Recruit with Vision, Not Problems – by Geoffrey Graff

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Did you know you can recruit people in one of two ways: by conveying vision or by telling people about the problems and how much you need them? Which method do you think most leaders use?

Today, I want to provoke you to think about what method you use to recruit volunteers, and I want you to take a few minutes just to realize it’s all about how you frame your message.

You can go up to a great prospective volunteer and say, “We don’t have enough workers. We really need help. Would you consider?” But from the other person’s perspective, that’s kind of scary. They might feel like they’re stepping into something they don’t want to step in. Why don’t you have enough workers? Why are you in such desperate need of help? What are you trying to accomplish? How much time is this going to take from me?

Or you can flip the method and approach the person with vision. “We have so many kids that are pouring through these doors, that are excited to be here, and we’re trying to get all the leaders we can to make sure their experience is awesome. It’s fun, and we believe God can do something through this!” Now, what do you think the person is going to be thinking? Something must be going right for so many kids to be getting involved, right? Something must be good if everyone’s excited and having fun. And joining the team is really just that – joining a team. Not a skeleton crew that’s exhausted every week. Not ministry that’s going to become a burden. Not piling needs that are going to stretch you way beyond your comfort zone. This sounds like something a person would enjoy becoming a part of!

While both statements are true – you don’t have enough workers and need help, and also it’s going to be fun and provide kids with an awesome experience – only one of these statements is going to inspire people to volunteer and commit to a shared purpose. So when you’re talking with a prospective volunteer, think about how you’re framing the request.

Also, don’t see yourself as the only recruiter. Develop a culture of recruitment. I tell my team all the time, “I’ve recruited as many people as I can think of, but you know people I don’t. You have relationships with people I don’t. Be a recruiter.” Instill that culture of recruitment in your teams. If you empower them and get them to identify and bring people they think would do well in the ministry, it will eliminate some of the pressures of recruiting.

Think about it: This is like positive peer pressure. You might not know the person, and so your ability to influence them for good is low. But your volunteer might know them really well and be able to speak from their positive experience on the team and connect with the prospective volunteer in a way that excites them to lock arms with their friend in this ministry outlet.

A pastor once shared with me, “I can motivate people well, but they often fall through the cracks because we struggle to have opportunities or structure for them to connect to.” Have you been there? I have. It’s not wise to create a structure for something you can’t sustain. I learned this very quickly. As leaders, we get all these ministry ideas, but if we can’t sustain the ministry for one reason or another, maybe we shouldn’t be recruiting for it.

Today, I will not recruit to anything I don’t have a leader for because if I do, I end up trying to oversee too many things and I can’t spin plates and bring the vision, the coaching and so on to that area. I have come to terms with the fact that I am limited in what I can handle on my own. Unless there’s a volunteer leader who’s willing to shoulder the burden, I have to pick and choose what I invest my time and energy into.

If I can’t sustain it, I don’t even try to structure it. If I don’t have a leader for it, I don’t even try to recruit for it. This raises the question, “What’s important?” And I ask myself that many, many times.

When I structure things, I think, “What is my highest priority of opportunities I can invite people to be a part of?” This is based on the hedgehog principle. It’s an old story of a fox and a hedgehog. The fox was good at a lot of things. He was faster, he was quicker, he was smarter. But the hedgehog was really good at one thing. He was good at rolling up into a ball and being pokey. So the fox could never beat the hedgehog because the hedgehog did one thing really well. The principle of the story is to know what you do really well and to maximize that gifting or skill.

I told my youth group team, “We’re the hedgehog, and we have three spikes: serving opportunities, services and small groups. If it doesn’t really fall under one of those spikes, I don’t really care to do it.” I think part of creating a good structure is determining what can I sustain and what is most important for me to build things around.

One of the best books I’ve read in the last few years is called “Multipliers” by Liz Wiseman. Basically, the whole book talks about how as a leader you can be a multiplier, or you can be a diminisher. It has a bunch of case studies of companies and nonprofits that took off and connected people with vision because there was a leader who multiplied the genius in the room. The book is super good, and you should read it!

With that perspective, I’m leading this ministry not because I’m the expert but because I’m the best at pulling out what’s in each person. After reading the book, I now ask myself practical questions like, “Am I diminishing the gifts in the room, or am I multiplying them?” I am a better contributor now because I am able to move people’s hearts and get them to want to contribute too. I’m learning to help bring out their genius and give them space for their gifting to shine. Along with that, I’m learning not to over-task and under-train or give no resources to do the tasks I’m calling others to do. I’m leading better and stewarding my team well. And we’re seeing people join our teams and stay plugged in with our purpose because the space we’ve made for them is one they can thrive in.

Your ministry needs recruits. It needs volunteers. And your people need opportunities to shine for Christ. Determine what you’re good at, put a plan (and a leader!) in place over it, and then frame your invitations to join the team in such a way that they excite and inspire your people to step out of their comfort zones and do great things for God!

This blog was created using content from the webinar How to Connect People to Purpose.

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