I originally posted this article on August 31, 2010. As I was looking back at some old posts, I thought this one was worth sharing again. Enjoy!
The New Breed, a book by Jonathan McKee and Thomas McKee, is one of the best books I’ve read on volunteers in a long time. In ministry, volunteers create the backbone so that we can accomplish our vision and goals. The bigger the dream, the bigger the team.
However, it seems like one of the toughest job for anyone leading a ministry is simply getting volunteers to sign up and commit! We need to create strategies that allow us to effectively recruit quality volunteers. The McKee’s came up with a list of recruiting “sins” that I thought was very good.
1) Expect announcements to get volunteers
Announcements are not bad. In fact, they can be very good. However, we often assume that a bulletin or pulpit announcement is going to get people super-excited about volunteering. The fact of the matter is that it rarely brings in volunteers, let alone good volunteers. What announcements are able to do is create awareness about the need for volunteers. Then when you ask someone to volunteer one-on-one, they are not taken by surprise by the need. They will only be taken by surprise that you’re asking them specifically!
2) Go it alone
If you’re like me, you’re a very confident leader. And if you’re like me, that means you think you can do everything (or almost everything). The fact is that I can’t. We often feel that we need to go it alone for a couple reasons: 1) we think we can do it better than anyone else; 2) we feel that we need to do it ourselves. The answer is to let it go. We sometimes let the challenge of recruiting volunteers make us want to just do it ourselves. In the end, with a good team of volunteers, we will accomplish so much more than we could ever do on our own.
3) Recruit only volunteers who make long-term commitments
When we think of volunteer roles, we need to think outside of the box. We don’t always need someone to join the pastoral council for a year or the youth ministry core team that meets weekly from now until forever. Sometimes we just need a dad who can come cook for the weekend youth leadership retreat. Sometimes we just need an organized person to come in a couple times this month to help finish organizing all the supplies you need for the church town hall meeting. Look for volunteer roles that are short-term commitments.
4) Assume that ‘No’ means ‘Never’
Sometimes, ‘no’ means ‘not now.’ Maybe this is a busy season in the life of their family or work. If that is the case, follow up with them six months or a year from now. Next time, they may just say ‘yes’ because life has calmed down a bit.
5) Recruit any Ol’ B.I.C (Butt in the Chair)
When we recruit just anyone, we are lowering our standards. We often recruit an ol’ B.I.C. because a more capable volunteer has not said yes yet. Nothing lowers the quality of the ministry more than this. Avoid the trap of saying yes to a volunteer just because it is ministry and we are afraid to say no because we don’t like conflict. Instead, just wait. And trust that God will bring about the right person soon.
6) Ask busy people to do busy work
Nothing demotivates a volunteer more than doing busy work when she knows she is capable of so much more. What if your volunteer was a busy CEO? What would you have them do? File papers? No. If I had a CEO volunteer, I would want to use them to help me create a better strategic plan for my ministry. Busy people want to do more than just mundane busy work. It may still need to get done, but if busy people wanted to do busy work, I imagine they’d just stay at the office longer.
There’s no easy way to recruit volunteers. But if we avoid some of these common sins, we will be able to get a team of volunteers that will help move our ministry to the next level.
Question: Are there other sins that you would add to this list?