In Practice: Seven Sensational Tips to Recruiting a Sensational Volunteer Team

by Bo Harrington

The one constant in children’s ministry is recruiting volunteers. It seems we never have enough. This doesn’t have to be. There are a lot of people in your churches ready to serve with you. They are waiting on you to be ready for them. Here are six tips to recruit the most amazing volunteer team you can imagine.

Have a purpose that aligns with the senior pastor. Why should you align your mission and vision with the overall mission and vision of the church? Because you do not want to look back and wonder where everyone is going. It is easy for people to get on board in your environment when they hear it often from the front.

Continually communicate the vision. Vision “leaks.” It is so easy to forget the vision while you are doing the task. How many times during the weekend services do you remember the vision? Although you may have it written everywhere and even on a t-shirt, you probably look past it. It is so easy for it to be words on a shirt or on the wall. Talk about the vision, live the vision. Don’t just recite it.

Communicate the mission to your fellow staff (pastors) members. Although your mission aligns with that of the senior pastor, it is going to look and even sound a little different. Constantly remind your staff that you do not do childcare for other ministries. If it is needed, you will provide programming or ministry opportunities. You are thinking, isn’t that the same thing? Actually, just by changing vocabulary, you can change a mindset. Again, people will get on board with the mission as they do with the vision. The other pastors in your church can be your biggest assets. It may take a lot of work on your part. You may need to write out what you are about. Share your goals. Be your environment’s biggest cheerleader.

Get to know your student pastor. Your greatest resource can be the student ministry. Two keys to making a successful transition with students serving are vision and respect. Treat students the same as you do adults. Expect them to be on time, know their curriculum, and invest back into the kids. But reward and celebrate them. Especially with students, what is celebrated is repeated.

In turn, invest back into the student ministry. Start by having students serve with adults. The goal is to release them to lead their own group, run the tech equipment, or greet. Students bring a certain “cool” factor to the environment. They know the technology, they know the culture, and they are younger and cooler than we are. Most importantly, students want to belong. When you treat them with the same honor as an adult, they will be loyal.

Be picky when recruiting. Luke 5:27-28 says, “After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.” Let’s look at a different verse to further this point. Luke 6:12-16 says, “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.” The bottom line: choose your volunteers. Just as Jesus chose the disciples, you should choose your staff.

Begin with succession in mind. Jesus handpicked those to whom he would entrust his mission. He didn’t ask for volunteers. Jesus called his disciples. He had a mission that they could not refuse. He rarely did ministry alone. He gave his disciples opportunities to do ministry alone while he was still around to debrief. Luke 9:10 says, “When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he slipped quietly away with them toward the town of Bethsaida.”

Set up an apprentice model. A great way to recruit volunteers without having to actually recruit is to set up an apprentice model. Apprenticing involves selecting, modeling and coaching for the purpose of replacing yourself. When you set up this model, your volunteers recruit for you.

Never do anything alone! It is very liberating to know that leaders make decisions for themselves in the environment in which they have been entrusted. Because you constantly communicate vision to your team, you can trust them. Allow them to edit curriculum, pick the songs for worship, and get their own subs. It actually empowers them.

Remember Ephesians 4:12. Your job is to equip God’s people to do his work. You can’t program this. It must be life on life, one on one, personal. A reproducing leader should think, I am a spiritual entrepreneur. It’s not about me. Reproduction is not an option.

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