Are people running from you in the church halls again? Before you invest in a new box of Altoids, consider if your ministry recruitment techniques are responsible for the cold reception.
If your recruitment process is like a Venus’ flytrap where you snap up anyone who happens to wander into your path, no wonder people at your church always run when they see you coming.
It’s true that the recruitment process may begin during a first encounter with a prospective volunteer, but you’ll need to pace yourself so you don’t scare off anyone. Here’s how to make the best use of your recruitment time — minute by minute.
The Minute-By-Minute Volunteer Recruitment Strategy You Need
When you meet someone who may be a volunteer prospect, make good use of that first minute. A warm smile, eye contact, and a friendly greeting open the door to future conversations. Establish yourself as a professional who cares about kids. Briefly explain your role in the church, main ministry function, and that there’s a place for everyone in children’s ministry. (Often people think it just involves teaching.) You could have your name, title, email, and phone number printed on a pen, balloon, jumbo crayon, chip clip, or refrigerator magnet for a gift to the person. During this first minute, make contact and set the stage for the next level.
With five minutes, avoid the tendency to “close the sale.” Anyone who’s asked and responds to a recruitment call in five minutes hasn’t had time to think and pray about the ministry.
However, five minutes does give you time to make a phone call to invite someone to consider the options for volunteering in your ministry. You set the stage by planting the seed of opportunity. “I wanted to give you a call because you impressed me as someone who has a heart for kids! I’d like to send you our brochure that presents some exciting information on how our church ministers to children.” It’s like a first date. You begin the process of getting to know each other. Now add this name to your daily prayer list, that the Lord would reveal the good work he has already prepared for this person.
A good recruiter is always on the lookout. When we trust God to supply laborers for the vineyard, we realize he sets up divine appointments when we least expect them. Sue Susnik, youth director at Hales Corners Lutheran Church in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, met one of her best volunteers while at a football game.
“I was seated next to Pam at a church outing to a football game,” Susnik says. “I introduced myself as the church’s youth director and we began talking about where she worked. The more we talked, the more I realized she had many of the skills it would take to volunteer in the junior high small group ministry. She was compassionate, patient, and had the skills of administration and a love for Jesus that was evident. All I did was plant a seed for her to think about leading a small group.”
Apparently this approach worked as Pam has been leading a group for the past six years! Ten minutes gives you the time to deepen a conversation and find out more about a person’s skills, gifts, and experiences to determine if this person is right for the job.
When you have an hour, it’s time to invest the time to explore with a person the options for placement. Seek to match a person’s gifts and abilities with ministry positions. Use this hour to learn more about the volunteer and to let the volunteer find out more about the ministry. Many people are attracted to the energy of children’s ministry but fail to see the hard work that it requires. During this time you can inform the person of your expectations of people serving in your department (training required, background check performed, monthly meetings, and so on) so the volunteer sees the complete picture. You’re not doing anyone any favors by glossing over the responsibilities and making it sound easier than it is. Your dropout rate will soar if you lead people to think, “Oh, this is so easy; anyone can do it!” You may choose to do the interviews for key leadership positions, but recruit and train “interviewers” to interview other volunteers.
A one-day investment in a Ministry Fair can reap a harvest of volunteers for the entire year. Some churches plan this event as a full-scale, all-inclusive, ministry showcase. Others select specific ministries for special Sundays. Either way, a one-day Ministry Fair gives you the opportunity to present ministry choices to people who may have no idea what your ministry includes.
Select a theme and decorate accordingly. For example, if you use the slogan, “Get in the Game!” have a sports theme, with your leaders wearing sports jerseys or coach shirts. Create as much excitement as possible with food, giveaways, and even games for the kids. Have a table display for every ministry in your department with a list of the positions available, brief job descriptions, and a place to register to attend a ministry information meeting.
Vacation Bible school can be the single most important recruitment week of your entire ministry! Most children’s ministry leaders make the mistake of focusing only on recruiting for VBS week…and do nothing during VBS while the volunteers are there. This is the best week of the year to pull in “first timers”-those who’ve never volunteered in your church before. They’re attracted to this ministry because it’s fun, exciting, and a short-term commitment.
Use the excitement and energy of VBS week to invite volunteers to participate in other children’s ministry programs that happen during the year. The key is to offer short-term assignments. If people are helping with VBS crafts, see if they’d like to help once a month with a craft project. If they’re helping with VBS music, ask them to rehearse one song with your weekly children’s choir. Make your VBS a recruitment week for year-round involvement.
One month out of the year could be focused on moving volunteers into a deeper level of commitment. While recruiting you’ll soon discover that some volunteers want minimal, occasional involvement. Others desire intense involvement with lots of responsibility, and still others want something in between. Develop a tracking system to determine which volunteers fall into which category. You’ll also want to design ministry positions that reflect all these realities.
Every recruitment contact needs to be documented so you know why some volunteers may only be willing to serve with minimal involvement-or not at all! It may be that someone can’t help out with this summer’s vacation Bible school due to a family situation, but is willing to help with next year’s program. Log all contact information for future follow-up. An electronic format is best when you’re dealing with 50 people or more.
A recruitment strategy for people resistant to involvement may include a plan to get them enrolled in a discipleship class, home Bible study group, or other opportunity to grow in their understanding of mission and ministry. Those who are serving with minimal involvement may be challenged to consider positions at the next level. Your “regular” volunteers who serve faithfully may be ready to pray about a leadership position if their gifts and abilities match the position available.
Schedule a weekend retreat with your leadership team to make plans for the coming year. Set goals and plan quarterly objectives to build a framework for a recruitment schedule. For example, if you plan to launch a new ministry the first of the year, you’ll need to recruit and train in the fall. An annual planning weekend will keep your recruitment process on schedule so you’ll avoid those panic situations.
Recruit “recruiters” and bring them to your leadership team retreat. Look for those people-friendly people who have a passion for connecting gifts with ministry. Train them in active listening and in Jesus-style recruitment, which invites people to do ministry as a team effort. You multiply your ministry when you engage other leaders to come alongside you to help people discover their unique ministry.
Bob D’Ambrosio is a consultant for Church Volunteer Central at Group Publishing, Inc.
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