Test Drives Save Lives

In part four of our discussion on Recruiting and Training Volunteers,  we’re going to look at the idea of designing a test drive opportunity for potential volunteers.  We’ve looked at Seven Crucial Questions for Recruiting Volunteers, Four Steps to Pick the Best Possible Volunteers, and Seven Keys to a Great Ask.

If you go to spend the $30,000 it takes to pick up a new car, you’re definitely going to take it on at least one test drive.  I never buy new cars, I’m a used car guy.  I’ll test drive 10 – 20 cars before I buy one.  I want to see how they feel, how they drive, how I fit in them, etc.  Being my height, there are just a ton of cars that I can’t fit in.  My head hits the roof, or I can’t get the seat back far enough.  There’s nothing wrong with the car, it’s just not the right size for who God made me to be.

Ministry opportunities and volunteers can fit each other in a similar way.  Not every opportunity is a good fit for every volunteer.  Neither the role nor the volunteer are bad, they just don’t fit.  That’s why at SCC, we work hard to make official test drive opportunities.  These are just a place where a potential volunteer can come and experience the ministry in action.  It can be a weekly meeting or event, or a special one time event.  Both can work.

We explain to the volunteer that they only are agreeing to a one time test drive.  We don’t ask for any further commitment than that, and we are clear that we are not committing to anything further either.  This upfront communication is crucial to a test drive working.

When they come to the event, be attentive to them.  Do NOT let them float on their own, no matter what personality they may have.

  1. Meet them when they arrive and greet them.
  2. Explain the schedule for the event, and give them all the important details.
  3. Don’t assume any knowledge on their part.  Over explain the event, values, goals, schedule, etc.
  4. Operate like normal.  Don’t run a special “first date” event to try and impress them.  Let them see a typical ministry event.
  5. Meet with them right afterwards, and debrief with them.

In the debrief, there are some key points you’ll want to discuss:

  1. If you didn’t feel like they were a good fit, discuss that with them right away.  Be honest, don’t let your fear of hurting them push you into bad communication.
  2. If you felt like the fit was good, ask them their thoughts about the event.  If both sides are positive, invite them to a next step level of commitment.
  3. The next step should be a “mid-level” commitment.  We often recommend a three week commitment.  Have them be a part of the ministry, and give them some small responsibilities to further test out.  At the end of the three weeks, repeat steps 1 and 2 above.

After the four weeks described above, if you and they have spent time praying and see a good fit, then invite them to be a part of your ministry.  Set a meeting to discuss it face to face.  At the meeting:

  1. Have a written commitment spelling out what is expected and promised.  It should include:
    1. Their role
    2. Their time commitment
    3. Their spiritual commitment
    4. Values and expectations you will hold them to
    5. Your commitment to help them grow in their faith and ability to serve, and how you’ll do it.
  2. Be flexible.  Listen well to what they concerns and questions are, and be willing to find them a place to serve that fits their season of life.
  3. Be honest.  It’s WAY easier to discuss concerns in this meeting than to ignore them and try to bring them up in four weeks.  The  volunteer is excited about the new opportunity, and is very willing to hear how they can grow.
  4. Be encouraging.  Most people will be nervous at this stage.  They are making a big commitment.  Tell them why you believe God is calling them to the ministry, what strengths you see in them, and why you’re excited to have them.

Congratulations!  After a ton of prayer and hard work, you’ve recruited a new volunteer, and set them up to succeed in ways they may have never experience before.  Way to go!

Is there anything you would add or change?