A few days ago, I found myself sitting at dinner with a now wiser, young pastor as he was recounting a recent error he’d made. Desperately in need of more people to aid his church’s hospitality effort, He had made a general announcement and placed a request for help in the church bulletin. In short order, the slots he needed to fill had names of volunteers, but these weren’t the people he really needed. He described many as the “odd characters” that often find a home in church. Good people, to be sure, but not the ones you want answering the front door.
My friend isn’t the first pastor to let need lead to mistakes in recruiting people for ministry involvement.
Now, certainly we know that there’s a place for everyone in the church. By His Spirit, God has invested gifts and abilities in each of us that He wants to use to strengthen His Church, but helping people find the right spots and avoid the wrong ones is a major challenge in recruiting. For many of us, it’s this part of building a team that gives us the most trouble. So let’s take a look at some of the more common mistakes:
- Fail to put enough importance upon recruiting.
How you recruit people for your team is extremely important. Simply knowing you need help and then asking around is hardly a wise approach. The pastor who doesn’t take recruiting efforts seriously is destined for a few disasters. You must do it and you must do it well.
- Lower expectations to get recruits.
Begging is never attractive when it comes to enlisting kingdom workers. Sometimes a pastor or ministry leader will lower the bar, accept less than adequate commitment, and settle for inadequate effort just to have someone fill the slot. But lowering expectations doesn’t create a ministry role people want to engage. Remember that people long for significance and the only way their ministry effort will be satisfying is if it requires a commitment to excellence.
- Provide unclear expectations.
Developing ministry job descriptions can be a good way to avoid this one. When you ask people to step into a ministry assignment, you must help them understand the role and the expectations clearly. How can people match effort to those expectations if they don’t really know what they need to be doing?
- Pressure people through use of desperation, guilt, or or friendship.
Sadly, churches often become know for the use of guilt to motivate people to action. “If we don’t find a Sunday school teacher to help us, look at how these children will suffer…” or some other kind of desperate appeal won’t glean the kind of commitment you need. Basing your friendship on their willingness to help isn’t appropriate either. The only lasting and legitimate motive for ministry is our love for Christ. All other motives will run out at some point.
- Consistently plead and scold from the pulpit.
If you use the pulpit to recruit, you’re probably making a mistake, no matter how you do it. Crowd recruiting will not reach the best potential leaders. You’ll likely only get those who are either looking to be seen or those who have unhealthy reasons to try to please you.
- Elect ministry leaders.
Many churches have relied to heavily on democratic models in choosing workers. Some churches still elect their Sunday school leaders or teachers, their women’s directors, and many more. Election may help you get everyone’s favorite choice for ministry leadership, but that doesn’t mean you have the best leader. And, it’s harder to lead the elected since their real loyalties and accountability is to those that elected them, not to the one who must lead them.
- Put out an announcement and wait for people to come to you.
This was my friend’s error—one a lot of us have made. The right people will respond to a more personalized approach to recruiting. If you use your bulletin to ask everybody for help, you’ll end up with nobody you want and somebody who wrongly thinks this ministry is for them.
- Recruit already over over-committed workers.
While we are always thankful for people who have said “yes” to our request for help, enlisting them again and again is a mistake. The over-committed are usually the first to “burnout” in their ministry efforts. They will figure out how tired they are of doing so much while others seem to do very little, and once they figure that out, laying down some of their assignments feels like the only way out.
- Provide inadequate support.
If you have no plan for training or support for your volunteers, people won’t be very quick to join your team. Asking people to do something without equipping them for the work will become frustrating very quickly. If you don’t have a plan to help ensure the success of their efforts, you’re probably not ready to start recruiting people.
10. Allow people into higher profile positions than their character will support.
I once knew a pastor who would find ways to put men on his deacon board when he heard they were about ready to leave the church. He thought that giving them leadership opportunity would keep them in the church and give them the influence they sought. So he ended up with a bunch of disgruntled, non-supportive leaders making major decisions for the church’s future. Good recruiting will always look to match both ability and character to the roles to be filled.
There’s an old human resources adage that says, “You hire all of your personnel problems.” The idea behind this slightly humorous statement is that making mistakes in the recruiting process guarantees that you’ll have problems down the road.
While these may be a list of ten ways to recruit ineffectively, there’s also some good wisdom for doing it the right way. We’ll look at those insights in our next blog…