The pre-start and the start-up phases of any new ministry are hard, but exhilarating. Typically, you have the most passionate and the most committed people involved, so these Starters are willing to do whatever it takes. Starters are heart, soul, and mind committed!
As the start-up continues, the Friends of the Starters observe the commitment and enthusiasm—as well as the results that follow the do-whatever-it-takes efforts of the Starters, so they join up and become a part of the ministry—with equal enthusiasm, but not necessarily with equal commitment as the Starters. But the ministry has grown because both Starters and First Volunteers are part of the ministry, and it appears to have a great future.
A small cloud looms on the horizon, however. First Volunteers do enjoy the work of the ministry; however, they did not come into the ministry to recruit, but to serve. The reluctance to recruit in this second phase means there are fewer Second Volunteers than First Volunteers.
The Second Volunteers are the friends typically of the First Volunteers. They really enjoy working together, so now the First and Second Volunteers merge into a pretty wonderful, but fairly self-contained group—so they recruit no one else and there are almost no Third Volunteers for the ministry.
This promising ministry is completely unaware that it is in a crisis it may not survive! With no new volunteers, no one takes the place of the Second and Third Volunteers that have to drop out for quite normal reasons. Attrition is predictable. Typically, Starters and First Volunteers just step into the gaps because they still are doing whatever it takes.
Then more Second Volunteers and some First Volunteers step out—and Starters start pushing everyone to recruit more Volunteers—but especially the Second and Third Volunteers did not commit to the ministry to be recruiters—so they talk to a friend or two, but that is it.
For many ministries, this is the almost predictable slide into an inevitable conclusion—a whimpering end of the ministry with many regrets. I’m sure you have observed some recognizable version of this story in your own church, if not your own attempts at ministries.
Here are a few suggestions for breaking this pattern and prolonging the effective life of your ministry!
1. You never have enough new people! If the ideal number of workers is 10, then seek 20 and plan on seeking replacements continually. If the ministry does not have a recruiting strategy , purposefully and intentionally organized to bring in new people, it will not survive long.
2. Those involved in the ministry are the best recruiters. Every volunteer can be asked to be a recruiter. Some will be better than others, but every new person should feel some responsibility for recruiting others.
3. Keep recruiting personal. Pulpit announcements, videos, church bulletin announcements can create some general name recognition of the ministry, but one person tapping another on the shoulder saying, “Come go with me” will yield greater results.
4. Teach volunteers how to expand their circle of friends. Most workers invite their immediate friends—and then they stop because to talk to others is outside of their comfort zone. One way to expand their circles is to help them recognize other points of contact at church that exist, but that they do not necessarily think of right away. For instance:
- Parents of their children’s friends
- People who sit in seats near them at church services
- Common demographic groups at church—parents of teens, retired, but still active, stay-at-home moms.
- New people at church who have yet to be plugged into a group or ministry.
5. Utilize the best recruiters among your volunteers! Former cheerleaders (like Sherrylee) are much better recruiters than bookworms (me!). Use people’s natural talents. It may be more important for someone to Sherrylee to recruit than any other task in your ministry!
How long the ministry will thrive and survive depends to some extent on the ability of the Starters to recognize the need for expanding its circle of friends. The earlier in the ministry that friend-building becomes a part of the model, the greater chance of blessed longevity the ministry will have.
Reposted from September 2010