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By Glenn C. Daman

With fall came the annual drive for leaders in the Awana program. While the rural church found the program effective in reaching the community, the task of maintaining enough leaders and workers was constantly a struggle. Each year the Pastor and Awana leader had to grapple with the problem of keeping the past volunteers committed to another year. Replacing those that no longer participated required numerous phone calls and appeals. The challenge of keeping the program staffed became more and more difficult. Soon they were having to cut back on the number of children in the program because they could no longer recruit enough workers. After several more years, the program was dropped. The people were discouraged because another ministry had failed. The pastor was frustrated because the people were "unwilling to serve," and the leader moved to another church where he no longer had to take on any responsibility. Since workers are few and the responsibilities many, recruiting and keeping volunteers is crucial for the rural church ministry. Recruiting and keeping people active within the church involves addressing four critical areas: The development of a theology of volunteerism, the recruitment of volunteers, the motivation of volunteers, and the training of volunteers.


The Theology of Leadership:

Developing the right leadership style is the first step in developing a theology of volunteerism. There are several styles of which will discourage people from service. The 'Ruler' is one who has to make all significant decisions and withholds all authority from others. Since others are a threat, he discourages others from taking leadership and developing new ideas. The 'Doer' is one who feels compelled to do all the work, encouraging people to become passive in ministry rather than active. As a result, the church can only do as much as that one particular person is capable of doing. Those who do desire to serve, either quit and go elsewhere or become discouraged and stop working. The Sleeper is one who stands aside and does nothing, allowing others to lead. The result is that there is no clear leader which results in a lack of clear direction. The 'Manipulator' is one who uses people to accomplish what he/she desires to accomplish. People become a tool used to achieve the leaders own self-serving goals rather than the goals which serve and benefit the whole church. In contrast, the style which Scripture sets forth is that of an 'Equipper'. The task of leadership is to equip others to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13). The people do not serve the leader so that he/she can be effective in ministry, rather the leader serves the people so that they can be effective in ministry. The Equipper is one who not only guides the group in setting mutually beneficial goals, but also encourages and helps people to grow and develop in the process.

A Theology of Service:

Developing a biblical theology of service begins with a sound theology of the priesthood of the believers. To equip and lead people in service, the leader needs to have a clear understanding of the biblical teaching regarding every individual's call to ministry. Leaders first need to teach and model the importance and necessity of service as an important expression of one's spirituality. This understanding is based upon the biblical truth that all believers are gifted (that is called) by the Holy Spirit for service within the church (1 Corinthians 12). Serving through involvement is no longer optional, but essential for spiritual health. Second, volunteerism is rooted in the doctrine of divine empowerment. As people are created in the image of God, we possess qualities, talents, and abilities which are an expression of the nature of God to be used for the glory of God (Psalms 139:13ff; Exodus 35:30-36:7). As people empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are capable of performing tasks that exceed our own natural abilities (Romans 12:3-8; 2 Corinthians 9:8). Third, service is grounded in the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing to fruition the work we have started. The apostle Paul makes it clear that fruitfulness in ministry is the responsibility and work of God (1 Corinthians 3:5-15). Consequently, people can serve with confidence because they realize the success of a particular ministry is ultimately not their responsibility but the Holy Spirit's. God is capable of using our meager efforts to accomplish eternally significant results.


Not only should the leader teach and model a right theology of volunteerism, he/she must also actively recruit people. How a leader recruits people can either inspire people to ministry or discourage them from ministry.

Principle #1: Recruit to a purpose, not to a position. Before recruiting people to ministry, the leader needs to answer the question: "Why is this ministry/job/task important?" People will not commit themselves to a task that they feel is unimportant. People do not volunteer to build an organization or program (even a church's). They become involved because they desire to influence, change, and help other people as well as build personal relationships. Consequently, they will not volunteer to something that they feel is only filling an organization or program slot. When recruiting, the leader should recruit to a vision and purpose. When people can visualize how the particular task will help reach and build people for Christ, then they will be more committed and willing to sacrifice their time, energies, and finances. Because they are called to serve people on behalf of God, ministry becomes a privilege rather than a duty.

Principle #2: Recruit with a right method. Avoid using guilt, manipulation, and cajoling as a way of involving people. People who volunteer out of guilt and manipulation will not only perform the task with mediocrity, they will not remain committed when the responsibility becomes difficult. The church needs people who have a passion for the ministry and a burden for the people to whom they are called to serve. Consequently, in recruiting, the leader enlists based upon their desires, passions and interest by informing them of the importance of the ministry and giving them the right to say no if the ministry does not express their passion and giftedness. For example: When recruiting someone to care for the church landscaping, we should not only recruit those who enjoy yard work, but point out the importance that the appearance of the church has in reaching unchurched people.

Principle #3: Recruit based on giftedness. Since God has equipped and gifted each person in areas of service, the recruiting process involves directing people to the ministries and opportunities that fit their particular gifts, talents, and abilities. Slotting people in areas of service that do not match their giftedness and abilities will discourage them in ministry, resulting in ineffective ministries. The essence of recruiting is not just getting people involved in the ministry of the church, it is getting people involved in ministries that harmonize with their divinely ordained gifts.

Principle #4: Have clear job descriptions. In order to aid both the leader and the volunteer in being matched with the right ministry, each ministry opportunity should have a clearly communicated (either verbally or written) job description. This description should not only outline the responsibilities of the individual, but also the type of skills and abilities required to adequately accomplish the task.

Principle #5: Recruit through individual appeal. When a need arises within the ministry of the church, there are two ways it can be revealed to the congregation: through individual contact and by general announcement. Directly appealing to individuals not only matches gifts with ministries, it also gives people a sense of significance within the body of Christ. By being asked directly, they gain a greater appreciation that they are important to the ministry of the church and that they can contribute to the body of Christ. In recruiting individuals, care should be given to the words used. Often people are recruited with the line, "John, we can't find anyone to teach the High School class, would you teach it?" This approach not only belittles the importance of the ministry, it also belittles the importance of their contribution to the church. A better approach would be, "John, the kids in the High School class need to be taught the importance of obedience. Your name came up as someone who would be able to minister to these kids. Would you be willing to teach the class this year?"

Principle #6: Recruit through general appeal. The second method of making ministry opportunities available is through a general appeal. The church should have a list of every ministry opening available, from teaching to maintaining the facilities, and periodically making this list available to the congregation so that people are aware of the needs. When compiling this list, the leadership needs to think creatively and comprehensively. Not only is a teaching position an imprtant ministry, but so is the need for people who would be willing to commit themselves to pray for specific ministries at specific times. By gaining greater understanding of all the ministries available and needed within the church, people gain a better understanding of the importance of their own contribution to the body.

Principle #7: Avoid overworking the workers. The saying has always been that if you want something done, give the job to those who are already busy. While this may be true at times, it also can be dangerous to the health of the church. Within the rural church there are the few who are doing most of the ministries. To give them more responsibilities not only may result in their burnout, it also deprives others the opportunity to serve. One of the tasks of the leadership is to guard people from becoming over committed.

Principle #8: Recognize that some are generalists and some are specialists. Within the rural church there will be a number of individuals who are generalists in ministry. They are individuals who are gifted, willing and able to perform a multiplicity of responsibilities. Others may be gifted in a few areas but able to exercise these gifts in a variety of ministries. Still others may be specialist. That is, they are gifted in specific areas and are only willing and able to focus upon one responsibility. Because the rural church ministry depends largely upon generalists, the specialist can either be overlooked, or worse, considered unspiritual because they are not willing to perform more than one responsibility. Both the generalists and the specialists need to be recognized and utilized within the church.

Principle #9: Let people say no, but not never. As people are recruited they should always be given the freedom to say no. But just because people say no, this does not mean that they are unwilling to serve. Rather it may mean that they are not interested or called to that particular area of ministry. When they say no, it is an excellent opportunity to inquire what ministries they would be interested in serving. By keeping a record of their responses, the leader has an initial list of people to recruit when there is a ministry opportunity related to that particular interest. It is only when they refuse to serve in any capacity that they should be confronted concerning their refusal to serve.

Steps in Recruitment:

1. Identify present and future needs.

2. Identify potential workers to fill the needs.

3. Provide job descriptions to individuals.

4. Enlist the individual.

5. Provide initial and continual training.

Job Description Format

1. Job Title:2. Job Description:3. Purpose of Ministry:4. Responsible to:5. Requirements:

a. Length of Service:

b. Weekly Time Commitment:

c. Other:

6. Responsibilities:

7. Training Provided:

8. Qualifications and Skills:

9. Projected Areas of Personal Growth:

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