Four T’s for Recruiting and Keeping Volunteers

By Mark A. Taylor

In many places, the first day of the new school year is on the horizon, if it hasn’t occurred already. And the local church’s Bible-teaching program is ready to gear-up too. A new season of classes, youth groups, children’s choirs, and small groups usually brings a flurry of worker recruitment.

August 12 eddy_pix_JNSome churches, unfortunately and ineffectively, will post “help-wanted” ads in church newsletters or make impassioned pleas from the pulpit for nursery workers and children’s teachers. But while support from the preacher can be a vital ingredient in worker recruitment, asking everyone is never as effective as the personal invitation extended person by person.

Some potential workers will respond positively out of guilt or as a favor to the recruiter who is their friend. But recruiters have the chance to educate and motivate workers if they will challenge them with the mission of the program they’re staffing. Sunday school is more than childcare, and small groups are more than social get-togethers. When workers believe they have a part in Christ’s work in the world through your church, they’ll do a better job. And they’re more likely to stick with it long-term.

Effective recruiting also includes information that can be summarized with 4 T’s:

Task—Tell the worker exactly what you want her to do, at what times, for how long. Explain future training events, and if you intend for these to be mandatory, don’t hesitate to say so. Every volunteer deserves a written job description.

Time—Specify an end time for the commitment. “Will you serve this school year?” “We’re asking you to serve on Sunday mornings, every other month, till the end of August next year.”

Training—There are two ways to view training sessions, as opportunities or as obligations. Good training is a combination of the two. You know what your teachers and leaders need. Usually this revolves around practical skill sets for teaching the students in their group, often with specific help with using the curriculum material you’ve provided.

Make training meetings a big deal: announce them ahead of time, add a fun element to each session, keep them as short as possible, and provide a meal or other good food. And most of all, make them practical and useful. If workers know they’ll do a better job after attending your meetings, they’ll be more willing to attend them.

Tools—Provide the very best curriculum possible. Establish clear procedures for requesting projectors or DVD/TV combos. Make sure audio-visual equipment is in good working order. Respond quickly to requests for help or information.

The work of the local church is the most important work in the world. The programs we’re offering—unlike the Scouts, the teams, or the clubs in our community—have been created to affect lives for eternity. Much of their impact will be determined by how we recruit the volunteers who run them. It’s hard work, but little is more important.

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