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A Better Way to Recruit
Is your current approach to plugging in volunteers helping or hurting your mission?


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One of the keys to a church's missional success is how it deploys its members. There are two approaches: one facilitates the church's mission, while the other often frustrates it. Few in the church ever clarify this choice, but every church makes it, and every church lives with the conse-quences of its choice.

The institutional approach to lay ministry begins with the needs of the institution. Every church needs Sunday school teachers, committee members, musicians, ushers. When a job opens up, the institutional response is to search for a person who seems most suitable to fill it and/or is most likely to say yes. Success, in such churches, is when a member says, "Okay, I'll do it." Hopefully the person is qualified, gifted, and motivated for that ministry, but there are no guarantees. If it turns out there is a mismatch between member and task, the result is a job poorly done and a member mostly frustrated. "Plugging warm bodies into ministry slots in a congregation," says ministry veteran Pam Heaton, "tends to increase volunteer burnout, dissatisfaction, and depar-ture." With the institutional approach to lay ministry, church members exist to serve the needs of the institution.

The individual approach is far less widely practiced, but significantly more effective for missional success. Here the goal is not to fill a vacancy but to find or create a place where members can joyfully and productively participate in the mission. Rather than beginning with the needs of the institution, the individual approach begins with the strengths of the person. Church members are encouraged to try a position related to their interest and see how it fits. If it does, the member may choose to spend more time in that ministry and/or receive additional training. If the task is not comfortable, or the person does not feel a sense of calling, guide him or her to explore other ministries that might be a better fit. If a match cannot be found, explore the option of creating a new ministry. In the individual approach to lay ministry, the institution exists for the benefit of the people rather than the people for the benefit of the institution.

Consider the difference in results of these two approaches to lay ministry …

Take a Lay Ministry Check-Up

The chart below can help you discern whether your present approach to lay ministry is increasing or decreasing the likelihood of missional success. First, write in line 1 the number that represents your total church constituency—all church members, plus regular attenders who are not officially members (above age thirteen). Next, determine in which column your church falls on rows 2-18. All the numbers in the chart are percentages. Calculate your percentages based on your total church constituency (line 1), unless otherwise noted. If you find your scores are primarily in the left columns, it is likely that your members are seen as "workers" and the focus of your ministry is on the church institution. The farther your scores are to the right, the more likely your members are seen as "ministers," and the focus of your ministry is on people.

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Topics:Vision, Volunteer care, Volunteer recruitment, Volunteer training, Volunteers
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