We’re quickly approaching that time of year when my heart rate gets elevated, my palms get sweaty, and I start obsessing over, “Do they like me? Will they say yes?”
No, I’m not talking about prom-posals, or college acceptance letters.
But, it’s that same existential dread that sometimes stops me from pursuing volunteer recruitment with all my heart. As spring approaches, and I’m making plans for next year’s programs, I know that I’ll need to start asking folks to join the team and partner with our church’s youth ministry. It’s daunting. That empty recruiting board seems to taunt me.
At Ministry Architects, there are a ton of free resources to help you develop the systems to organize your recruitment. Yet, even when I have a system in place, there is also some hard work that has to be done in my own heart to prepare for and truly tackle recruiting volunteers.
We love the children and youth in our ministries. We long for other adults in the church to volunteer with the ministry so that they can also see how amazing these young people are. God longs for the same thing! We can pray for God’s provision of the right folks to come alongside and volunteer. Prayer also reminds us that this work we’re going to do – emails, phone calls, meetings – isn’t about us, it’s about trusting that God moves hearts.
2) Remember: It’s not personal…
The hardest part of volunteer recruitment is bracing for the rejection. For every person who says they’d love to help, there are probably 3 more who already said no. My heart skips a beat when a new email pops up from someone I’ve asked to consider volunteering. “Did they say yes or no??”
Even when we logically know that those rejections are about the other person’s time availability, giftedness, or ministry interests, hearing “no” to our emails, calls, and conversations over and over can feel like a personal rejection.
So remember: it’s not you, it’s the Spirit at work in people’s lives that will move them to say yes or no to a call!
3) … But make it personal.
Individual emails and calls will always go infinitely farther than a blanket statement in a newsletter or a bulletin. I can count on one hand the number of newsletter volunteer requests I’ve responded to. Typically, when I’ve volunteered for something, it’s because an individual person sent me a personalized note, telling me why I am the person needed for a role.
Even when you don’t personally know the individual well, you can always name drop your common acquaintance: “Miss Nancy told me that you’d be a GREAT Sunday school teacher!” It’s even more meaningful when it’s a youth who gave you the recommendation!
4) Stick to it.
Recruiting volunteers is a marathon, and never a sprint. Ask someone who’s run a marathon, and they’ll tell you about the weeks and months of training leading up to the race, and the perseverance it took, even on rainy and snowy days. Volunteer recruitment — not to mention development, training, and support — is never a quick job that’ll be wrapped up in a day. You might send 10 emails today, have 5 phone calls next week, and get 1 yes from that group. (I might be exaggerating a LITTLE bit.) And then you’ll start again to get the next yes.
Through that perseverance, all of the above steps will repeat themselves. As you wait, pray. As you send personalized invitations, don’t take the no’s personally. And then, do it all again.
Finally, trust that God will work in this process! God will bring the right folks to walk alongside your children and youth, even if they’re different people than you first imagined. God will remind you to trust in His provision and His love for His children.
Now, go forth and recruit!
Some bonus Volunteer Recruitment resources and links!
Building Your Volunteer Team: 30-Day Change
Sample Youth Ministry Volunteer Recruiting Template
Volunteer Recruitment Process and Script