How to Recruit and Train Volunteers

When you lead a church, whether it’s a church of 25, or 2500, one of the most important things you will invest in is recruiting and training volunteers.  I mean, Ephesians 4:11-13 calls church leaders to equip the church to serve.  This is one of our primary roles Biblically, and it’s crucial for a healthy church.

So, recruiting is just a matter of finding someone in the hallway and convincing them to pitch in, right?  Or maybe it’s a really desperate plea for help from the pulpit during a service?  We all know guilt makes people sign up pretty quickly.  But it never lasts, and it produces people who are missing out on what God has for them.

One of the core things you and I have to understand as leaders is the transfer of expense in this process.  When we invite someone to volunteer, it’s an invite to change.  It might be expensive emotionally, socially, schedule wise, or even financially.  Every change costs something.  Recruiting and training someone to serve falls into this system.  It’s going to cost someone something.

So, who is going to pay the bulk of the change expense?  It would be nice to split it 50 / 50 in our minds, but is that really the best way, even if it is possible? (Which I don’t believe it typically is.)

We can create a system that transfers the expense onto the volunteer.  Typically, most systems do this without trying.  We ask the volunteer to change their schedule, their priorities, to choose to say no to things they currently say yes to, and to sacrifice somehow in serving.  Then, on top of that, we ask them to come to leader meetings, training meetings, retreats, etc.  We request that they read instructional emails, go through educational books, watch videos we find for them, and a host of other things.  This is assuming we have a plan to train them.  If we don’t have a plan, then we are asking them to assume the cost of operating in a ministry where they are figuring things out as they go.  A poorly lead ministry is by far the most expensive for volunteers.

I want to be clear, I believe in providing resources for training volunteers.  It’s a loving way of leading people.  We simply need to be aware that we are asking our volunteers to carry the bulk of the expense.  For example, we find a book and hand it to them, they invest time to read and process it.  It’s a good investment, but they carry most of it.

What if there is a way to shift most of the investment in recruiting and training back onto us, the leader, so that we can set the volunteer free to invest more time, energy, etc into the ministry?  I believe we can, and that is what this series of posts is going to look at.  You’ll be surprised at how some planning ahead can really change your relationship with your current and potential volunteers.

Here’s the outline for the coming posts:

  1. How to Identify the Right Roles
  2. Picking the Best People Possible
  3. Making the Ask
  4. Test Drive the Spot
  5. The Power of Coaching
  6. Regular Feedback
  7. How to Move Someone to a Better Spot

I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback.  What has been your experience as a volunteer?  Who has carried the expense of the position in your past?