God has given me the gift of recruiting volunteers. It’s not a splashy gift like prophecy, healing or miracles. Recruitment is not a spiritual gift but requires the use of many of them. I’ve enlisted thousands of volunteers for multitudinous ministries: missions, music, students, discipleship, evangelism and prayer teams. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way.
1. Love, love, love what God has called you to do! Enthusiasm is contagious. If God gives you the vision, He wants to provide the people to join you in His work. I adore sharing Christ beyond church walls. I brought my students to perform a musical in Watts shortly after racial riots ravaged that L.A. neighborhood. The black pastor and deacons wept when the kids finished. “No white person has ever cared enough to visit our church,” they said. “God bless these precious children.” Many students (and their parents) subsequently surrendered to ministry or missions in the ensuing years. If you need a particular ministry in your church and can’t be excited about it, find someone who will be.
2. Find a volunteer’s “sweet spot.” Every person is passionate about something. Music is a universal language. It crosses age, race and culture. Go where the people are. When I needed to engage musicians, I cheered from the bleachers at band competitions, accompanied graduate students at the University, and sat through symphony rehearsals. Enter their world and they will want to enter yours.
3. Value your volunteers. Each and every one. No helper is insignificant. If someone is absent from a meeting, rehearsal, or Sunday morning ministry, they need a call, text, tweet or e-mail. Call me old-fashioned, but people still like to hear your voice. It takes more effort to show them value and love when they hear your voice. Also enlist caring “shepherds” who will love your people.
4. Do ministry with excellence. No one wants to be a part of a shoddy organization. Set your teams up for success. Welcome ministry teams are the face of your church. Often members would love to be involved, but lack the people skills to effectively interact with others. Excellent resources like Dr. Don McMinn’s Love One Another book teach social intelligence-practical ways to meet, greet and put visitors at ease. Train workers well and God will honor your efforts.
5. Be persistent. Jesus said, “You have not, because you ask not!” Pray, then ask, ask, ask. Did I mention you must ask? Some pastors are shy about recruiting folks for ministry. They feel they are imposing. You probably have some lay recruiters in your church. Put them to work. Remember that you are giving others an opportunity to grow and be blessed by God.
6. Think outside the box. Our church was transitioning worship music from choral/orchestral to more contemporary worship venue. I love playing keys in a band, but I had a host of players who still wanted to use their gifts in an orchestra. So we changed venues: secular settings, host churches, mission trips, conferences-sharing Christ along the way. Our team used a closed door to see a new, creative open door for our volunteers.
7. Meet their felt needs. Affirm, appreciate, approve and accept them. Include lay leaders in your ministry that assist you in providing special care for your volunteers. Many of our students came from absent-parent homes. Our family always made our home a fun, safe place where teens were always welcome. In fact, we even adopted a few hurting kids along the way. (We still have one lovely little stray to this day…)
8. Don’t forget to solicit your power prayer team. Find intercessors who are mature and dedicated. Often, family members of participants on your teams will want to support their loved ones in this way. If God is doing great things, Satan is not far behind. Prayer cover is essential. Don’t leave home without it.
Give your volunteers permission to rest and re-group. Your ministry will be stronger and last longer in the long run.
Jesus loved inviting others to join Him in His work. You can, too.