Volunteer Recruitment: Make it or Break it | Jason Pierce

Today's guest post is from one of our certified coaches, Jason Pierce. Jason is the Connections Pastor of Cornerstone Church in Bethalto, IL and has been involved in ministry for over 14 years. Click here for his complete bio, and follow him on his personal blogwww.jasondpierce.com.


Volunteers are essential to accomplishing the ministry your church is called to provide in your community. Unfortunately, the ways in which we go about getting those volunteers are not always effective. We can literally make or break a ministry by the way we try to get volunteers.

Here are a few areas in which it easy to "break" or "make" your ministry. We'll look at each area from both sides.

Placing Pegs into Holes

Break It - Put Anyone Anywhere

One of the fastest ways to break a ministry is to open it up to anyone. Let’s be honest, people are wired differently. We are not all good at the same things. Several years back, I answered a call to be a part of the children’s ministry. It only took a week for me to realize that the call I'd answered was a wrong number. Stuck in a room full of overactive children was too much. The children’s ministry was not better with me being a part of it. In fact, it was worse. I was victim of volunteer recruitment based on “We need people who are willing more than we need people who are able."

Make it Count - Put the right person in the right place.

Just as people are different, ministries are too. Before you start filling spots, ask yourself “Who will make this ministry successful?” Once you have that picture, find people who bring it to life and recruit them. It is better to wait to start a ministry with the right people than it is to rush to start a ministry with the wrong people. If you have the wrong people and it ultimately fails, you scar both the ministry and the people. Get the right people in the right spot.


Equality vs. Individuality

Break It - Treat Everyone the Same

Another way to break a ministry is to treat your recruitment as an assembly line. Get in front of them, fly through the characteristics, get a “yes” or a “no,” then move on to the next. Unfortunately I have witnessed this at ministry fairs. A plea for volunteers is made from the pulpit. I call this a “cattle call.” A table is set up in the foyer. Sign up's are made available. As soon as the service is over, the feeding frenzy begins! Your attenders will never know what hit them. They leave church that morning confused and a little frightened about saying “yes” to whatever you were selling.

Make it Personal - Tell them why they are being asked.

The recruitment process needs to be more personal. Instead of doing a “cattle call,” ask them directly. Set up a time to meet and discuss this volunteer opportunity. During your meeting, tell them why they are a good fit for this ministry. Don’t go through the characteristics needed like it's a check list. Give them examples of how they embody those characteristics. Be specific. Your goal is not to sell the ministry to them, it is to sell them to them. Help them appreciate how God made them. Help them see how the way they are wired plays a part in what God wants to do in their church.


Presenting Opportunities

Break It - Make All Ministries the Same

When everything is the same, life is boring. I love pizza. But if I just ate pizza from now until I die, I am sure I would get bored with it. Variety, truly is, the spice of life. To bring this into the context of the Church, let’s pick on ministry fairs again. When we reduce ministries to tables and sign ups, it takes away their individuality. It becomes very cookie cutter. This makes it difficult for people to experience the true identity of the ministry, which prevents them from knowing if this ministry is a good fit for them.

Make It Exciting - Show them why they want to be on this team.

Here, the person doing the recruiting is just as important as the person being recruited. Let’s face it, if the person who is doing the recruiting is not excited about what he or she is doing, neither will the people who are being recruited. Show some life. Make it fun. People are attracted to fun. Don’t try to sell them with a slick presentation. They will pick up on that. Instead, give them the “why" behind the “what" they will be doing. The "why" is always more exciting than that "what". You can take it one step further and allow them to try out the position before they fully commit. This way, they can experience the fun first hand.


Explicit Expectations

Break It - Give No Clear Direction

No one likes to have their time wasted, especially volunteers. Church work days provide an incredible opportunity for people to become disgruntled. People sign up, show up, and expect tasks to be readily available. When that does not happen, things can break bad in a hurry. Without clear directions upon arrival, they will not hang around for very long; everyone has other things they can be doing. Unfortunately, volunteer recruitment can follow this same pattern: sign people up, people show up, deliver no expectations. No one knows what they're supposed to do.

Make It Clear - Show them what it is they will be doing.

Earlier in this process you hopefully provided your potential volunteer with the “why” behind the position. Here's where you need to provide them with the “what” behind the position. When being recruited, laypeople will ask the same questions you'd ask before making a commitment: "What is the time commitment? What exactly will I be doing? Who will I answer to?" Provide them with as detailed of a job description as you can. Take it a step further and allow this person to be your shadow during your volunteer time. You can bring the job description to life while also making a quality relational connecting.


We're all called to serve, and some of us are called to call others. How we do it is crucial, if we expect people to step up. I hope you find this helpful as you recruit volunteers to partner with you in ministry.

What are some ways in which you have "made it" with volunteers? Have you ever "broken it"?