A group of seminary students was firing questions at me. We were talking about working with volunteers and, of course, 90 percent of their queries pertained to the topic of recruiting. How do you find volunteers? Where are they? These are the questions everyone asks.

volunteer_3dThe questions went on and on until eventually they caught on to the answer I was trying to communicate to them: volunteers recruit volunteers. Some of them looked puzzled. Some were surprised. Others looked relieved. It made perfect sense, once they understood.

Looking for good volunteers? Start with your current volunteers.

  • Five people recruiting is better than one assigned to
    the task.
  • Happy volunteers love their area of ministry and
    tell others.
  • Prospective volunteers seeing your current volunteers in action is the best recruiting tool you have.

Five Recruiters are Better Than One

Lisa plopped down on a chair in my office and announced she could no longer keep it up. Recruiting every single volunteer for the children’s ministry each year was too much, and she was done, ready to quit. She explained that her circle of friends was small, and she couldn’t continue asking this same group of people over and over again.

We all have social networks made up of people we know and those we have influence with. These are our friends, family, and coworkers — the people we do life with. Most of the time, everyone’s circle of influence is unique to him or her. When more people are recruiting, more volunteers are found.

So how do you go about getting people you know to help
you recruit?

  • Send an email to all of your connections with a description of the role you are looking to fill and ask for names of all those who might be interested.
  • At your next meeting, give all of your volunteers slips of paper and ask them to write down the names of potential volunteers.
  • At meetings, talk with your team about potential volunteers and empower them to go after others.
  • Distribute role descriptions to use when talking with prospective volunteers.
  • Pray with your current volunteers for new ones to
    join the team.

Your Best Advertising is Satisfied, Happy Volunteers

The best advertising any ministry area can have is its own people. They are the most trusted source of accurate information and enthusiasm. It’s that way with most things in life. You use the moisturizer your best friend uses because she loves it. You buy the truck your friend drives because he says it can haul the most stuff. You eat at the restaurant your brother likes because you trust his taste buds. When your volunteers love their ministry area, they will tell their friends.

If you sit in a pew at our church on Sunday mornings and watch him, you’ll quickly discover that Dan is the most energetic sixty-year-old ever. He loves his volunteer role. He’s the first one at church on Sunday morning, and he’s the last to leave. He will tell you, if you ask him, how much he enjoys personally welcoming people to the church he believes in and loves. He moves quickly from place to place with a smile on his face, welcoming people, guiding them to where they will be most comfortable. Dan is one of our volunteer ushers.

On one Sunday morning, Dan watched a man take his usual place at church. He’d noticed that this gentleman had been attending for almost a year. Dan would greet him, the man would always sit in the same spot, and soon he had his name memorized. It wasn’t long before their conversations lasted longer than a few seconds. Dan would talk about his great love for his work as an usher, smiling as he shared. Eventually he popped the question, “Do you want to be an usher?” The typical, predictable, churchgoing man thought about it for a second, and then he agreed.

Why did he say yes? Probably because he’d been watching Dan, a person who loved his role, and had heard him talk about it regularly. Dan was the best one to represent the job, since he did it each Sunday. Happy volunteers share stories with others, and they invite them to be a part of what they love. Do your volunteers love their ministry? If so, do you encourage them to share stories about what they do with others?


“The Volunteer Church” was developed out of the ministry of Leith Anderson at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, where a vital and vibrant volunteer program boasting 4,000 participants grew under the leadership of Jill Fox. The principles and training have been applied in churches of all sizes and denominations in seminar settings across the country as well as a Wooddale Church. Order at NAE.net/volunteerchurch.

This excerpt is from the chapter, “Volunteers Recruit Volunteers.” Used by permission of the publisher, Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Jill Fox
Jill Fox graduated from Bethel University and Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, with an M.A. in transformational leadership. She served for a dozen years at Wooddale Church, in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Eight of those years, she oversaw the volunteer development ministry she designed and implemented. She was pastor of creative arts, young adults and The Gathering, Wooddale’s Sunday night alternative worship service.