Recruiting Volunteers: The Plan You Need to Win

Discover the 3 elements you need to make your recruiting efforts purposeful and successful.
7 min read

I’ve met people who are good at recruiting volunteers. I’ve met people who can get excited about it. And I’ve also seen people throw a lot of time, energy, and effort behind a big push to bring new people onto their team.

Volunteers needed, woman speaking through megaphone
Image Credit: SiberianArt/iStock/Getty Images Plus

But I’ve never met a person in ministry who loves recruiting volunteers.

It’s one of those necessary parts of ministry that we struggle with, but rarely have a transparent, honest conversation about.

So can we change that? Can we have “real talk” about recruiting?

I think we should.

Church Size Isn’t the Variable

No matter the size of our churches, we all deal with one common misconception when it comes to recruiting volunteers.

While I was on staff at a small church (<300 attendees each weekend), people tended to think that there weren’t many places to serve.

The need wasn’t that great since our church was on the smaller side, so that must mean that we were fully staffed and okay on volunteers. (Spoiler alert: we weren’t.)

I vividly remember having to teach our high school Bible study each week because I couldn’t find anyone who was willing to invest in our teens on Sunday mornings. It seemed absurd to me that I couldn’t find a couple of adults who would be willing to spend time with these kids.

It was a hurdle I could never quite figure out.

No matter the size of our churches, we all deal with one common misconception when it comes to recruiting volunteers.

Fast forward to when I was on staff at a large church (>4,000 attendees each weekend). I think people knew that the need was greater, but large churches offer something that unfortunately covers up the need all too well: polish.

When someone walks into a larger church for the first time and they experience the typically smooth, media-rich, people-filled service, they may question why they would need to step in and serve somewhere.

At the time, it seemed all too often our attendees missed out on experiencing what God could do through them because of this common misconception.

The 3 Elements You Need

Recognizing these problems is the first step in being able to recruit well. These 3 elements will make your efforts purposeful and successful.

1. You Need the Right Heart

It is WAY too easy for us as ministry leaders to rush into recruiting efforts because of the pressing need we have in a classroom or service. When we rush, we can get reckless. And when we get reckless, we rarely get it right.

Start with seeking God. Bring your needs to Him. He already knows what you need better than you do anyway. (See Matthew 6:8.)

Ask God to show you what matters most to His heart in the process of recruiting. Ask Him to point out people for you to approach. Then really, really listen to what He says.

Too often, we go into recruiting thinking about what we need:

  • More teachers.
  • Adults for check-in.
  • People for my substitute list.
  • Someone to welcome new families.

Instead of focusing on what you need, focus on why someone would sign up to volunteer.

It can be really helpful to reach out to your current volunteer team and ask them why they continue to be a part of your team.

Give each of them a 3″x5″ notecard as they’re getting set up this weekend and ask them to write down their reason and return it to you before they leave.

Ask God to show you what matters most to His heart in the process of recruiting. Ask Him to point out people for you to approach. Then really, really listen to what He says.

You may get some responses that are the exact encouragement you need to hit the ground running in your recruiting efforts.

The needs of your ministry are real, but they shouldn’t be the main headline of your recruiting efforts.

As you talk with people, let what’s in it for them be the most important thing to you. It’ll transform the way you communicate with them because it’ll change your heart.

2. You Need to Ask the Right People

It may be tempting if you’ve got a fire in your belly to walk straight up to the next person you see in your church lobby and cut straight to, “How do you feel about overseeing the spiritual growth of the toddlers at this church?”

Whoa there. Let’s pedal back.

The truth is that leading any children in your church is a pretty high calling and requires a level of spiritual maturity and depth (not to mention a background check). Therefore, you must be selective in the people you’re inviting to serve in your ministry if you want to grow the experience of the children at your church.

food-bank-organizer-greets-senior-volunteer
Image Credit: SDI Productions/E+/Getty Images

The wrong people in the wrong spots will hurt your ministry. Likewise, the right people in the wrong spots can hurt too. Learn about the people you want to ask and help them find their right fit.

Before you go on an all-out sprint to ask every member of your church, take some time on your own to brainstorm.

Think through people you’ve always meant to ask but haven’t yet. Think about newer people at your church who haven’t gotten plugged into serving in a ministry yet. And think about that one person you’ve always joked about serving in your ministry but haven’t actually asked.

If you’re struggling to come up with names, you’re going to want to be at our webinar where we’ll help you identify more people in your church who should be serving in your ministry and show you how to recruit them.

The wrong people in the wrong spots will hurt your ministry. The right people in the wrong spots can hurt too. Learn about the people you want to ask and help them find their right fit.

3. You Need A Plan

“Asking a bunch of people” and “hoping for the best” is not a plan. Way too often, that’s what I’ve fooled myself into believing are my best shots at getting new volunteers for my team.

Thinking through the right people to ask starts to get you in the right place, but how are you going to have those conversations? Do they need to be in-person, or could you give them a call instead?

Do you have anyone on your core team who would be better suited at talking with someone on your list than you? How are you going to lead these conversations?

What do you have as the next step for anyone who says, “Yes?” How are you going to follow up and care for people who say, “No?”

toddler girl using digital tablet for drawing and learning shapes
Image Credit: Rasstock/Moment/Getty Images

These questions require some intentional effort, but taking the time to think through your strategy is worth it. You’ll be having purposeful, relational conversations thanks to the structure that you’re using to guide your process.

When you have a plan, run it by your supervisor or a peer or a mentor.

Even better, is there someone at your church or a ministry friend who seems really gifted in this arena? Ask them for feedback on your plan, and then implement it.

Finally, refine your process as you go. Waiting until it’s perfect can easily turn into waiting forever.

With the right plan in place, you’ll be ready to approach people and lead them through a strategic process. Which, especially to them, will feel a lot better than following you as you wing it and just hope for the best.

Join the Webinar for More

If you approach recruiting with the right heart, ask the right people, and have the right plan, you’ll find yourself avoiding a lot of the pitfalls I’ve tripped into over the years. And don’t forget through it all that God cares more about the needs of your ministry than you could possibly imagine.

Single line drawing of a light bulb
Image Credit: mikroman/Moment/Getty Images

He will honor your recruiting efforts whether that’s through adding to your roster, encouraging your heart, or making new roads for your ministry. Offer yourself well, and let God do what only He can do.

Doing all of this recruiting planning on your own can be tough. That’s why we’re thrilled to be offering a FREE webinar called “How to Get 5 High-Quality Volunteers in the Next 30 Days.”

We’ll help you learn how to welcome the Spirit into the recruiting process, we’ll guide you through specific (and very easily missed!) lists of people to approach in your church, and break down each section of a 30-day process.

We may not be able to recruit volunteers for you, but with the tools we give you at this webinar, you’ll feel like a lot of the heavy lifting has already been done!

How to get 5 volunteers webinar

Going from “barely getting by” to a thriving, healthy ministry

Your ministry needs more volunteers! But you didn’t need us to tell you that. You need the solution to GETTING those volunteers.
Free Webinar
How to get 5 volunteers webinar

Going from “barely getting by” to a thriving, healthy ministry

Your ministry needs more volunteers! But you didn’t need us to tell you that. You need the solution to GETTING those volunteers.
Free Webinar
How to get 5 volunteers webinar

Going from “barely getting by” to a thriving, healthy ministry

Your ministry needs more volunteers! But you didn’t need us to tell you that. You need the solution to GETTING those volunteers.
Free Webinar
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  Updated on February 6, 2020

About the Author

  • Drawing from a background as a Youth Pastor and Camp Director, Andrew loves using what he's seen and experienced in ministry to inspire pastors to think differently. He works on the Marketing Team at David C Cook and lives in Colorado Springs with his beautiful wife and children. You can usually find him drinking one too many cups of black coffee or making up a jingle about something completely unnecessary.

  • Your Ministry Spark Team is made of ministry volunteers, leaders, and experts who work with David C Cook. We’re passionate about helping others know, love, and follow Jesus. And, we have a big heart for those who serve the kingdom—that’s you. Together, we can do this!

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