The greatest talent that God can give a church may well be the ability to recruit volunteers. If a church has a skilled recruiter, find him or her, take them to lunch, and pepper them with questions. Take notes. Learn from the experts.
I’ve done this. Here is what I learned —
- Recruit in person or by phone — not by emails, announcements, or sign up lists. Recruitment is, at its heart, a personal thing. People need the chance to ask questions, to have their fears assuaged, to feel recognized and appreciated, to be sold.
- Sell. In person or by phone. Explain why this is something the recruiter is passionate about so the potential volunteer can be passionate, too. What’s fun about this? Why is this really needed?
“We’ve placed a sign up list for people to volunteer to cut grass this summer. It’s the green sheet on the bulletin board. Thank you.”
“Charlie, I’m going to volunteer to cut grass at church for the month of July. I was hoping you could help me. I love riding the riding mower and having a little time to myself, but I’m just terrible with maintenance, and know you’re good with machines. If you’ll join me, we can get breakfast together before. I was thinking Saturday morning might work for both of our schedules …”
Do you see the difference? One is drudgery, duty, and guilt. The other is the chance to be with a friend doing something you enjoy together. Both are cutting grass.
3. Invite new people. They likely are looking for a way to get involved. They are certainly looking to make friends. Include time to drink coffee or eat breakfast or lunch together. Make it social. People are social beings, and new people feel that need intensely. They’ll thank you if you do it right. Really.
4. It’s easier to get volunteers for a month, quarter, or half-year than a week at a time. People just assume that it’s easier to staff the nursery one week at a time — meaning you have to get volunteers 52 times a year. My wife is among the world’s greatest recruiters. She recruits on a six-month basis for cradle roll. And she gets enough extra people so that volunteers can take vacations and travel when they need to.
How does she do it? Well, see 1-3 above. And she loves babies, and so she recruits people who love babies — and there are many. Some like just holding the criers. Some like cleaning up the toys the babies have slobbered over. Some like teaching the class. Some like singing to babies. But a lot of people love babies.
So rather than thinking of it as week by week drudgery, she sees it as fun — and her joy in caring for the babies is infectious. And people really do sign up for cradle roll for six month terms. That’s right: she only has to get volunteers twice a year!
5. Do not just ask your friends. I’m serious. Most people fail as recruiters because they quickly run out of friends to impose on. But the great recruiters see recruitment as a chance to make more friends. They call up perfect strangers, and after a month or six months spent together wiping baby bottoms and singing silly songs, they are fast friends. And who doesn’t need more friends?
6. Oh, and don’t take my word for it. Take your best recruiters to lunch, ask them how they do it, and take notes. Then prepare a class on how to do it. Teach the class, first, to the staff — because they often the worst of all. And if they set a bad example, well, it messes up the whole church because everyone else will follow their lead. And if they do it wrong, serving the God of the Universe becomes tedium and drudgery — and people leave church.