The crisis of faith that exists in our country today is also a crisis of engagement. Practice of faith is often seen like a club or membership. Check the box a few times a year, receive a sacrament here and there, and then attend the church festival. I’m a Christian. Done.
People will not feel significant until you give them something significant to do. This is why volunteer recruiting could be a work of mercy.
After the Holy Spirit, volunteers are the most vital piece to make ministry happen. It is this engagement that can shift the culture. Here are a few vital truths to keep in mind as you approach the difficult task of recruiting volunteers.
God already has a plan
There is no parish anywhere in the world where God desires mediocre ministry. If volunteers are necessary for your ministry to succeed (and they are) then God already has people selected to serve in that ministry to allow it to thrive. Your task is to simply connect the people and resources to the mission that God has for them (and to support and empower them to be successful, but that’s another post altogether).
Gifts & Mission, not Need
Calling forth people’s gifts and connecting them to the mission of the ministry in light of the gospel is the best way to recruit volunteers. Begging people to meet the needs of a ministry that might not succeed without their help is like asking people to jump on a sinking ship. I made the mistake of sharing that if we didn’t get catechists for a certain grade level, then we would have to cancel the class. We got a reluctant volunteer and she muscled through the year, but she was doing me a favor in serving instead of responding to God’s call to serve.
Recruiting should connect their gifts to God’s plan for the ministry. This will require that you or someone on your team already knows the potential volunteer enough to name their gifts and connect their gifts to the purpose of the ministry. The beauty here is that even if the potential volunteer decides not to serve, their encounter with you has affirmed their call to mission and they will either respond in some other way or be loved by your naming of their gifts and likely be haunted by that reality until they put those gifts into service.
Their success is your job
In order to multiply ministry, you have to pour into those who pour into others. As a ministry leader this can require a shift in approach. Your task is to help others succeed in ministry and this often means that you are not the main executor of ministry. It’s like taking a step back so 5 other people can take a step forward. Your main task as a ministry leader is empowering others.
My first year in ministry, I had a chip on my shoulder. My fresh degree in theology and 3 years of volunteering came bundled with a bit of ego. I gave nearly all of the presentations at our program leaving the other volunteers to simply show up and lead the occasional small group whenever my presentation didn’t run over into small group time. I retained 20% of the volunteers that year. The spotlight was on me and my gifts, not the mission and the symphony of gifts present in each of the volunteers.
Be a conductor and help order the gifts of your team to successful lead a ministry you cannot do on your own (believe me, I’ve tried).
God desires your success
Often ministry leadership can feel lonely, especially when you have a couple of volunteer appeals that come up short. Know that God wants you to be successful first. Then from that abundance of love God desires the ministry He has called you to to be successful. Prayer is vital for every ministry leader because it is vital for every Christian. Be a disciple with a bold and consistent prayer life and submit your hopes and fears to God. Your prayers will be answered.