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In my travels among churches, it seems as though the idea of recruiting is "old school" and the new wave is "releasing people into gift-based ministry."

I support that 100 percent. I certainly believe in helping people to find their way into the ministry that God designed especially for them. And there is no doubt that Holy Spirit directed ministry wins hands down over performance oriented activity.

But for those who want to abandon developing the skill of recruiting for a higher, more spiritual approach, I can't support that. I've traveled to many churches and I haven't found one yet that has people standing in line, pleading for their turn to serve in the nursery.

We still must recruit. I don't think the Holy Spirit has forsaken the nursery, but people are people and most of them would rather hang out at Starbucks than serve in the nursery. Hmmm, could we serve iced latte's in the nursery?

It may be the word itself: "recruit." It sounds too military, like an Army recruiter. We want to live at a higher spiritual level and that's good. The goal of leading and training people toward Christian maturity is essential and helpful, but in the meantime, we're still looking for someone to teach the fourth grade boys!

And as you'll see in this article, the Holy Spirit can, and needs to be part of the recruiting process.

The leadership skill of recruiting doesn't exist in a vacuum. The skill of gathering is a critical pre-requisite to effective recruiting (see last edition of "The Pastor's Coach"). With that as a foundation, let's look at what seasoned leaders do to recruit.

1. There is a direct correlation between the amount of time invested in the recruiting process and how long the person will serve in a particular ministry.
Don't recruit while running down the hallway, out of breath and late for the church service. Take time. Make an appointment to meet for "coffee" or dessert somewhere and invest some time. This communicates two things; first, that the person is important, and second, the ministry is important.

2. Get over thinking that no one can do it as well as you can.
That may or may not be true (usually isn't), but the greater truth is that you can't do it all, and therefore recruiting, releasing and empowering are essential elements to your success as a leader.

Perfectionism kills the skill of recruiting. If a person doesn't "perform" to acceptable standards, don't back away from recruiting; move toward them with world class training and genuine encouragement.

Don't get caught in the trap of "it's easier to do it myself." Many things in ministry, independent of one another, may be easier to do yourself, but that doesn't mean they are a priority that requires your personal effort.

A 50-something-year-old pastor in Oklahoma asked me, "Who will mow the grass if I don't?" I said to him: "Maybe no one; let it grow. When it gets so tall you can't find the church van, someone will cut it." He smiled and got the point.

What if the stakes are higher than whether or not the lawn is green and trim? There are some things in ministry that need to be done, and you may be tempted to do them on your own. When confronted with 5,000 people to feed, Jesus did not assume a position of "I better do this Myself." Instead, He recruited His disciples to get the job done. In Matthew's account, chapter 14:16, while admittedly in a directive manner, Jesus nonetheless recruited.

Pastor, it is your job to see the need, cast the vision, recruit others to help, and allow Jesus to bless the process.

3. The best recruiting is done one-on-one. And always recruit to a vision, not a job description.
Pulpit announcements, letters, skits, notices in the bulletin or newsletters rarely recruit anyone. It is best to think of these tools as forms of information, not forms of recruitment.

Dave Sutherland, CEO of The INJOY Group, is the best recruiter I've ever met. Some of the most gifted, high capacity people I've ever met are on the INJOY team because of Dave. When I see a potential recruit walking into his office, I think... "He's a gonner!" I know Dave will share vision in such a compelling way that the winners will respond.

Dave knows that nothing beats a face-to-face, heart-to-heart connection where you ask a person to get involved in meaningful ministry. Hype and perks don't pull in the winners, one-on-one, heart-to-heart, compelling vision casting does it.

Share from your heart the why of the particular ministry before you share what exactly is done. For example, if recruiting for children's teachers/helpers, tell first about the incredible opportunity to impact a young child's life with the love of Christ, then talk about what the actual duties are.

4. Give them time to think and pray about their decision.
Don't force a decision on the spot, unless they are clearly ready to decide. But do give them a time frame to make their decision - usually about a week is enough time, two weeks for major leadership positions.

5. Be honest about what the ministry expectations and requirements are.
Don't "undersell" the ministry. People respond far better to a challenge than to something that is described as "no big deal." Let them know all of the expectations as well as the overall objective.

6. Part of becoming an effective recruiter is learning how to keep those you recruit.
Remember to do these three things and you will see results: first, express appreciation often; second, provide quality training and resources; and third, set them up for success.

7. Pray before you ask anyone to do anything.
There are many times when you "need someone now" to help in a particular ministry. But when last minute emergencies give way to panic, you cut out the Holy Spirit's opportunity to guide your prayers and the receptivity of the person you are praying for.

There have been many times when God said "No," but then gave me another name—the right name. You may be thinking, "I don't have time for an all-night prayer vigil in an emergency"—you're right, you don't. But I urge you to take just a few moments to quiet yourself and allow God in on your problem. It's amazing how He can turn panic into potential.

Let me leave you with some encouraging words. There were many things as a pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church that I was not good at, but recruiting was not one of those shortcomings. I could recruit...very well, but not because I was persuasive or charismatic or powerful.

There was a little white couch in my office that as the years went by earned a tongue in cheek saying on the Skyline Campus that went something like this: "Whatever you do, don't sit on the little white couch, 'cause if you do, you're a gonner!"

The little white couch was a love seat, reminding me to love, honor and respect anyone who sat in it. That was my secret, and this is the first time I have ever shared that. Love the people from your heart and see what God will do.

This article is used by permission from
Dr. Dan Reiland's free monthly e-newsletter
The Pastor's Coach available at

Author Biography

Dan Reiland
Web site: 12 Stone Church
Dan Reiland is Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY.

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