How to recruit volunteers

We can often go to training conferences on leadership and hear famous people talk about how they recruit for their teams. It often seems like they talk about hiring people, if not simply asking one of their 50,000 congregation members to help out! But what about the numerous smaller churches that faithfully and quietly serve their community week in week out. How do we recruit well? Here is a step by step guide that – although may not be a silver bullet – can be a significant help to getting people to say “Yes” to your team.

1. Identify your “pool”.

If you want to catch fish, you have to cast your nets into some water. What is the “pool of water” you will be casting into to find volunteers? For most it will be their church congregations, others maybe friends, others still a community group. Whatever it might be, first identify a collection of people, ideally who have similar values and vision to you. This will be the group you target your approach to.

2. Clarify the roles.

For the project you need volunteers for, what are the individual roles that need to be fulfilled to make it a success? For a youth club this could be, “Tuck shop coordinator”. Then think of the key skills someone would need to do this job well. For our example we need someone who is;

  • Organised to keep a track of stock
  • Good with numbers
  • Interacts positively with people
  • Trustworthy with money

Knowing what specific role you need someone to fulfil will make the rest of the steps significantly easier!

3. Broadcast the need

Find a way to ensure that the majority of your pool knows there is a need in your ministry area. Standing up in church, a section in the notice sheet, tweets from your personal account, facebook updates from your church’s page, find ways to ensure that your pool know you need help. However, don’t necessarily highlight the specific roles at this point! Personally, I have found it rare that people will respond when the need is broadcast wide, and those that do can sometimes not be suitable for people facing ministry! If someone you feel would be inappropriate comes and says they’re willing to help after hearing about your need, you can say no there and then, or give them a non-public facing role to help make the night happen. Admin support, cooking, setting up, cleaning etc. Often people turn these opportunities down (showing they might not be that keen to help in the first place!) However I have also known it that they say yes, do a fantastic job and prove themselves capable of having a person-facing role in the ministry area!

4. Ask the individual

With the need known amongst many people, now is the time to think who would be able to fulfil the specific role needed. Approach individuals clarifying the role title, the key responsibilities and why they meet them.

“Hey Tim, you may have seen that we need help at youth club. We’re looking for a someone to come and co-ordinate the tuck shop every week. We need someone who is organised to keep a track of stock, good with numbers, good with people and trustworthy with money. I think you fit the bill perfectly. Do you fancy joining us this week as a one off trial to see if it could work?”

There is a temptation with volunteer recruitment to second guess people’s answers. We think things like “They’ll say no because it’s beneath them.” or “They’ll say no because they’re too busy.” Never say no for other people. Your job is to provide opportunities, it is other people’s job to decide if they want to take them up. The truth is, even if they say no, they will be flattered and complimented to be asked.

5. Create a trial period.

If they say yes, suggest a trial period for them. I recommend having 2 trial periods depending on how often your team meets. I would say treat the first session as trial period one, asking them at the end of the night how they found it and if it went well. I would then have a period of a month, at the end of which you have a longer chat with them highlighting the areas they’ve done well, where they may like to improve, but also clarifying how that individual can benefit your team in the long term if they stay. Also use that time to listen to any suggestions that person has on how to make what you do even better.

Joel Preston

Joel Preston

Director at LeadAnyone.com
Joel is the Director of Evangelism & Mission for British Youth for Christ. He had previously been involved in church-based youthwork for over 10 years and before that spent 4 years at a local Youth for Christ centre.

He specialises in delivering leadership and people management training in a ministry context and has taught for various organisations across the country, including SoulNet, Innovista, SWYM and Youthwork the Conference.
Joel Preston

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