Editor’s note: Here’s Part 1 in a two-part series we hope you will find helpful as summer vacations wrap up and events begin anew in your congregation. Look for Part 2 on this site next Wednesday, August 11.

When you realize you’ll need to recruit some volunteers, does your heart leap for joy? Or does your stomach knot up? 

Most of us take little pleasure in finding people to teach Sunday school or help with the fall rummage sale. The process often feels like we’re putting pressure on people, begging, wheedling, and maybe even stretching the truth (“There’s nothing to it!”). 

We feel that way, because that’s often exactly what we are doing! We scout our prey like wolves circling a herd of buffalo, looking for the weak and hoping to pick them off! Not on purpose, of course. But driven by desperation and frustration. 

Such tactics are:

  • Unkind. (We wouldn’t want someone to use them on us!)
  • Ineffective—at least, in the long run. (Those who agree soon quit, and after awhile, people learn to run and hide when they see us coming!)
  • Unbiblical. (Worst of all, they don’t befit those who lead God’s people, the body of Christ. See 1 Corinthians 12.)  

There’s a better way. It begins by changing how we view recruitment in the first place. You’re not drafting recruits for the Hundred Years War. You’re extending an invitation. For instance, as you recruit ushers, your goal is to invite people to serve by being an usher.

An Invitation 

First, start early. Really early. Don’t put it off. Desperation is inevitable at the last minute. 

Personal invitations are best. I love it when a friend invites me to lunch. On the other hand, when an unknown time-share company invites me to a “free dinner,” the letter goes right in the trash. 

Church bulletin announcements sometimes work, but their genuine usefulness is limited. Most people read right over them. Those who don’t, often conclude that others are more qualified or have more time. If you invite people through a personal phone call or, best of all, face to face, you’ll get a more thoughtful response. 

Whom to invite 

My friends know I’m more likely to accept an invitation to a book discussion than to a pool party, because they know I love to read but am not a fan of swimming. Everyone in your church has personal likes and dislikes, skills and abilities, schedules and commitments. Invite people based on what you know about them–and be sure to tell them why you’re inviting them. For example: 

  • “I saw the program cover you designed, and was so impressed! I’d love you help reconfiguring the main announcement board in the church narthex.”
  • “Mary tells me you’re great with kids. That made me think that maybe you’d consider helping with our winter-break VBS.”
  • “You were a wonderful organizer at the Advent tea. We’re putting together a Thank-You event for the Sunday school staff, and I wonder if you might be willing to head it up?” 

Don’t ask only people you know. Ask 3-4 other people to suggest people they know. Briefly outline the gifts and abilities needed for the open position and ask who might be a blessing by serving in that position. 

Here are a few additional tools you may find helpful: 

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