The most powerful form of recruiting is done in person. Nothing replaces a tap on the shoulder.

Right before Bill Hybels, from Willow Creek Church in Chicago, took the stage at a national Children’s Ministry conference, I sat and thought to myself, “Wow, it must be easy to work at a church this large. Think of all of the volunteers you could choose from.” Imagine the volunteer pool you would have to choose from at one of the top ten largest churches in America!  About three minutes into Bill’s keynote address, however, he said to us, “now you may be sitting there thinking, ‘wow it must be easy working at this church. There are so many people volunteering and recruiting must be a simple task.’” Amazingly enough, that is exactly what I had been thinking, but nothing is further from the truth.

The larger the church, as Bill went on to explain, the more challenging it is to find volunteers. True and effective volunteer recruiting comes down to relationships. In a large and ever-growing church, it is hard to develop substantive and significant relationships with individual people. No matter if you serve at a small church with a limited volunteer pool, or a large church where your volunteer pool is larger but relationships are more limited, recruiting volunteers is challenging.

After having served as a children’s director for over 10 years, I found a lot of things that worked for volunteer recruiting and even more things that simply did not work. Having the senior pastor make an impassioned plea to “get involved in Children’s Ministry,” as a call to action after one of his sermons results in absolutely nothing. Fail. Having an atrium display with banners, posters, and pamphlets with pen and paper opportunities for people to “sign up to serve in Children’s Ministry” typically resulted in little to no results. Fail. Sending out that mass email to all of the parents asking them to respond with a time that they would enjoy serving had little results. Fail.

You see, Bill Hybels said what I found to be true in my own ministry over time. Nothing replaces a tap on the shoulder. Volunteering at its core is relationship building. I need to go out, interact, engage, and develop relationships with people. Out of the overflow of my relationship, I can share a vision with them, a compelling vision and invitation to follow me into a deeper opportunity to intersect with God, intersect with God’s people, and to serve children.

Nothing short of a tap on the shoulder ever seems to work. It comes down to an individual asking someone to participate in the ministry. It comes down to a one-on-one conversation. Get to know people, take them to coffee or lunch, and ask them what God is doing in their lives. Find out their gifts and abilities. See if they are a potential fit in your ministry area. You may think that you don’t have time for that. Fair. I totally understand. But you know what I also don’t have time for? I don’t have time to waste my efforts on setting up a volunteer display, or having the senior leader make a plea, or sending out a bulk email that doesn’t result in any more volunteers. If I’m going to spend my time, I want to spend it in a way that is the most effective.  And of all the ways that you can seek to engage and enlist a group of people to volunteers, nothing produces the type of results like a tap on the shoulder.