It is with great joy that we announce the

marriage of our daughter.

You are cordially recruited to attend.

Have you ever received a wedding announcement that read like that? Of course not. You are not recruited to a wedding; you are invited. Wedding invitations come on fancy paper and sometimes include ribbons and confetti. Someone puts much thought and effort into making wedding invitations a vital part of the event. You are invited to be a part of something special!

What if we treated potential volunteers like that? That is, what if we invited people to volunteer instead of recruiting them.

You might be invited to a wedding, to a ball game or birthday party with friends, or to dinner with a colleague. You might be recruited to help someone move, to join a club, or to apply for a new job. Do you see the difference?

Do you see the difference? When you are invited, the host wants you to attend because you are valued. Your presence will make the occasion even more special. When you are recruited, the leader sees that you have a set of skills that will contribute to the organization or event. When you are invited, you are called to something. When you are recruited, you are called for something.

Cogs in the wheel

As our churches grow and expand, we see the need for more volunteers. Paid staff simply cannot do it all. So we recruit.

[Scene 1 – Announcement in Church]

Mary (children’s ministry leader): We are gearing up for VBS and as you know, it’s a lot of work. We need volunteers to teach; lead the craft center; make snacks; decorate; remove decorations; donate juice and cheese; and lead music as well as opening and closing. There will be a sign up sheet in the back of church after services today. I hope you all can lend us a hand and make this the best VBS ever! [End scene]

What did Mary do? She looked at what needed to be done and then asked that someone, anyone, joyfully volunteer to be a cog in her VBS wheel.

Another approach

Did Mary get the help she needed? Probably. Could she have been more effective? Absolutely! Instead of asking people to fill up the blanks on her checklist, what if Mary had invited people to make a difference in the lives of children during VBS week?

When we invite people to service, we ask that they live out their faith by using their gifts and abilities. We are calling them to discipleship! When Jesus called the first disciples, he called them to follow him (Matthew 4:18-22).

Isn’t that what Christians are – followers of Christ? How do we help people follow Christ? How can we help people live out their faith? By inviting them to discipleship.

According to the 2012 Study of Volunteerism, conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of people who volunteered, did so at a faith-based organization. Faith is the primary motivator to service. Put another way, a person’s faith in Jesus motivates them to volunteer. So start by inviting them to discipleship. Invite them to be disciples!

Recruiting? Inviting?

To make the switch from recruiting to inviting, you must first change your attitude. Stop thinking of volunteers as recruits and start thinking of them as invitees to ministry.

People are more likely to use their gifts in discipleship if they are personally invited. Again, think of Jesus’ example. He didn’t carry a clip board to the beach. He didn’t post a sign-up sheet. He didn’t make a one-size-fits-all announcement in the marketplace. He personally invited the disciples to follow him.

What would this look like for Mary and her VBS ministry staff?

Paul (a member of Mary’s congregation) works at a local hardware store and teaches classes on basic woodworking to families. Mary could invite Paul to use his skills – both in teaching and handiwork – to help a group of high school students construct the various sets and decorations for VBS. Quality decoration can make the Bible stories come alive for everyone who attends VBS – children and teachers alike.

Darla’s famous deviled eggs are the hit of the church picnic every year. Mary could ask if Darla would be willing to share her culinary gifts in the kitchen during VBS. When children are fed physically, they are better able to concentrate on Bible stories – spiritual food.

The Anderson family is involved in community theater. Mary might invite them to play the parts of various Bible characters during VBS week. Think of the impact if a child could actually speak to St. Paul!

This kind of inviting takes time. It takes more time than making an announcement on Sunday morning and posting a notice for volunteers on Facebook. But the extra time and effort will make a much deeper impact. People want to matter. They want to make a difference. If we take into account individual giftedness and ongoing relationships in our churches, we can better understand where, when, and how to invite members to serve. We are also more likely to retain those volunteers when we connect a deeper meaning – discipleship – to their service. When people are called to service, they understand they are not just a cog in a wheel, but instead, an essential piece in the bigger picture.

So think of your conversations with potential volunteers as verbal wedding invitations. You would be honored to work with them. Their presence will make the event much more special for you and everyone else who attends. You are giving them the opportunity to be a part of a community of gifted believers who are blessed to be able to share their faith with those they serve. Invite them to service.

Editor’s note: CTA offers a number of tools (many of them FREE) and all designed to help you invite volunteers and encourage them in their service. Check out  CTA’s free invitation printables, our new  Welcome to the Team packets, Making an Eternal Difference items, and more! They will help you encourage the volunteers you invite and keep them coming back. 

© 2013 CTA, Inc. No duplication of this article is allowed without the express written consent of CTA, PO Box 1205, Fenton, MO 63026-1205. 
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