I’ve been getting feedback recently concerning the difficulty that some of our leaders are having in recruiting or enlisting volunteers for service – whether it be for a teaching position, taking care of babies in the nursery, or preparing a meal for BYF.
I can certainly empathize. My first big job in a church (as a volunteer) was leading our children’s program. Sunday attendance was around 500, so it was a fairly large church. Each summer, my team and I had nearly 80 positions to fill. As we would get closer to the start of the fall programs, I’d become increasingly anxious & desperate (and my wife would say, irritable).
To my church’s credit, they paid to send me to a 2-day conference on how to recruit people for church ministry. The conference was extremely valuable and helpful.
Here are some things I learned:
1) A shortage of workers is nothing new. Jesus told his disciples that “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37).
2) The recruitment of volunteers is ultimately God’s work & responsibility. In the same Matthew passage, Jesus said, “ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.” Evidently, our primary role in the recruitment process is to pray.
3) A person who is truly born again wants & needs to serve. Thus, in presenting an opportunity TO serve, the ministry leader is actually doing the person a favor.
4) It’s very important how we ask a person to consider serving.
In asking people to serve, we need to understand the times in which we live. People today, generally speaking, have less “institutional loyalty.” This means that most church members today don’t have the same loyalty to their church as previous generations did and, as a result, don’t necessarily respond to a desperate plea for help (in the nursery, kitchen, classroom or whatever).
In previous generations (especially the WWII generation), if there was a need (say, for example, a need for nursery workers), most members considered it their personal duty /responsibility to volunteer so that the “institution” (the church) could function. Often, all that was needed was a “pulpit announcement” and the need would be quickly taken care of.
By and large, people no longer think this way. Unfortunately, those who recruit volunteers often assume they do and make their appeal on that basis. The recruiters then become frustrated when people don’t respond.
There’s no question that enlisting people for service requires more effort today than in previous generations. At the same time, there are ways to increase one’s effectiveness in recruiting, as well as to make it more rewarding.
Be sure to stay tuned for next week’s article. If you’re not getting my weekly articles, please contact June Schleimer in the church office.