Four Steps to Pick the Best Possible Volunteers

We’re discussing how to Recruit and Train Volunteers, and we’ve already discussed the Seven Questions to ask before you recruit someone.  You and I both know that helping the right person find the right place to serve is such a crucial piece of ministry.  When we try to shoehorn the wrong person into a spot, we do so much quiet damage.  They are not fulfilled, they often underperform, they seldom stay, and they are in the way of the person that God has chosen for that spot from the beginning.

So, with so much on the line, how can we improve in choosing people?  There are a few basic steps, that while they aren’t earth shattering, we often run past them in our rush.

  1. Pray – Yeah, I know.  But I’m serious.  Spend time on your knees and ask God to provide what you need.  He promises throughout the Bible to meet our needs.  He’s placed you in the ministry spot you are in.  You need a volunteer.  He has promised to meet that need.  So ask Him to do it.  Pray for wisdom.  Pray for names.  Pray for open hearts.  Pray for passion.  But pray.
  2. Choose how you’re going to recruit. – There are several ways to do this:
    1. All call from the pulpit.  My least favorite.  When we make general calls, we project desperation.  We give up the ability to filter who applies.  There are times this can work, but often it’s a risky way of doing it.
    2. Media blitz.  We use every available form of media to reach out to potential volunteers.  This is a little better than #1, because we can focus where we send the media to specific groups.  But we are still at the will of who applies, to a certain level.  We can create clear screening processes, but overtime we excite a potential volunteer, and then tell them no, we burn a little bit of trust.
    3. One on one recruitment.  This is where I’ve spent much of my time as a leader.  I’m always recruiting, even for spots I don’t need yet.  One on one conversations are great, because often the spot I have in mind changes as I listen more than I talk.  The person will tell me things I didn’t know about them, and suddenly it becomes clear that they are a much better fit for a different role.  This type of recruiting also sets me up for a coaching role further down the road, which we’ll discuss later.
    4. My best team members finding others.  I’ve missed this fourth option for a couple of decades, and I regret it deeply.  If I have one or two great team members who get it, I need to encourage them to go and recruit other people like them.  If I make sure they are clear on the role, expectations, and values I’m looking for, a passionate volunteer is the BEST recruiter by far.  It requires some planning and training on my part, but it pays off so many times that it becomes a no brainer.  If you’re leading a team of any size, this is the recruiting tool I most recommend.
  3. Decide what type of person you’re looking for. 
    1. Spiritual maturity – What level of spiritual maturity does a person need for the role you’re filling?  This is a big question.  We can easily put someone in a role they aren’t ready for, or that they’re really past in their growth.  What is the sweet spot in your role for a person’s spiritual maturity?
    2. What is their SHAPE? – We continue to use the SHAPE analogy from Saddleback church.  It’s easy to work through with a person, it gives concrete steps, and really puts the responsibility on the volunteer to know themselves better, and prayerfully look at where God is calling them.
  4. Keep the moving truck running. – No, not because you’re going to need to find a new job.  We just need to know it’s okay when we misidentify where someone fits.  I’ve been involved with a lot of volunteers who try a service spot, and it’s just the wrong fit.  It’s okay.  What do we do when this happens?
    1. Be honest. – Have honest conversations with them about how they feel they are fitting in the role, and what you see.  Encourage them for their faithfulness for trying the spot, and be sure to emphasize that trying isn’t failing.  It’s just trying.  Listen to them well to be sure they are ok with moving on.
    2. Help them find the right fit. – If they don’t fit in your ministry, don’t drop them.  Your role as a leader is to them more than to your empty spot.  Help them keep trying to figure it out.  God is calling them to serve somewhere, and you are their leader.  Do whatever it takes to help them find that spot, even in someone else’s ministry.

Hopefully this helps spur some thoughts on how to better plan out your recruiting, especially how to decide who to ask.  In our next post, we will look at some important pieces of how to actually ask someone to serve.

What else would you add?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.