For those who have been involved in ministry, chances are they’ve been there – in need of an additional volunteer at the last minute and scrambling to find someone they trust to get the job done.
Or perhaps a congregation has announced a need for volunteers from the pulpit and advertised it in the bulletin, yet the church still has a hard time filling vital positions.
Encouraging people to step forward and serve can be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be, according to LifeWay’s Todd Adkins, Daniel Im and Eric Geiger, hosts of the 5 Leadership Questions podcast.
Recently, Adkins, Im and Geiger released five episodes specifically related to recruiting church volunteers, providing church leaders with practical advice and answering some of their top questions.
What is recruitment?
“To me, recruiting is inviting people to join a great mission,” said Geiger, LifeWay’s senior vice president and chief business officer. “It’s not just to do a job.”
Focus on church members who aren’t already particularly engaged, he said. Perhaps these members come to church twice a month and are a part of a small group.
“But they haven’t displayed their ownership of the mission of the church by joining some kind of ministry that allows them to serve in the context of their church,” Geiger noted.
Geiger, Adkins and Im agree the responsibility of recruiting volunteers doesn’t just fall on a church’s pastor; it’s everyone’s job.
And recruiting volunteers isn’t just about filling vacant positions. It’s about encouraging people to grow into spiritual maturity as they serve as an expression of their faith.
“It’s helping that person be who God has created them to be,” said Adkins, director of LifeWay Leadership. “You cannot experience spiritual maturity apart from using your gifts in service to Christ.”
How do you recruit for different types of positions?
While pastors and church leaders should encourage everyone in their congregations to serve, not all volunteer positions are created equal. While some are entry-level, others, such as a coordinator or leader of a ministry area, require more responsibility.
And with different positions comes a need to recruit differently, the hosts of the podcast said. Church leaders shouldn’t merely rely on wide, open calls for all volunteer positions in the bulletin or during the announcement time. Instead, different positions call for different strategies.
Im, director of church multiplication, suggested using the offering time to cast vision for different ministry areas and to invite people into entry-level positions.
“If you need more Sunday school teachers for your kids’ ministry, tell your congregation about the life change that is happening during kids’ ministry and what is happening because of their investment into the church,” Im said.
“And then say, ‘Hey, just like you are financially investing into the lives of these kids, you can invest into their lives by volunteering your time.’”
For positions with more responsibility, Adkins said they should be filled by someone who is already volunteering in that area, following a pipeline of leadership development.
What are some of the best ways churches can recruit volunteers?
Adkins, Im and Geiger agree the best way to encourage someone to volunteer is in person.
“You’re never going to get a better result than making a personal ask,” Adkins said.
Asking in person is even more important when it comes to positions that require more time and responsibility, Im said.
In addition to being relational, Geiger added that effective recruiting requires a vision, with a leader sharing the ministry’s ultimate objectives and impact from the beginning. And effective recruiting is clear, with leaders being up-front about a position’s time commitment, responsibilities and goals.
How do you create a recruiting culture in your church?
If pastors or church leaders want to see high levels of volunteerism within their churches or ministries, they must make it part of their church’s culture, Geiger said.
“There needs to be a culture of recruiting volunteers, where it’s not just the senior pastor on the stage twice a year preaching his guts out trying to recruit volunteers, but there’s a culture where people in the church are also inviting people to serve,” Geiger said.
When it comes to creating a certain culture within a church, he suggests telling stories.
“Tell stories that embody the values you want to see in the culture,” Geiger said. “If, for example, you want everyone in the church to think, ‘Hey, I can recruit,’ tell stories about other people who’ve invited people to join them in their ministries.”
Church leaders can also hold up and celebrate people who have been faithful and fruitful in their positions, Geiger added.
How do you bring volunteers onto a team?
The final step of the volunteer recruitment process is “onboarding,” or officially bringing a new volunteer into a position.
“Doing that well will increase their likelihood to serve long-term, to want to be a part of moving up your pipeline and recruiting other people to join in,” Im said.
The way to succeed at onboarding, Adkins said, is by making everything “clean and clear.”
“You want to make sure they know what their next steps are, that those are clearly defined and laid out,” he said.
Adkins added that each volunteer should have a clear description of his or her role, examples of which can be found on Ministry Grid, a subscription-based volunteer training platform provided by LifeWay Leadership.
New volunteers should also be provided with a concise and easy-to-follow summary of information necessary to the position.
The podcast hosts also emphasized the importance of providing ongoing training and development, as well as feedback for volunteers, so they can continue to grow.
And, as always, they agree church leaders should help their members see the ultimate importance of serving in the church.
“When you serve, that’s how you become more like Christ – because that’s what Jesus came to do,” Im said. “So why don’t you do what Jesus did, and why don’t you grow and become more like Him?”
Want more information on how to better recruit volunteers to serve in your church or ministry? Listen to all five “recruitment week” episodes of 5 Leadership Questions podcast on Apple or Android devices.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Helen Gibson is a freelance writer in Cadiz, Ky. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)