Early in World War II, Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill told an anxious populace what to expect in the years to come: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” His words remind me of Jesus’ challenge to his disciples, “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3).
How different this is from much of our volunteer recruiting today. We recruit people by telling them that it’s not so awful, that it’s not that much trouble, that it won’t take all that much time. Jesus told his disciples to expect to be eaten alive.
What did Jesus know about motivating people that we’ve missed?
We often assume that people are motivated toward pleasure and away from pain. But if this were true, offering people blood, toil, tears, and sweat would tend to demotivate them. But it doesn’t. Moreover, when Jesus sent the disciples out as sheep among wolves, they actually got out of their chairs and got into the work!
I conclude that people are motivated more by a great cause than by comfort. We want our lives to count for something. We want to make a difference. If it costs us, so be it. If it’s painful, so be it. We want to matter. Jesus called his followers to a vision…and we must do the same.
- Never recruit people to a mere job. Don’t recruit people by telling them the job is not all that much trouble. If you do, what you’ll get is not all that much. Ask people to lay down their lives for something significant. Challenge them to give up their time and their convenience for the noble cause of reaching people with the gospel. Of course, you’ll need to recruit people to a dream they really can embrace. Some people respond best to great causes, others to greatness in small chunks.
- The best recruiting is done individually.
It’s done face-to-face, phone-to-phone, and heart-to-heart. Mass announcements from the pulpit almost never work. What works is getting in someone’s face and asking: “What are you doing to serve God and his kingdom? Are you offering yourself to God as a living sacrifice? Do you know the thrill of spiritual battle?” This is the way Jesus recruited.
- The best recruiting starts with people and moves them toward ministry.
We often start with a vacancy on our organizational chart and try to find someone to fill it. Jesus used a different approach. He started with the person and said “Go!” Because we care about people and believe that there’s no joy like that of spiritual battle, we invite everyone into the game.
- The best recruiting takes spiritual gifts into consideration.
- The best recruiting gives people specific options.Suppose you’re purchasing a Christmas present. Which would be more helpful to you: a blank order form on which you can write whatever you want or a colorful catalog that gives you a list of choices? Most people respond best when they’re given a specific list of choices.
I’ve been guilty of telling people: “Discover your spiritual gifts, and then go do something helpful. Find something, anything, to do.” People respond better when we show them a list of roles and ask: “Do any of these make sense to you? Would you like to experiment with one of these for a few months?”
- The best recruiting allows for the creative, entrepreneurial spirit.
Most people will choose one of your listed options, but some will want to create their own ministries. Someone might want to help kids organize and oversee a food closet for the homeless. Another might want to form a volleyball league to assimilate new kids into the group. Yet another might volunteer to help organize your group’s music ministry. We need to let people follow their God-given creativity.
- The best recruiting allows people time to get well.
We must recognize that not everyone is ready for ministry. Some people have been beaten up by the world and need time to recover. They don’t need the pressure of someone begging them to help. I’ve had broken and hurting friends who, when they finally found their way back to church, were told, “Around here, everyone is expected to be a minister. We don’t need anyone sitting on the bench. We have enough deadwood.” That’s not a very kind thing to say to people who need to get well. After Jesus had healed Peter’s mother-in-law from her fever, “She got up at once and began to wait on them” (Luke 4:39). That’s how people are. Once they get well, they’ll naturally want to help.
- The best recruiting allows people to say no.
There’s a fine line between recruitment and manipulation, between challenging people and controlling people, between inspiring people and making them feel guilty. We must always remember that the gospel is all about grace. Guilt is not the good news. This fine line has to do with recognizing the boundary between you and me. I can only invite; you can accept or decline. If you aren’t free to accept or to decline, it’s not an invitation, it’s slavery.
- The best recruiting honors people’s time.
We have a slogan at my church: One person, one job. In case you haven’t noticed, people are busy these days. What’s worse, some people who volunteered their time in the past have been taken advantage of. They volunteered to do a little, and the leadership demanded more. The leaders wouldn’t honor their no, so now they are reluctant to do anything at all.
- The best recruiting utilizes all the time that people have.
At times one person can handle the work of 10. Let that happen. Maybe someone retired early with a full salary and benefits and has years of health and vitality to use for God. We need to involve that person in the work. We need to show people in situations like this how they can spend their lives advancing God’s kingdom instead of hitting a little white ball around a golf course. We need to offer these people part-time jobs at the church, pay them a dollar a year, designate them associate pastors, and put their names on the church stationery. People will do for God what they would never do for money.
- The best recruiting cares for the worker and for the work.
As in many areas of life, balance is everything. We should care enough to follow Jesus’ example of valuing the worker and the work. In a sense, this is what the fight between Paul and Barnabas was all about (Acts 15:36-40). Paul argued that the work was too important to entrust to John Mark, a quitter. Barnabas, however, believed that John Mark mattered to God, that there was grace, and that John Mark needed someone to believe in him. Paul argued for the importance of the work, Barnabas for the importance of the worker. Both were half right.
- The best recruiting shows people how.
No one wants to fail. If you ask people to help, be prepared to show them exactly what’s needed. Moreover, be ready to give continual feedback—especially positive feedback—all along the way. Catch someone doing something right and brag to high heaven about it. People need far more carrots than sticks. So dole out corrections in small dosages.
Here’s a simple training process that incorporates all these principles: (1) Let them watch you, (2) work together, (3) watch them, and (4) let them work on their own.
This four-step process is considerably more work than simply telling people what to do. It’s also about a million times more effective. In most cases, it is the difference between success and failure.
- The best recruiting pays attention to new recruits but the people already working.
- The best recruiting recruits to a team.
It recognizes that each individual is wired differently and allows each person to express that uniqueness in ministry. Effective recruiting recognizes, in addition to spiritual gifts, a person’s temperament, background, and passion. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church, uses a five-part acrostic to help place his people in ministry: Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, Experiences. Rick’s church places people into ministry according to how God has SHAPE’d them. We ought to do the same.
It takes only a little energy to encourage someone to stay in ministry. It takes far more energy to recruit someone new. So we need to constantly say thank you to the people on our team.
There’s far too much thought of individual effort in ministry. Ministry at its best is done in teams. ÿ
Adapted from You Can Double Your Class in Two Years or Less (Group Publishing, Inc) by Josh Hunt
This article is excerpted from: Group Magazine
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