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XL Recruiting Strategies

Becky Olmstead

Have you ever felt like you were trapped in a revolving door when it comes to recruiting? Just when you begin to feel you finally have enough volunteers, someone quits, and you're back to recruiting again. That's been the snapshot of my life for more than 20 years as I've served as the children's pastor of a multi-site church in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Here are a few other snapshots: On average I oversee 150 volunteers and I'm typically recruiting for about 75 positions at a time. By my best estimate, I've recruited around 2,000 volunteers during my tenure.

Now I have to be honest; there have been several month-long stretches when we had all the help we needed and I got to catch my breath. But I've learned that those moments of surplus never last long. And there's an upside to my perpetual recruiting: Having to spend so much time and energy enlisting new volunteers has fast-tracked my learning curve on the most effective ways to recruit.


In my early days of leading children's ministry, I used to think that having a catchy message--maybe a cute take-off of some current TV commercial--would result in lots of people wanting to be involved in our ministry to kids. What I found, though, was that often our most creative efforts yielded the most disappointing results.

I've come to realize that what makes all the difference in recruiting isn't some flashy idea or message, but simply my ability to communicate with people. And just as important as how I grab someone's attention is who I'm speaking to and what I'm saying.

People want to be personally asked to be involved. So it's no surprise that a blurb in the church bulletin bears negligible results. And if I don't have a clear message about what I'm asking from the person, if I don't know who the right person for the job is, or if I can't clearly explain the various ways that person can be involved in the ministry, I've missed my window of opportunity to add that person to my team.


The second key to effective recruiting also relates to communication: It's communicating the passion you have for your ministry to others.

Think of it this way. Before I attempt to recruit someone else to serve in our ministry, first and foremost I must be convinced that our ministry to kids is the most important thing our church does. After all, if you don't feel this, no one else will. If you don't feel completely passionate about kids, your ministry, your team, and your church, then recharge your batteries.

Remind yourself why you do what you do. Spend time investigating what the Bible has to say about kids. Ask God to open your eyes to see what he's said in the Bible about kids. The Old Testament Bible prompts us in Psalm 89:1-2 to teach the next generations about God. That's a good place to begin. Next, explore the passion and importance that Jesus showed to children. Wess Stafford, president of Compassion International, does a great job sharing a glimpse into God's heart for kids in his book Too Small to Ignore. Reach for that book right after exploring the Bible.

It's enlightening, refreshing, and invigorating to grasp the importance God places on kids. To effectively excite others about your ministry, you've got to fully grasp it, too. Your voice speaking out for kids can influence your entire church community, in turn creating a culture that values kids. When you're working within a culture that loves kids, it's a whole lot easier to find volunteers who want to serve.

Share what God has shown you about children with anyone who'll listen. Your pastor, your friends, people in your small group, the parents in your church-wherever and with whomever you find an opportunity, speak up on behalf of children. Proverbs 31:8 tells us to speak up for those who can't do so for themselves. That's your cue to become an advocate for kids. Develop a few key thoughts and examples of why kids are so precious to God. Memorize those Bible passages about God's love for kids and become familiar enough to paraphrase what Jesus said about them.

Ask God to place his passion inside your heart. That's where God captured my heart. I want to love what God loves. And when the moment presents itself, you'll be ready to share some pretty valuable insights to key people who'll see your passion--and take it as their own.

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