The Preamble to Recruiting Volunteers

I recently gave a presentation on “The Preamble to Recruiting Volunteers” to some young adult ministry leaders. It was a learning experience for me because I started to really evaluate what are the things that motivate volunteers to volunteer. I told this group of young adult leaders that I could go on to talk about steps and ideas that would help us recruit volunteers, like personal invitation, job descriptions, etc… Here’s the problem, though. The steps can change and shift on you as time changes.

Often times when I do blogs or workshops like this, I dive straight into the ‘what.’ What do I mean by that? I mean, we delve straight into the practical ‘how to’s’ to make whatever it is we want to happen… happen. And that’s okay. But we always need to talk about the why. Why do what we are doing? In this case, the question is as follows: why would volunteers even want to get involved? This needs to be answered before we go into the practical steps of ‘what.’ The ‘what’ can change. The ‘why’ is constant.

In my experience, the two best ways to get volunteers to volunteer are…

1. Have an exciting vision about the future of the ministry
Proverbs 29:18 says, “Without vision, the people will perish.” Now maybe that is too dramatic, but maybe it would be better stated: “Without vision, the people don’t volunteer.” People get excited about a vision that speaks of a future that’s awesome. The problem is that we often start asking for volunteers before we have a clear sense of the vision for ministry. If I can’t show people the future, why would they want to jump on board? As a leader, it is our job to be the keeper of the vision. It needs to excite and motivate people. John Maxwell says, in his book 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork, that “Leaders usually have the role of capturing and communicating vision. They must see it first and then help everyone else see it.”

Every vision should have the following:

  • Significant purpose: What business are you in?
  • A picture of the future: What will the future look like if you are successful?
  • Clear values: What guides your behavior and decisions on a daily basis?

2. Have some success under your belt
This is all about evidence that the vision is working. Early on, people can begin to sense victory. When that happens, volunteers begin to give more then they normally would. They sacrifice to succeed. Impending success is a huge motivator. On the flip side of the coin, volunteers can begin to sense defeat early on. When this happens, they give as little as possible and look for excuses.

Sure, we can talk about all the practical ways to recruit volunteers. However, if we have these two things in place, people will more likely say ‘yes’ to you and me.

John Rinaldo

As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.

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