs. This is truly where the fun begins. Is one of your volunteers' needs to feel a part of a small accountability group? Your team approach to ministry might just be the solution.

Does your training meeting attendance leave you frustrated because the felt need of another meeting just isn't part of your volunteers' equation? Then try calling it something different. Or disguise team-building as a trip to the outlets or meet one-on-one at Caribou Coffee with your favorite potential leader.

Debby Albrecht, the director of Kingdom Kids at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, had a tough time getting volunteers out to an evening training meeting until she hit on an Architect's dream of a solution. Instead of an inconvenient and irrelevant meeting, she broke down her team-building over two days and at times that were very good for her volunteers -- not necessarily just for her. She met with one group at 10 a.m. and then another at 1:30 p.m. and finally a third at 4:30 p.m.

These times, incidentally, corresponded with when her volunteers were finished dropping off or picking up children, or when a swing-shift spouse could take over watching young children.

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