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XL Recruiting Strategies

Becky Olmstead


It took me a while, but I finally came to the realization that not everyone in my church is called to work with kids. It's hard to imagine that not everyone loves kids and is great with them when you are. Nowadays, my goal is to find the people who are "kid people." That's where prayer comes in. I need my eyes opened to see these people. I must be able to discern who the right person is for my team--and I've realized it's not always the people I assumed it would be. A perfect example...I used to think the right person was someone who was looking to build relationships, so I emphasized that our ministry was a place where people could be part of a team.

We build teams within our ministry to kids, so naturally I thought that the relationship piece was what would attract people to join us. Sounds pretty solid, right? But what I later realized was that the people I was attracting with that specific message were most often people who didn't relate well within the mainstream. They struggled relating with our team and with the kids. Clearly, I wasn't reaching the people I needed to; I had to clarify my target and rethink my message.

Now, as I target the right "kid people," I communicate specific ways they can be involved in ministry to kids. When I need volunteers for a specific purpose, I consider what the right people need to hear and know about the position before I approach them. For every position, I include detailed information about the amount of time each week volunteers serve kids, the skills (if any) needed, and the length of commitment required. In the past I didn't give volunteers an end date for their commitment.

Ending dates are scary; what if a volunteer's time is up and I have no one to take that person's place? But the reality is that by asking volunteers to commit for a specific period of time (with built-in time off), I actually prevent burnout and get people who enjoy ministering to kids to keep returning year after year. In fact, I have one volunteer who's served in our ministry for over 20 years...and he still loves it!


When you help people find the right position (even if it means a bit of shuffling to begin with), they'll have a more satisfying experience…which means ultimately your overall load of recruiting will drop. I like to categorize volunteer positions into groups; for instance, opportunities to work with kids or administratively, to volunteer weekly or monthly, or to volunteer with a specific age group. Categories tend to attract the people who want to serve in them. When you give people the options available, they'll seek out what appeals to them.

You may still have to play a bit of matchmaker, though. That means recruiting a volunteer for one position and then tweaking the position or the volunteer's role until the fit is more complete or compatible. I had one high school girl who initially really wanted to work with preschoolers. She was faithful in coming each week, but I couldn't get her to stay in the room for the whole hour. She continually found excuses to leave the room to go visit her friends.

After many conversations about her commitment and the position description, I encouraged her to volunteer with an elementary age group, assisting the kids as they checked in using our computerized check-in system. Not only was she great at overcoming any computer glitch, she worked alongside another high school girl and the two became good friends. Putting her in the right place made everyone a whole lot happier.

Helping people find their place to serve in the body of Christ is one of the great joys of leading people. Even though my job has its periods of stress and challenges, I know that I'm making a difference not only in the lives of the kids but also in the lives of the volunteers serving in our ministry. And I'm not doing my job alone. What I do matters to God. He wants kids to know him, become like him, and make him known in their generation. The more volunteers I have, the more children's lives we can impact--together.

Becky Olmstead is the children's pastor at Vineyard Church of the Rockies, a large, multi-campus congregation in Fort Collins, Colorado. In 2008 she was appointed to lead a National Task Force for Children's Ministry in the Vineyard movement, which sponsors conferences, develops resources, and raises awareness across the country.

What a Volunteer Wants

In a recent study of volunteers commissioned by the Girl Scouts of America, people listed these requirements for a successful volunteer experience:

• Flexible schedule

• Clearly defined roles

• Opportunities that match volunteers' interests

• A welcoming environment

• Reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses

• Training, mentoring, and other support services

Source: Voices of Volunteers 18-29

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