Some years ago I was responsible for recruiting someone to oversee a pastoral care program involving over 200 adults. It was a big job, and I was looking for a couple who could commit a great deal of time and energy to the program.
I prayed about this problem literally for months, wondering who would be willing and able to take on such a challenge. Eventually I sensed the Lord pointing me to Bill and Terri, a couple in their late 30s. I stopped them in the hall at church one Wednesday evening and said, "I have a new opportunity for ministry in mind for you. Would you be willing to meet and discuss it?"
The following week, they and I sat down together in my living room, and I laid out my proposal. I spelled out the importance of the program to the life of the church and told them all the reasons I felt they were the right couple for this ministry.
"I'm not going to sugarcoat this job," I added. "It's going to be tough." And I carefully sketched in all the downsides I could think of. The church staff was already stretched too thin, so they wouldn't get much in the way of help or additional resources. The hours would be long, and the job largely thankless. Yet the opportunity was significant.
I was beginning to think I had oversold the downside when Bill and Terri looked each other and then at me and grinned.
"In the car on the way over here," Bill said, "we were wondering what sort of job you had in mind. And we said to ourselves, 'If this is another one of those Mickey Mouse church jobs, we don't want it.' But you've given us something that really counts! We'll do it."
"Well, wait a minute!" I cautioned. "Don't say yes so fast! Pray about it, think about, then get back to me."
"All right," said Tern, "we'll pray about it—but the answer will still be yes!"
And it was. In fact, this couple invested a total of 14 years in that position, and the program was enormously successful under their leadership.
That to me is the prototype of recruiting, and it's the type of conversation and long-term success I want to have when recruiting workers for the educational ministries of the church.
It doesn't always end up successfully, of course. There will always be challenges in recruiting. But over the years I've found a number of practices that help make recruiting less of a chore and more of a ministry, and a successful one at that.
Finding a Ministry, Not Just Doing a Job
People get excited about ministry; they get scared off by jobs. So I don't recruit to jobs; I recruit to ministries, as with Bill and Terri.
Although we are tempted to fall back on "duty" to motivate when recruiting, duty is a very poor motivator compared with the adventure of ministry. Consider this recruiting appeal: "I'm asking you to take this teaching job because we need somebody in the classroom every week." Now compare that with this: "We're looking for someone to lay a lasting foundation of faith in the life of young Christians." Which would you find more persuasive?
Recruiting Is Relationships
All recruiting amounts to matching people to needs: you have a class that has certain goals and you find a person who will be able to fulfill those goals.
In order to find a good match, however, the recruiter needs to know the people in the church. It cannot be done in an institutional way. It can only be done in a relational way. We have to know what makes people tick, what gets them excited and enthused, how they enjoy spending their time, and what their passions and motivations are.
For example, let's say I've noticed a young mother who's been attending church for some time. I may be tempted to ask her to baby-sit in the nursery. But when I get to know her, I discover that she is gifted in relationship skills and has a desire to evangelize. So, instead I might ask her to design a meaningful outreach program for young mothers.