Recruit vs. Invite- The difference matters to volunteers

By Kristin Schultz

It is with great joy that we announce the marriage of our daughter. You are cordially recruited to attend.

Have you ever received a wedding announcement that said that? Of course not! You are not recruited to a wedding; you are invited. Wedding invitations come on fancy paper and sometimes include ribbons and confetti. Someone puts a lot of thought and effort into making wedding invitations a vital part of the wedding event. When you receive one, you are invited to be a part of something.

What if we treated potential volunteers like that? That is, what if we invited people to volunteer instead of recruiting them?

Take a look at the list below. It lists events to which you may be invited and times when you may be recruited.

Invited
Wedding
Baby shower
Birthday party
Dinner with friends

Recruited
Help someone move
Compete as athletes in college
Join a club or organization
Apply for or accept a job

Do you see the difference? When you are invited, the host wants you to attend because you are valued.
Your presence will make the occasion even more special. When you are recruited, the leader sees that you have a set of skills that will contribute to the organization or event. When you are invited, you are called to something. When you are recruited, you are called for something.

Cogs in the Wheel

As our churches grow and expand, we see the need for more volunteers. Paid staff simply cannot do it all. So we recruit.

[Scene 1 - Announcement in church]
Mary (children’s ministry leader): We are gearing up for VBS, and as you know, it’s a lot of work. We need volunteers to teach; lead the craft center; make snacks; decorate; remove decorations; donate juice and cheese; and lead music, as well as opening and closing. There will be a sign-up sheet in the back of church after services today. I hope you all can lend us a hand and make this the best VBS ever!
[End scene]

What did Mary do? Mary looked at what needed to be done and then asked that someone, anyone, joyfully volunteer to be a cog in her VBS wheel.

Another Approach

Did Mary get the help she needed? Probably. Could she have been more effective? Yes. Instead of asking people to fill voids on her checklist, what if Mary invited people to make a difference in the lives of children during VBS week?

When we invite people to service, we ask that they live their faith by using their gifts and abilities. We are calling them to discipleship! When Jesus called the first disciples, he called them to follow him (Matthew 4:18–22). He didn’t recruit them for companionship or their fishing skills. He invited them to follow him.

Isn’t that what Christians are? Followers of Christ. How do we help people follow Christ and his example? How can we help people live their faith? By inviting them to discipleship.

According to the 2015 Study of Volunteerism as conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of people who volunteered did so at a faith-based organization. Faith is the primary motivator to service. Put another way, a person’s faith in Jesus motivates him or her to volunteer. You just have to invite individuals to live the disciple life. Invite them to be disciples.

Recruiting? Inviting?

To make the switch from recruiting to inviting, you must first change your attitude. Stop thinking of volunteers as recruits and start thinking of them as invitees to ministry.

People are more likely to use their gifts in discipleship if they are personally invited. Again, think of Jesus’ example. He didn’t carry a clipboard to the beach. He didn’t post a sign-up sheet. He didn’t make an announcement in the marketplace. He personally invited the disciples to follow him.

What would this look like for Mary, who is trying to invite volunteers to VBS ministry?

Paul (a member of Mary’s congregation) works at a local hardware store and teaches classes on basic woodworking to families. Would Paul be willing to use his skills - both in teaching and handiwork - to help a group of high-school students construct the various sets and decorations for VBS? Quality decoration can make the Bible stories come alive for everyone who attends VBS - children and teachers alike.

Darla’s famous deviled eggs are the star of the church picnic every year. Would Darla be willing to share her culinary gifts in the kitchen during VBS? When children are fed physically, they are better able to concentrate on the Word of God - spiritual food.

The Anderson family is involved in community theater. Would they be willing to play the parts of various Bible characters during VBS week? Think of the impact it would make if a child could actually speak to Saint Paul!

This kind of inviting takes time. It takes more time than making an announcement on Sunday morning and posting a notice for volunteers on Facebook. But the extra time and effort will make a much deeper impact. People want to matter. They want to make a difference. If we take into account individual giftedness and ongoing relationships in our churches, we can better understand where, when, and how to invite them to serve. We are also likely to retain those volunteers when we connect a deeper meaning - discipleship - to their service. When people are called to service, they understand they are not just a cog in a wheel, but rather an essential piece in the bigger picture.

So think of your conversations with potential volunteers as verbal wedding invitations! You would be honored to work with them. Their presence will make the event much more special for you and everyone else who attends. You are giving them the opportunity to be a part of a community of gifted believers who are blessed to be able to share their faith with those they serve. Invite them to service.


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