(Written by Ken Johnson) I once received the compliment, “You are the best recruiter we have ever had.” I honestly was pretty surprised about that statement. I didn’t believe I did anything particularly revolutionary…or do I? As I thought about it, perhaps I do things a little differently. To begin, remember the three R’s of recruiting: Relationships, Right fit, and Rhythm.
Relationship. I always seek to recruit out of relationship. Truly, all of ministry is relationship, but recruiting especially so. I know that in order to have an effective ministry I need to be in relationship with every person who works directly under me. This will vary for each person and each ministry dependent upon size and structure. Large programs (over 200 volunteers) will require leaders to be in relationship with key leaders. Small programs (under 100 volunteers) will allow the leader to be in contact with every person.
In my current setting, my program is just the right size to be able to have an adequate relationship with each person who serves in my ministry. I know each person’s name, family background, and ministry area. For some I even know hobbies, joys, and past experiences. This is invaluable as I seek to either affirm what they are doing or recruit them to move into a new area of ministry. Without that relationship, I am either a voice on the phone or a face up front making an announcement. With that relationship, I am a person who cares about them and their real felt needs.
As my program expands, the direct relationships will be strained. My focus will have to shift from my direct volunteers (i.e. Sunday School teachers) to my immediate volunteers (i.e. service coordinators). These people will then pass on the relationship to those who serve under them. They will be required to know every person in the same capacity I currently do. The relationships that they develop will empower them in recruiting their current volunteers.
This works great for those who already work underneath you, but what do you do when you are seeking to recruit a new volunteer? The key again is relationship. The more you know about the person you are seeking to recruit, the more effective you’ll be. Getting to know that person’s dreams, excitements, joys, family, etc. will help you because then they feel like they are being recruited by a friend, rather than a position or an office. The closer the relationship, the easier it can be to recruit.
Right Fit. The second factor in recruiting is the “Right Fit.” As you recruit the person, always recruit to their strengths. Out of the relationship you have developed with this person, remember what their joys and excitements are. Find a spot that excites them. The more excited they are about what they are doing, the more they will fit into the right spot and the more they will stay for a long time.
One of the biggest fallacies of recruitment is recruiting to the wrong position. Wonderful Christ-like servants will volunteer because of a need but not because they are passionate about what they are doing. They become band-aids for a hole instead of a committed volunteer.
Whenever you recruit have clear expectations and job descriptions so that the volunteer will know what they are getting into prior to getting into it. This will also help to insure the right fit because they’ll know that they are getting into something designed for them that they’ll enjoy.
Rhythm. The final aspect of recruiting is to give the volunteers a good pace to work with as they move into this new ministry. Don’t throw the volunteers to the lions! Whenever I am trying to recruit a new volunteer, I will give them some time to try things out prior to putting them in leadership. This might consist of learning under someone for some time, it might consist of just visiting the program, or it might consist of spending time praying about becoming a volunteer prior to jumping in.
This slow process will help a volunteer to know that they have time to move into the role that they are assuming rather than just being thrown in the first week they say they are interested. This is a very respectful way of recruiting which will help the volunteers to know that they are loved and cared for. The easier the transition, the more likely they are to stick around in the long run and make a real commitment to long-term ministry.
Once you have recruited some key volunteers, do not forget to find ways to sustain their hearts and spirits. Encourage them constantly! Write notes, make phone calls, and remember birthdates. Anything you can do to continue to build the relationship you have with the volunteer will help them to want to stay. They’ll know that they are loved and cared for. The better the volunteer feels about what he or she is doing, the more that person will want to stick around (and even do recruiting for you).
I was once told I was a good recruiter, perhaps that is so. Truly, I am good at building relationships, finding the right spot for the volunteer, slowly working them into the program, and continue to encourage that person in what they are doing. It results in good recruiting because people will want to work in a place where they know that their leader knows them and wants to be with them.
Ken Johnson is currently Director of Children’s Ministries at Campus Bible Church of Fresno, California.