Earlier this week I vented my frustration over the use of the term “recruiting” when applied to volunteer management. Terminology is often a conundrum. Do we use words that the majority of people will understand, and not concern ourselves with their response (after all, we can’t control what others think or feel). Or do we adopt words that more effectively describe our point, but may be confusing and require explanation?
Frankly, I don’t have the answer… Except for the term “recruit” (and its various grammatical forms)! I much prefer to invite people into ministry than to recruit them for ministry. You may want to repeat that last sentence a time or two to let it sink in.
As a ministry leader, when I work with folks to help them understand how God has equipped them to serve, I want to develop a relationship. I ask God to help me see beyond our conversation to what he has done, and is doing, in their life. My goal is to help them find the ministry that God has prepared for them (Ephesians 2:10) and which will contribute to their spiritual formation (Romans 8:29).
As we enter into the matching/placement phase of equipping, I am not only thinking about the person I’m working with, but now I also turn my attention to the various ministries. I want to invite this person into a ministry that will be fulfilling; I also want to serve the ministry area by matching someone with gifts and graces that spur it on to meet its objective. I want to extend an invitation to participate in something that is mutually beneficial. This process is motivated by a genuine concern for the servant minister and a deep love for the ministry of the Church.
Recruiting doesn’t convey that same sense of care and concern… in my mind, at least. It doesn’t speak of the asking, listening, discerning, and guiding that goes into an invitation to serve. Rather, it speaks to me of a slot-filling, meet-the-quota mentality. I regularly run across churches that have that same mentality when it comes to getting ministry done. Many of them speak of the need to “recruit more volunteers” and having “recruitment drives.” Before they know it, they are treating volunteers like tools–objects to be used to get the job done–rather than who the really are: children of the Most High God and ministers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I encourage you to take some time to seriously consider the terminology you use and how it impacts those you serve. Which terms do you use that may have a negative connotation? Do you need to change them? Perhaps more importantly, how do the words you choose shape your perspective towards ministry? How do they reflect your objective? If your objective is to fill slots, then using “recruitment” terminology is fine. But if your objective is to lovingly guide people into ministry, you will want to adopt “invitational” terminology!