A box of potential
When I think about recruiting volunteers I think of a big yellow box with the word “Potential” emblazoned across the top of it. (Why yellow? Because when it comes to recruiting, I try to envision as many happy things as I can.) When I open this cheerfully colored box, I see inside it every person who is part of my church. As I look closely, I also see that every one of these people fall into one of four distinct groups.
The first group is people who are wearing t-shirts and hats that say, “I LOVE KIDS!” These awesome folks are jumping up and down with their hands raised yelling, “Pick me! Pick me!” I like this group, because they often come with their own “object lesson tool kits” and sometimes even provide their own snacks.
The second group is made up of people who are looking up at me and casually wondering why I am looking at them. They’re somewhat interested in volunteering but definitely not as fanatical as the first group.
The third group consists of people who are totally clueless that the lid is even open and that I am standing there watching them. For these people, children’s ministry is not even a blip on the radar.
And, the fourth and final group is those who the moment I took the lid off, scampered off to the dark corners of the box trying to hide. They are the ones who, for some reason, see me as a threat to their normal everyday life of bliss and happiness.
As I look at these four groups of people, my natural inclination is to primarily focus on the first group. Why? Because they make my recruiting task easy and even fun. (Now that’s two words not usually associated with volunteer recruitment.)
As for the other three groups? Well, I try to get them involved. I either call them (but only when I know they won’t be home so I can just leave a message), or I type up a sincere, heartfelt letter and click the “send” button. Beyond that, I don’t give them a lot of effort because, quite frankly, when I reach out to them, I almost always hear the word “no” more than I hear the word “yes.” Since I don’t like the indigestion the word “no” gives me, I tend to push these three groups out of my consciousness.
But, to be honest, if I do this, it presents a couple of big problems for me. The first is that there just isn’t enough of those “pick me, pick me” people to cover all the areas I need. The second is that as a church leader (and if you work with kids you are a church leader), God has called me to not only involve those who want to volunteer, but to involve those who don’t want to volunteer, as well. And, you know what? God has given you that calling, too! I know that it’s a bold statement, so before you hyperventilate, let me explain why I believe this is so.
The Bible speaks of a time when a Pharisee came to Jesus to ask Him which commandment of the Law was most important (Matthew 22:36-39). Personally, I say that’s a great question, even if the motives of this Pharisee weren’t the purest. After all, my inquiring mind tells me that if there is one thing God wants me to be doing above all others, I want to know what it is so I can make sure that I’m doing it! Believe it or not, Jesus gave the Pharisee an answer. He told him that there was not one but two commands. The first and greatest was to love God with all your heart, soul and mind. The second one, which was like it, was to love your neighbor as yourself.
There you have it. The Top Two. The Twin Towers of power. The Two Beacons of light that will guide us in our deepening walk with God. Jesus said, and I paraphrase, “So you want to be obedient? OK, then love God in your actions, in your words, in your thoughts and in your worship; and, love others as much as you love yourself.” Simple right? Yeah … not so much. Especially that “love your neighbor as yourself” statement. That’s a tough command for all of us. It’s one we usually try to sweep under the rug and casually act like it’s not there. The problem, however, is that we can’t do that, because without obeying this second command we will not grow spiritually.
To show you what I mean let’s turn to Ephesians 4:14-16. Here Paul says that all baby believers should desire to grow and become mature under the head of Christ. In real life, babies are cute and cuddly … for a while. Soon, however, we expect those babies to grow up, assume responsibility for themselves and become fully functioning members of the family. This is true for us spiritually as well. Paul says we must grow and mature as members of God’s family (His body) so that we can assume responsibility for ourselves and become functioning members of that family. To make this happen, Paul says that we must grow and build ourselves up in love. Love for who? Why, the very ones Jesus commanded us to love, of course! Love for God and love for others! Interesting, huh? If we merge the divinely inspired words of Paul with the words of Jesus, we discover that in order to mature, each of us must grow and build ourselves up in our love for God, AND each of us must grow and build ourselves up in our love for others.
We’re not done yet; we have one more question. How do we grow and build ourselves up in this love? Paul gives us the answer. We grow and build ourselves up in love as we work. That, my friends, is the hard part. We must work at loving God (through Bible study, prayer, obedience, church attendance) and we must work at loving others (through acts of kindness and service). If we do this, God promises us that we will grow and become a mature part of the body of Christ that He will use to do His work.
So, you might be asking, “What does this have to do with recruiting volunteers?” My answer … everything! If we can fully understand the process involved in becoming a mature believer, it will completely change the way we recruit volunteers. Let me explain. Our job as children’s leaders is twofold—to bring children into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and to bring to maturity the leaders who serve alongside us in completing this task. In God’s eyes, one is not more important than the other … they are equal. Someday, I believe we will all stand before God and be accountable for the children He placed in our care. But, I also believe we will be held accountable for the adults He put in our church who He wanted us to help grow and become mature by getting them involved in serving others. What a privilege it is to be a children’s leader! God has chosen you to have the greatest opportunity to help people mature in their walk, because you have been afforded the place with the greatest need for people to be serving in the church—the ministry to children! There is no other area in the church that has as many service opportunities—opportunities that will cause a person to grow and mature—as what the preschool and children’s ministries have to offer. We should rejoice in the fact that God has given us this privilege of being so involved in the maturation of others and the rewards in heaven for doing so!
So, here it is in a nutshell. If I truly believe that people only grow and mature when they are loving God and loving others, then it is my responsibility to help them to accomplish both. My job is not to do the work of the ministry all by myself; my job is to give the ministry over to God’s people so they can become mature as they serve. In a very real sense I am more of an administrator than I am a minister. My job is to organize and provide opportunities where people can work at loving God and loving others! This is a great task!
When I ask a person to serve, I shouldn’t go to them with hat in hand asking them to do me a favor by serving in the children’s ministry. Instead, I should go to them boldly stating that I want to do them a favor by getting them involved. If I have this attitude, I will now see recruiting in a whole new light. When I ask someone to volunteer, I will not feel guilty about putting them out or about bothering them. Instead, I will see their life as my responsibility, given to me by God, to grow and mature through service. I will say, “I love you enough to keep asking you over and over and over, because I know that if you don’t serve, you won’t grow. And I love you too much to let that happen.”
I hope you can now see that all of the people in your church need to be in the process of growing and maturing by leading a balanced spiritual life—a life where they work at loving God AND loving others. I also hope you see that it is your job to help them do this. If you succeed in this awesome task, the Bible promises that each person in your church will become a mature part of the body of Christ, ready to do even more of His work. When that happens, you will have all the volunteers you’ll ever need.