When you look out upon the vast landscape of ministry, what do you see? What draws your immediate attention? Particular programs, complex processes, overwhelming needs, significant opportunity? Perhaps you are drawn to all the tasks, troubles, and timelines that ministry today seems to require. To be sure, it’s all there, and no matter the size of your ministry there’s a lot of it! In fact, there is so much that no one person - despite his or her talents, gifts, abilities, or anointing - can get it all done. Early in His ministry, Jesus recognized the simple fact that he couldn’t do it all and that He’d need help. Jesus’ solution? Volunteers. Today, we call twelve of Jesus’ early volunteers apostles. .
Ministry strategy hasn’t change much over the past millennia. Today, there is still too much to do but not enough time to do it, and no one person possesses the talents, gifts, abilities, or anointing to do it all. Your solution? Volunteers!
People are the one resource every church has more than anything else. Churches have more people than money, space or staff. That means to be effective we must have a good game plan in place for helping those who come and see to become people who come and serve.
What would happen if we began to see the people in our church as our greatest asset? What if our approach to training volunteers was as intentional and integral as training players on a sports team or growing leaders for business?
When we as church leaders shift our mindset and see our volunteers as true disciples and adjust our practices to reflect that importance accordingly, the trajectory of our ministry makes an immediate upward tilt. It takes that type of mindset to develop a thriving group of volunteers who serve with passion and love what they do and who they do it for.
What results is the foundation of a thriving volunteers ministry.
Book 1 in this series, Your Volunteers: Recruit, guides you through the process of recruiting and equips you with the strategies and tools required to effectively steward the Church’s number one resource - people.
Even the healthiest of volunteer environments won’t produce a thriving ministry if there are no people willing to serve as volunteers. Every volunteer ministry needs a process for recruiting people to move from a come-and-see mentality to a come-and-serve mindset.
One of the great privileges we have as leaders in God’s church is that we get to help people discover their role in the Kingdom and activate them to work for eternal things. I can think of few things more satisfying than watching people grow in their faith through volunteer experiences.
The two most common recruitment modalities we employ in ministry today are to fill a slot (the most common) and to select a person.
Each modality is useful and necessary. When we need a lot of people who we can train quickly to do a specific assignment on a temporary basis, it would be wasteful to have them interviewed, fill out assessments, and run them through various approval channels. Conversely, when we are faced with needing specific and specialized talent, experience, or giftedness, it would be best to take more time and energy to find the right person for the job.
Three Volunteer Types
The reason both recruiting strategies are needed is because not all volunteers are created equal. Generally they fit into one of three categories.
These volunteers approach ministry as something good. They’re interested in it, they are available, they get the job done, they benefit from it, and they enjoy it—but they’re not necessarily highly committed or interested in increasing their capacity or capability.
The second type of volunteer acts and behaves more like an apprentice, someone who has a certain level of skill or giftedness useful in ministry and wants to develop it further. They invest the time, effort, and energy necessary to get better, and their results show promise.
This final type of volunteer has honed and developed specific ministry skills that are necessary and, if missing, the ministry would suffer. These individuals are pillars of the church and often are involved in developing others for future ministry needs. A telltale sign of a craftsman is that they think about ministry even when not engaged in ministry activity
For roles and positions that are short term and have less influence, it’s fine to fill a slot. There are benefits in doing that because you can get a larger number of people involved quickly. This allows you to see how they act, how they behave, what they’re good at, and what they like and don’t like doing. Then you can help them adjust to find a different area of ministry if they desire a better fit as time progresses.
When you fill a slot, the job gets done. And that’s about it.
But there is a benefit to getting the job done! There are a lot of jobs that need to be done in ministry.
There are ministry positions where it’s important to select the right person who has a specific skill set—such as a singer or a worship leader. Not just anyone can fulfill the role of being on a worship team! They need to be able to carry a tune and keep a beat. You don’t want just anyone doing that. You can’t just fill a slot; you have to select the right person.
When we select the right person for the right job, the mission gets done.
It is important for you to spend your recruiting efforts in both categories—filling slots and selecting people. If you only concentrate on filling open slots in ministry, you will constantly be filling slots. You will operate only within the tyranny of the urgent. However, when you select people that have the talents, skills, gifts, abilities, and anointing for specific roles within your church, then you complete the mission of the church rather than just completing a series of tasks.
Two Methods and Both Are Needed
Remember that both recruiting methods are useful and necessary. Both are needed within your church. Different people will respond to different approaches. It’s not likely that an apprentice type volunteer is going to respond to an “all-call” recruitment effort. It’s just as unlikely that a hobbyist volunteer will respond well to the type of role and commitment that a craftsman would enjoy.
While necessary and somewhat useful, using the “all-call” approach for volunteers places us at the most elementary level of Kingdom engagement. Its intention is to fill slots for a specific event or a role, but it often offers only a temporary fix to a systemic volunteer issue.
Mass recruiting strategies may work well for an event or a one-time engagement, but for more permanent ministry endeavors it leads to a never-ending battle of tracking people down, playing the “guilt card,” and hoping someone will just stick to whatever random role they were recruited for so the process doesn’t need to be repeated all over again. Alas, that never works for more advanced ministry roles— the kind that help us fulfill the mission versus simply getting a job done.
Now we’re going to focus on “select a person” as a recruiting method because the all-call approach is already well understood and employed by most churches.
Recruit From a Position of Strength
Selecting the right people is necessary for moving your mission forward, but few leaders are sure about how to do it. Here is the four-step process for selecting the right volunteer:
Know What You need
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to know the role you need to fill. What are the talents, skills, and abilities necessary to fulfill the basic requirements of the specific role?
You don’t need a spreadsheet; don’t over complicate it—just keep it simple.
For example, if you need a singer on a worship team, note that they can’t be tone deaf. Or if you are looking for preschool volunteers, make sure they actually like working with children.
Know Who You Need
Identify the characteristics of the person ahead of time. Who you need is about characteristics versus skill set.
Recognizing an individual's characteristics and matching them up with a responsibility is the magic of ministry.
For example, a small group leader would need to possess a high social IQ. A greeter would need to be hospitable. This is where you might identify maturity measures that matter or any “nonnegotiables” for the role. I limit this to a maximum of three characteristics to avoid looking for a perfect miracle person who simply doesn’t exist.
Ask for Them
Ask God. Pray for them. We are involved in a spiritual endeavor; involve the Spirit. I know this may seem trite and overused, but God wants to use volunteer roles to mold and shape us in His likeness.
Serving others is a clear command in Scripture. Ask God to bring the right people.
Ask others. The more specific you can be about who and what you are looking for, Like what you're reading? Take it with you the more successful you will be at finding the right person. Ask those you trust to think about people they know who fit the criteria you are looking for. For example, don’t just ask for an usher; ask for someone who is engaging and personable. (As your church grows, creating a referral engine will be very important because you won’t know every church member.)
Ask them. When you meet the right person, ask them to consider joining your team. Depending on the role, they might be able to start immediately or you may need some time to work through any requirements or role-specific training.
Develop a Process
Utilizing a selection process will outperform a selection event over time. You’ll gain momentum quickly and enthusiastically. The more specific you can be about who and what you are looking for, the more successful you will be at finding the right person.
A process is simply a series of steps that has a beginning, middle, and end.
For recruiting, the beginning is how a person enters the process, the middle is how you explain the role and responsibility, and the end is simply an invitation to join your ministry team (if warranted). The great thing about a process is that it can be tweaked. You can make minor adjustments along the way so that the process matches your needs. Over time you’ll refine your own process so it matches your style and fits the culture of your church.
Can you see the difference a selection process would bring to your volunteer recruiting efforts? It’s very likely to be a game changer.
Selecting people for ministry is all about connecting the right person with the right role at the right time. When we select people for ministry, we are helping them get activated in ministry areas where they are already gifted and anointed by God to do well.
Clarify, Refine, and Simplify Your Selection Process
As with every process—even one as successful as Josh’s— you’ll want to clarify, refine, and simplify how you select or recruit volunteers for specific ministry assignments. Here’s how those three principles will guide you as you build your base of volunteer leaders:
When we clarify the what and the why of the role, people know what to expect. People are busy, so they desperately need clarity regarding what you want them to do and why it is necessary.
If you’re not clear with people about what you need, they won’t be clear about how they can help.
Clarity also allows people the confidence to say yes quickly when it is a good fit.
When we refine the what, we make room for growth. As you grow, your specific needs will change. You may need more of some roles, less of others, and likely a few new roles will be created in the process.
When we simplify the how, it is easier to accomplish missional outcomes and measure the effectiveness of our effort. Simple things are more productive, and that’s the point. We want to engage as many people as possible in ministry, so we can reach more people together.
No Lifetime Sentences—Please!
One objection I hear from time to time is that some people have been reluctant to accept a volunteer role because it’s a lifetime sentence with no opt-out clause. Ironically, when folks have the freedom to opt out, they tend to last even longer because they are motivated internally to stay rather than feel forced to stay by someone else’s expectations.
When you select people and ask them to serve in specific roles, be sure to establish a time commitment and an escape clause.
This will set minds at ease and actually encourage people to get involved. You never know what frame of reference someone has based on past volunteer experiences. Without the specifics, a potential volunteer may assume the new assignment will be exactly like the old one—which could be reason enough to say no to joining your team.
Getting to invite people to participate in ministry is one of the special things we get to do as ministry leaders. God didn’t save people for them to sit and wait for His return. He wants His children to get involved. And it’s the job of the ministry leader to help them to do so.
Taking a careful and calculated approach to selecting volunteers for specific ministry positions honors the ministry and elevates the significance of each and every volunteer. Ministry is for everyone; it’s what we all are called to do.
Recruiting is the means by which we select the right person for the right role at the right time in the right place in order to complete our mission, thus advancing the Kingdom in meaningful ways.
As you evaluate your needs and develop a process that will be effective in your organization, reserve the time and energy to experiment as you learn what will work best within the family you serve.
Take the time to pray about new ways you can recruit and who God might be preparing to fill your church’s needs. Seek out the right tool for the right job and put those tools to work.
Remember, the spiritual health of your church community will be well-served by your efforts.
4 Action Steps You Can Start Today:
Use the fill-a-slot recruiting strategy when you have basic, temporary roles to fill.
Use the select-a-person recruiting strategy when you need a highly specified skill and long-term commitment.
Before you start selecting or recruiting anyone, identify the characteristics of the person you are looking for based on the roles you need filled.
When you select someone and ask him or her to serve in a specific role, be sure to establish a time commitment and an escape clause up front.
The most honoring thing we can do for others is to invite them to participate in local church ministry.
Your volunteers are imperative to ministry. They multiply your ability to reach others. They, once equipped are the benefactors of your ministry and the Church long after your time of service comes to an end. They are integral in building the foundation of your ministry that empowers it to sustain future growth. Whatever you do, ensure that it's in recognition of the people choosing to spend their time serving your ministry in the church.
These people often times rely on you to lead them closer to Christ. It's imperative for them to know you need them to share what they know and help you multiply your efforts.