Double Your Volunteers, Pt. 10

Don’t recruit yourself.

It takes intentionality to stop looking for people who are, well, just like you. We like to surround ourselves with people who remind us of the best attributes of ourselves, but that severely limits ourselves as we think of who else to recruit to your mission. 

If you are an outgoing, people-loving, loud and boisterous person, it can actually be hard to think that an introverted, computer-savvy “nerd” could have a place in your ministry, but you need to make room: not everyone is like you!

Double Your Volunteers, Pt. 9

Fish in different pools! I know you know this, but do you really know that the Parents Pool is not the only place (pool) to recruit from?

There are other pools you can start fishing in. Grab some of your most creative friends and co-workers, throw them in a room (it helps if you buy them coffee drinks, home-made baked goods or lunch), and ask them to take 45 minutes to brainstorm with you. Here’s a start:

Grab a stack of sticky notes and spend time writing down all the people groups that are currently on your volunteer team, one for each sticky note. Groups like moms, dentists, empty nesters, college students, janitors, junior highers, grandmothers, DINKS, construction workers, etc. Now, take sticky notes of another color and brainstorm with your creative team: which group is NOT on your sticky notes? Why not? What could we do to market our vision to them?

Remember: the pool that you can recruit in is as big as you can brainstorm it to be! Think Ocean not Pool!

Double Your Volunteers, Pt. 8

Increase the number of volunteer openings you have

Create a whole variety of job descriptions. Reality is that you do not have a whole bunch of people on your team because you don’t need them. (I’ll prove it to you: you’re doing “fine” without them and running a whole ministry without them. You’ve figured out how to do ministry with a whole lot fewer volunteers that is ideal, so, why add more??)

At Cornerstone we had two jobs for a LONG time: 1. help put together the crafts, or 2. teach/assist in the classroom. It was actually a huge shift to re-think that philosophy and give away more of the ministry. We had to think out of the box in order to think up new and creative job descriptions that would involve more people, at all sorts of commitment levels.

Creating more jobs opens up possibilities for people who

  1. Have no experience
  2. Have not made a faith commitment
    Ask yourself: How do you feel about bringing volunteers onto your team that don’t have a relationship with Jesus?
    What are some areas of ministry that are appropriate areas for these people to serve?
  3. Are experienced leaders in the market place (think of some professionals who "present" at their job all the time, and are really good at that. Would they be interested in serving as a presenter in your Large Group environment?)
  4. Are experienced in children’s ministry and are not interested (any more) in serving in a classroom
  5. Have no time on the weekend
  6. Are too tired to serve on the weekend

Adding more job opportunities to your list of “needs” will allow you to recruit people of all levels of experience, time availability, spiritual maturity, age, and abilities. Let’s double the number of volunteers that currently serve in your ministry!!

Double Your Volunteers, Pt 7

Clean House Regularly

You probably know this already, but it’s pretty much impossible to even think about the unhealthy people in your ministry. The main reason for this is that you desperately need people on your team. Removing people seems counter-intuitive. But, in order to double the number of volunteers in a year, take this step and remove unhealthy elements from your team.

The need to recruit people has kept you from letting go unhealthy people. They “leak” all sorts of nasty. Not just on you (that’s why you keep avoiding them on Sundays), but also on the other volunteers on your team. So, these unhealthy people prevent you from adding new, healthy, fun people on your team. But you can’t get rid of the people who “spill gunk” each time they serve in your ministry because of the recruiting need you have.  It’s a vicious circle!

Ok, there are already 2 or 3 names that popped up, even as you read the first couple of lines of this post. I want to encourage you to break the vicious circle!! Break the CHAIN!

Take a minute:

  • Who would you gracefully remove from your volunteer team?
  • How does it make you feel to think that you could break that chain and “transition” these toxic elements from your team?
  • What do you think the long-term effect will be?

Remember: as the leader of your ministry, all the other people on your team are expecting you to remove these elements. They all know how harmful these people are. They see it each Sunday. The entire “atmosphere” in your ministry is affected because of their presence. Step up. Be the leader you know you can be. Pray hard for the people you’ll ask to step down. Then, DO IT! Everyone is behind you, and even more people will want to join the team of the strong leader you’re becoming!

Double Your Volunteers, Pt. 6

Don’t be selfish with your volunteers. Let them move on to other, better-suited, different jobs in the church.
There have been plenty of people who switched from Children’s Ministry to… Student Ministry (of course :-), Worship Ministry, Guest Services, other (paid) positions at church, or even other Children’s Ministry positions at other churches. I have learned that when that happens, it almost always turns out great for the person, great for the church, great for the big-picture. It was always hard for me personally, but I learned a valuable lesson that the Church is more important than my little version of “church.”

Some of those scenarios include moving volunteers from one position in Children’s Ministry to another. From Elementary to Early Childhood. From weekend to mid-week, from small group ministry to large group. Just remember: Good things that can come out of someone (even a GREAT volunteer you’d love to keep) moving to serve elsewhere. 

The only thing that will stay the same: people are going to leave your team. It’s okay to take it personally, but do not let it get you stuck. People leaving the team makes you gun shy, makes you afraid to recruit another “friend” who will leave you. Fight the feelings that it’s personal or about your leadership. Be selfless and allow people to follow God’s leading.

Change your approach to volunteers. You’ll be surprised how much easier it’ll be to recruit new ones.

Double Your Volunteers, Pt 5

Be honest about your desire to see your volunteers grow spiritually, emotionally and in ministry leadership by… allowing them time off!

And by being the leader that notices when a person needs to take some time off. Even if it might hurt your current efforts to staff each classroom, even if it hurts your area of ministry in the short run. Trust me: the rest of your volunteer team will notice, and benefit tremendously!

We as Children’s Ministers often choose to remain blind to any type of volunteer fatigue, burnout or disconnectedness. Even if we do notice, our fix is often to hand them a Starbuck gift card, give them a pat on the back, or call them to encourage them, but thinking that the person might just need a breather is far from our thinking.

While this is really a volunteer management issue, it all speaks to how we view our volunteers. Be honest with yourself and check your motives for “employing” all the great volunteers you do have. 

For more information check Dale Hudson’s post on how to keep volunteers.

Double Your Volunteers, Pt. 4

If you are going to be all about recruiting others on your team, here’s an important step: Recruit people around you whose only job is to evaluate you as a leader. There’s nothing more valuable than having someone in your life who calls you out for being a JERK or worse. The best thing you can do for yourself, for your church and for your ministry is becoming a better leader and follower by having people around you who call you out on your missteps, laziness, selfishness, pride, etc. This type of self-leadership is hard to find and you might even find that your “supervisor” at church, whether that’s an Executive Pastor, Senior Pastor, Board of Elders, a Deacon or other senior staffer, is not all that interested in being quite that honest and open with you. Perhaps they lack the courage and maturity to honestly evaluate and develop you.

  • Take a moment to write down two names of people in your life that will tell you the truth, the absolute truth, even when you don’t want the truth. Have you ever asked your spouse to play that role? What about one of your best friends? Another pastor? A Children’s Ministry Director from another church? 
  • Think about what would make your relationship with these people valuable and helpful to become a better leader.
  • Before you intentionally ask them to give you feedback, ask yourself, “how do I tend to react when someone speaks up to hold me accountable? How can you get to a place where accountability is welcomed?”
  • How might you prepare yourself to listen to and consider the truth these people share with you—without allowing it to harm your relationship?

Inviting these (safe) honest people will help keep you grounded and growing. This is going to be a very healthy thing for your ministry. Your efforts to recruit are going to improve with leaps and bounds!