Over the last eleven years, I’ve been in a variety of positions within a handful of churches and ministries, serving with different intents and capacities. I’ve gone from a church tech volunteer to volunteer team lead, hired as a youth pastor, consulted with numerous churches, served as digital manager, and now working with ChurchMag to do outreach. Regardless of capacity, the one thing I have found myself needing to do is find volunteers, even as a senior staff writer for this blog.
Did anyone else cringe when I said you need to go find volunteers? Clearly this is different than posting an announcement on a projector or in a bulletin and hope someone seeks you out. Further, in the crazy of running a blog, planning the next youth group activity, or getting the tech rolling for a service, the last thing on your mind is to ask someone if they wanted to be a volunteer. Lastly, seeking out volunteers is scary as you put yourself out there and fear getting rejected.
So I’ve come up with a list of tips that I have developed to help better find and recruit volunteers.
1. Be Okay With Asking
This first one is your own biggest barrier. Passive recruitment techniques like using a PowerPoint slide may generate interest, but people are realize good about forgetting, ignoring, or avoiding these opportunities. Some people need additional motivation. In your organization, you are most likely one of many teams that need volunteers so not asking people that would be a good for your team means they may make commitments to other teams. Finally, asking people to join your team means you will be seeking them out and therefore you will be able to identify components that need to be filled within your ministry by certain volunteers.
2. Be Okay With Hearing No
Maybe the hardest part about asking is that someone will say no. When emotions like worry, fear, and anxiety come into your ask and someone says no, it may feel like more than just “I can’t” and instead you experience “Why in the world would I want to join your team? Clearly you don’t know how to run a ministry and I would never get what I want, so obviously it’s a no. Of course, you’re too stupid to see that.” But what they may be saying is, “I want to give you all my effort and I can’t right now, I don’t have the experience and so I feel like I’d be effect, or I’m scared I might mess up.” Remember that they are not saying no to you, but simply for themselves.
3. Keep Looking, Even When Your Team Is Full
This may be the biggest shortcoming for people, even when they feel comfortable asking people to join. They have recruited their volunteers and the team is currently at capacity, meaning that every job has been filled. But this does not mean that the recruitment is done because volunteers drop their commitments, get burn out, or need to have a sabbatical for a season. Having backups, people in training, and double coverage is always a powerful thing. Honestly, I even if every position is filled multiple times, I still recruit.
4. Don’t Cherry Pick
Recruiting is different than cherry picking. For those that do not know, cherry picking is trying to recruit someone to your team who has already made a commitment to another ministry. Sure, they may not be playing to their strengths, but your desire to help your team is hurting the ministry as a whole. At it’s simplest, would you want another ministry to do that to your team? But if you are actually caring about your team, would you really want to put them in a situation where they have to pick who they are more committed to? Disrespectful.
5. Don’t Cold Call
Cold calls are never good. You realize you need a position filled, you become desperate, it becomes about filling a seat and not getting the best, so you start to go and ask anyone that has a pulse to help. You don’t know if they have any experience, you don’t even know if they are a member of the church, but that doesn’t matter because that position needs filled. Instead of cold calling, begin developing relationships with people before you need to ask for help and you will be able to better fit the needs of your team.
6. Develop An Elevator Pitch
This has been one of the most helpful things I have ever developed for myself. It’s easy to write an about us page that gives the 100 year history of your church, but what if you have 2 minutes between the first and second service? Take the time to practice the story of your ministry. In that brief amount of time, can you tell what you do, make an emotional connection, and explain the needs for your church before asking them to meet to further discuss your work?
These are just six of the tips I have seen be most helpful for recruiting volunteers.