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Recruitment Tactics

I’m quite frustrated by the use of the term “recruit”—and all variations of said term—in conjunction with volunteer management. (Listen carefully and you will hear the sound of my soapbox hitting the ground!) I cringe when I hear leaders talk about “recruiting” new volunteers, especially when spoken with an air of desperation.Why am I irritated by this silly little word, you ask? Because it evokes a strong memory.

When each one of my three children entered their junior year of high school, we would receive at least three calls a week from well-meaning recruiting officers who represented each of the four branches of the armed services. Now, please don’t misunderstand! I am very grateful for the selfless service of our military men and women, and respect their commitment to defending our nation’s freedom. My irritation was over the fact that these recruiters not only interrupted our family meals (why did they always call at dinnertime?), but they seemed insistent on trying to “recruit” my children prematurely. I felt they were taking advantage of their innocence by trying to convince my kids to commit to something they didn’t fully understand.

Today I was compelled today to look up the word “recruit” in the dictionary. I wondered if perhaps I was being too narrow-minded about the definition and needed enlightening. I found it interesting that Webster’s Dictionary defines “recruit”—in both verb and noun forms—first and primarily in the context of the military. Maybe I’m not so narrow-minded after all!

“…trying to convince them to commit to something they didn’t fully understand.” Does that grab your attention? Prick your conscience? Are you using recruitment tactics? I hate to admit it, but I have. I’ve experienced the desperation of needing a body to fill a ministry slot, of coaxing someone to do something when I know they don’t fully understand what they are committing to… whether that understanding relates to the purpose of the ministry, the time involved, or the skills needed to accomplish the task.

A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog titled No-Show Volunteer Syndrome. According to my handy blog stats report, that post garnered more attention than the others combined! If you are struggling with this problem, you need to know that there are more reasons for it than devaluing a serving opportunity, which was addressed in that post. Using recruitment tactics is a common cause of AWOL volunteers. Once a volunteer realizes that they’ve committed to a ministry that they aren’t passionate about, a task for which they are not gifted,  a service that saps their precious time and energy, they simply don’t show up. They quickly reason that, in spite of the recruitment tactics they succumbed to, church is not the military and  there will be no court martial!

So, does terminology really matter? It does when it evokes a memory that triggers an automatic defense! What, then, is the alternative to “recruitment,” regarding both terminology and practice? I’ll address this in my next post, so stay tuned… In the meantime, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject of no-show volunteers!

(If you want to ensure that you see the continuing discussion regarding No Show Volunteer Syndrome, simply scroll back up to the beginning of the post and click on the subscribe button.)

4 thoughts on “Recruitment Tactics

  1. Andee, we wrestle with terminology here quite a bit. One of our challenges is addressing the “marketing” aspect of our content. People (the world at large) use certain terms, like recruiting, and even though we find them inaccurate or misleading, how do we abandon terms that could draw a wider audience to the message? Or we adopt terms that may be unfamiliar to those who are newer to the equipping model…thoughts?

  2. It is, indeed, a conundrum, Sue. I have heard Sue Mallory say that she’s never found the word “volunteer” in the Bible and, of course, she is correct! Yet I continue to use the term, as do you all at Church Volunteer Central. I do so because it is easily understood by everyone. Yes, I know that some folks may have a negative response to the word based on a past experience–not unlike my visceral reaction to “recruit”–but I think the general population receives it in (at least) a neutral context.

    Also, when I am in a teaching position, I replace the word “volunteer” with “servant minister” as much as I can to help my listeners re-frame the concept. I’ve noticed that CVC often does the same thing. I read something from the website recently that spoke of “inviting” rather than “recruiting.” It’s just another step in the process of changing the culture!

  3. The expression “Recruiting volunteers” in the context of inviting people to be involved in ministry was strange to me when I first heard it. I grew up in a context where we use those words only to invite people to help clean up or set up during special events (wedding, children’s week, etc…). And we “recruit” for a paid position. In my home church members of the church are often invited to become “active members” and there is a mindset that an “active member” is somebody who is involved in ministry (sunday school leaders, children ministry, choir, lay preaching etc. you name it). Active members work alongside full time pastors to cover different ministries within the Church. Maybe an alternative to the use of “recruiting volunteers” can be to invest in discipleship and true disciples will long to discover their gifts and use them. Inviting people to become an active part of the body of Christ.

    • Exactly, Christel! Ministry is a critical component of discipleship. As we learn more about Christ and understand that we are to be conformed to His likeness, we realize that serving others is the example He set for us to follow (John 13:12-17). In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul shows us see that we are not asked to do anything that we have not been equipped to do.

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