the shape of leadership

Common Mistakes in Volunteer Recruitment

Are any of these issues derailing your efforts?

Influence Magazine on September 6, 2018

Are you struggling to find and retain volunteers? Many church leaders are in the same predicament. It’s difficult to do ministry without the right number of volunteers and the right people in key positions.

What mistakes are you making in volunteer recruitment? Maybe you’ve never taken stock of your process, but you should. There may be plenty of reasons why you’re not recruiting well. Don’t let any of these mistakes be one of them.

Acting Too Desperate

The worst thing you can do in volunteer recruitment is beg. You may feel the pressure to fill posts, but being desperate can scare people away. You could give your church the sense that ministry areas are overtaxed and understaffed, and no one would want to serve if that were the case.

Casting Too Wide of a Net

You might think telling everyone about the need from the pulpit is the best way to get volunteers. But that is just too wide of a net. For one thing, when you tell everyone, many will assume someone else will just pick up the slack. One-on-one recruitment is much more effective because you make each person feel like you need him or her specifically.

Maybe you’ve never taken stock of your process, but you should.

Mismatching a Role With a Gifting

You shouldn’t ask someone who doesn’t have the gift of teaching to lead a class. Those without a gift of hospitality may not be the best greeters. Make sure the roles fit the gifts of those stepping into them. View each volunteer as uniquely as you do each position. This is why it’s so important to have volunteers perform a gift assessment.

Being Unclear

As a leader of volunteers, make sure each person knows exactly what the expectations are for his or her role. From arrival times to a list of responsibilities, make it clear. When volunteers are uncertain about these details, they can lose focus and grow restless in their positions.

Not Caring About a Volunteer as a Person

Volunteers are more than just the roles they fill. If your people get the sense that you only value them for what they can do for you, they will likely walk away quickly. Remember that it’s not about what you want from them but what you want for them. Show them how volunteering can personally benefit them, and then thank them often for their service.

Expecting Too Much

Whether it’s the amount of time or the enormity of the task, never let your volunteers become overwhelmed. Check in with them regularly to make sure they are not feeling overworked or nearing burnout.

Expecting Too Little

On the other hand, look out for signs of boredom. When a task is too easy, volunteers can quickly lose focus. Make sure there’s some challenge to every service area.

Failing to Follow Up

Now that you’ve targeted volunteers, and some have started signing up, don’t drop the ball. Follow up regularly and promptly with those showing interest. Get in touch within 48 hours, if possible. Under no circumstances should you let it take longer than a week.


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