Reasons to Serve and Excuses Not to

Before doing the actual enlisting of a worker, a leader needs to realize why people do accept a position of service in a church. There are many reasons, and not all of them are good. Sometimes the person doing the enlisting appeals to reasons that are not the best ones. The list below lists many of the reasons that people do serve in a church. The better ones are at the top of the list.

1. Desire to do God’s will and answer His call
2. Desire to learn and grow
3. Desire to use skills, abilities, and knowledge to help others
4. Desire to achieve self-fulfillment
5. Desire to support a cause
6. Desire to belong to a group and be accepted and loved
7. Desire to develop new interests and abilities
8. Desire to make new friends
9. Desire to test out career possibilities
10. Desire to come to terms with one’s conscience
11. Desire to support a friend who asked them to serve
12. Desire for status that goes with the position
13. Desire for recognition
14. Sense of habit
15. Sense of duty, obligation, or guilt
16. Sense of debt

Excuses people give for not serving

People have a number of excuses for not serving in the church. The person enlisting should be aware of these, and be prepared to discuss them.

1. Lack of confidence. This causes many individuals to hesitate, even refuse, to accept a position of leadership. We must seek to discover the source of this feeling and endeavor to bring them new assurance. We may explain that others with no more ability than they have are doing the job successfully. A more thorough explanation of the task may also help to remove a lack of confidence.

2. Indifference. This can be overcome by finding out the cause of the indifference and then presenting the needs of the church in an effective manner.

3. A misunderstanding of the task itself. This causes many to say “no” when asked to serve. Some make the work seem much more difficult than it actually is. We ought to be careful to explain in detail the work they are to do, and show its relationship to the task of the church.

4. Never asked. Some are not working because they have never been asked to serve. It is very easy for us to deceive ourselves and think we have given every individual in the church an opportunity for ministry, when in reality we may have missed several who have leadership ability.

5. Burnout

6. Lack of time

7. Lack of respect for the leader

Obstacles to recruitment

1. Changing view of volunteerism where people want to be paid
2. Women with full-time jobs in workplace and little time to volunteer
3. Men working away from home, commuting long hours, and/or working a second job
4. The success of adult classes has people wanting to stay there
5. The social isolation of children’s teachers
6. A strong “me” orientation in our society
7. Lack of an understanding of a theology of service
8. A project orientation in our culture, desiring short-term commitment
9. Feeling that it is someone else’s job to do it
10. A vacuum of prayer
11. Expensive hobbies that demand time be given to them
12. Long distances some drive to church
13. Indifference of Christians

Enlistment Procedures

Once workers have been selected, next comes the task of placing them in the position and teaching them the ropes.

Before enlistment begins

Job analysis

The place to begin is to do a job analysis of the entire church, and list all the positions that are available. This should include Sunday School, children’s church, week-day clubs, nursery, choir, committees, home Bible
classes, ladies’ and men’s organizations, etc.
This can be quite a surprise. Churches usually have more positions than they realize. A church of 600 members may have 183 volunteer leader positions. These positions are manned by 86 individuals with an average of 2.2 positions per volunteer.

Organizational charts

Organizational charts should then be prepared showing the relationship of each organization, and the positions within each organization. The relationship of the organizations to the church pastors should be shown on the charts.

Forecast needs

The church could then forecast the volunteer worker needs for the next few years.
a) Begin by determining the desirable leader-pupil ratio.
b) Calculate the present needs: (1) Are you at the desirable level in every area. (2) What positions are weak and need strengthening?
c) Project the enrollment for the next three years. Anticipate an expanded organization. Check with church council and the long range planning committee for their report.
d) Check the turnover rate and then put it all together.

Write job descriptions

Before asking someone to do a job, the job needs to be described in a job description. This will avoid confusion about the responsibilities and requirements of a position.

A job description is an organized summary of the duties, responsibilities, and qualifications for a position. It usually contains the correct title for the position, a brief statement of the major responsibility, a listing of the specific duties, the qualifications required and the supervisor of the position. Some will include performance criteria which will state that the position is being well handled when the following conditions exist. Job descriptions help to locate the right person for a position, and also help the worker on the job and help his supervisor in evaluation.

When writing job descriptions, there are many basic principles to follow. Involve the present workers in the preparation of job descriptions, keep them informed of the progress, and present final copies to them for discussion before the descriptions become policy. People who have previously served in positions should be asked for information.

Collect sample job descriptions from available sources. Several church manuals have been printed that have job descriptions. Sunday School worker job descriptions can be found in Sunday School manuals. Week-day club job descriptions can be found in their leadership manuals. Ask other churches for work they have done. Also, use job questionnaires, interviews, and job time analysis forms to prepare job descriptions for existing jobs.

Organize and summarize the duties for each job. List the duties by order of importance on each job description, with the highest priority duty being listed first. Use language that is specific. The words used should convey only one definite meaning. Use present tense verbs in writing.

Job descriptions could be collected in a workers manual. This can be very helpful in enlistment as well as supervision. Many churches have not taken the time to develop such a manual, and they are missing a valuable tool. A leadership manual is not to be considered as permanent or as hard to change as a Church Constitution and By-Laws. A leadership manual should be viewed as a work in progress, and changes can be made in it as new ministry opportunities are made available, or changes can be made in existing ministry positions.

A leadership manual might start with a workers covenant that would make it plain to workers in any place of ministry what the expectations are. A second general section might spell out what the church expects from all workers, and what all workers can expect from the church. A sample follows that could be adapted to your church.

1. Growth in the Christian life
2. Membership in and commitment to the church
3. Faithful use of your gifts, skills, and abilities
4. Thorough preparation for your duties
5. Regular attendance and early arrival at church sessions and planning meetings
6. Participation in training sessions and self-improvement through reading and study
7. Cooperation with co-workers

1. Worship, study, and growth experiences for your personal development
2. Periodic orientation and training sessions
3. Resources to help you in your task, including: resource people, curriculum materials, facilities, equipment, and supplies
4. Recognition of your work as vital in the life and ministry of our church

Establish qualifications for the jobs

The qualifications for a job should be formulated in reasonably precise terms before enlistment begins. This may very well be a part of the job descriptions. Some churches are putting the spiritual gifts needed in the qualifications. Qualifications give the personal qualities, talents, skills, and training needed to serve in that position. Five questions need to be answered when establishing the qualifications for a job:
a) What kind of person is best suited for this job?
b) What personality traits and characteristics are needed in the person
filling this position?
c) What skills are required for this position?
d) What training and experience is necessary for this job?
e) What spiritual gift should a person have to be effective in this

A failure to do this will lead to misfitting workers and positions. With these specified, the enlistment of the right worker will be more certain.

Select one candidate

A list of 5–10 potential workers for a particular position can be made. If additional information is needed on any of the people on the list, it should be gathered. This list should be investigated and prayed over until it is narrowed down to one individual. This is the most difficult part of the entire process. It is also one of the most important parts. Too many times in selecting and enlisting workers a list is made and then enlistment works from the top to the bottom and the first one who accepts is the one that is God’s choice, or we simply ask someone to fill in for now and consider that as a permanent solution. Pastors and professional staff are not selected that way, but many volunteers are “selected” in very unspiritual ways.

This selection process might be performed or supervised by a nominating committee. The following duties could be established for the nominating committee:
1. Select, interview, and enlist the church program directors, committee chairpersons, and church officers.
2. Screen workers before they are asked to serve. This is a clearing house function.
3. Distribute leadership according to priority needs of the church.
4. Assist in discovering potential workers. They should be a resource group. This might include maintaining a talent survey file.
5. Present workers to the church for election.

The enlistment interview

Enlistment should be personal. A group of ministers were asked what they found to be the most effective means of recruiting volunteers, and 75.5% indicated that a personal invitation played a significant role. Persons who will supervise should do the enlistment interview. It might be wise to take along someone who has done the job to answer questions about the job. Remember that enlisting is more than asking, but less than selling. Don’t just ask, but don’t oversell to get a

Make an appointment

The one doing the enlisting should then make an appointment to visit the person selected. Too many times people are asked to work right after the church service is over as though the invitation to work was not worth a special visit. This should be a personal visit and not just a telephone call. Too much enlisting has been conducted over the telephone. The appointment should be at the person’s home or office. The individual to be enlisted should be in familiar surroundings. The specific purpose for the appointment might be better not disclosed.

Prepare for the appointment with prayer

Gather the materials

The materials that will be needed should be collected. This would include a workers’ covenant and a job description. The objects the person will work with should be gathered. For example, if a new Sunday School teacher is being enlisted, the Sunday School curriculum material should be taken, the class roll, and maybe a Sunday School administration book or cassette tape that would be a training aide.

During the visit

a) Get to the point quickly. When the enlistment interview is being conducted the visitor should get to the point very rapidly. It will probably take nearly an hour to properly go through the materials, and fifteen minutes to talk about the weather is unnecessary. Tell the person about the job you have come to enlist him to do.
b) Explain the selection procedure you have been through to arrive at his name. Emphasize that you believe God has led you to select him for this position, but only if you feel this.
c) Go over the worker’s covenant with the person, and explain its purpose and its applications. Read through the job description and let the person know exactly what the position requires. Give the opportunities, expectations, and problems. One suggestion was to introduce the position in terms of ministry with the job description, in terms of time and preparation, in terms of relationships, in terms of opportunity, and in terms of qualifications.
d) Present the tools that the worker has to help to do the job. For example, many people will lose their fear of teaching a Sunday School class when they see how much help is available in a teacher’s manual. Explain the types of inservice training that is available to help the person to improve his performance.
e) Then ask for questions. If the candidate doesn’t have any, the visitor might probe a little to get the person talking some to reveal what he is thinking and feeling. Of course, the visitor should answer all questions as completely as he can.
f) A time of prayer should follow, where you ask God for guidance. I generally ask the person if they will kneel with me. I pray first and thank God for guiding me to the candidate. I ask God to reveal His will to the person selected for the leadership position. I do ask God to stop us from making a mistake and putting the wrong person in the position. I then ask the one I am visiting to pray.
g) Finally, ask for a decision. After the prayer time, I ask for a decision. Many times the person feels God’s leadership to accept the position at that time. If enough time is spent in prayer to determine the person, we should expect a positive response at the time of the enlistment interview. Perhaps the person is not ready to make a decision. I will press some, as I think it is important to “get the name on the dotted line.” Do not be too aggressive, though, at this point. Do try to determine the reasons for the indecision and discuss them. I may have a second time of prayer with a person before I leave. I do think it is important to set a definite time to make another contact, usually a telephone call within 24 hours. Don’t be guilty of failing to stay in touch until a decision is made. If the answer is “no,” express appreciation for the time, and seek to discover areas of interest or suggest a potential worker training course. Allow the prospective worker the chance to say “no” without guilt or fear or rejection. Do not force a “yes” answer, but encourage the person to keep open to the possibility of future volunteer service.

Have a commitment Sunday

A commitment Sunday where the whole worship service could be geared around the commitment of skills, gifts, and abilities. The sermon could be based on the gifts we possess and the importance of using them. There could be a time of dedication and a time to fill out the talent survey forms. This would end with the dedication or commitment service as persons present these forms at the altar or worship center.

This concept has been used very effectively with special ministries, such as: reading your Bible through in one year, establishing a family altar, or commitment to soul winning. This year I recognized every worker in our church and had them to come forward for a dedication prayer.

Preventing Abuse

Today churches must look out for legal problems in the selecting and enlisting process. A church can be held liable for the actions of its teachers and workers. Charges of negligence, harassment, inefficient hygiene procedures, and abuse have been made against churches. Churches must establish policies and procedures to protect children and youth against abuse or neglect, and then see that these are followed.

Perhaps the most significant legal risk facing churches today is the risk of negligent selection. This is carelessness or a failure to exercise reasonable care in the selection of a worker. To avoid or successfully defend against an allegation of negligent selection, a church must demonstrate that it engaged in reasonable care in the selection of volunteer workers. This is important for a number of reasons today.

1. Many opportunities exist within churches for persons to engage in sexual misconduct with adults or children.
2. Trust – churches are institutions of trust and many members and leaders cannot conceive of acts of sexual misconduct occurring.
3. The amount of money damages that courts award is substantial.
4. Limited insurance coverage – as companies have excluded or reduced the amount they will pay.
5. Other damages in these situations include damage to victims, victims’ families, offenders, congregations, etc.
6. Board liability with board members facing personal liability if they refused to take steps to address this risk, or ignored danger signals.
7. Punitive damages may be accessed that are not covered by insurance.

The selecting process must include some type of screening procedure that would
include an application form, an interview, and maybe also reference checks.

Child abuse is a major problem today in our society and in our churches. It is happening in homes in every community, including homes of church members. Increasingly we are hearing of child abuse cases involving lay and ministerial staff in churches. Major national headlines in recent years have talked of ordained ministers being sexually involved with children in their care, of workers in church day care centers physically abusing and sexually molesting children, and other forms of child abuse.

The National Center on Child Abuse reports that one out of every five girls and one of eight boys is a victim of some form of sexual abuse by age 12. It is estimated that about 20% of today’s adults were sexually abused as children. Reports indicate that 250,000 to 500,000 children are physically abused each year by a parent or close relative, and that 4,000 of these children die.

Recognizing the problem

Child abuse takes on many forms. Child abuse may be physical abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, emotional maltreatment, or emotional neglect.

Physical abuse is beating, burning, or in some other way hurting a child. Sexual abuse is any sexual behavior with a child or the use of a child for the sexual pleasure of someone else. Physical neglect is not giving a child proper food, clothing, or medical care, or not sending a child to school. Emotional maltreatment is constantly yelling at a child or putting him down. Emotional neglect is not giving a child the love and support needed to grow into a healthy adult. Many times child abuse is coupled with the abuse of alcohol or other drugs by the parents or other caregivers.

Physical abuse may be evidenced by questionable bruises, bites, cuts, burns, black eyes, or even broken bones. The child may attempt to avoid changing clothes for gym classes. The child may appear afraid of parents or caregivers and not want to go home. The child may even shrink when approached by any adult.

Physical neglect may be a problem if the child is consistently hungry, has poor hygiene, or inappropriate dress for the weather conditions. Children that are consistently without adult supervision for long periods may be neglected. Some neglected children may go to extremes to get the attention they need and act badly or break things, or be overly affectionate and cling to adults.

Sexual abuse may be evidenced in a number of ways. If a child does not talk to an adult about the sexual abuse, certain changes of behavior may indicate a problem. The child may not want to go to a certain place or be around a particular person. He may show sexual behavior or knowledge beyond that expected for his age. She may be too affectionate and appear seductive with adults and peers. The child may have recurring genital infections or pain. There may be blood on underclothing. Sleeping problems may occur, such as bedwetting, nightmares, or fear of sleeping alone. The child may go back to younger behavior, like thumb sucking. These may be cries for help.

Children that are abused will be hurt for life. Many of them will have a poor self-image, be unable to trust or love others, be aggressive and disruptive, be depressed, and develop alcohol and drug dependency. Worst of all, it is estimated that 40% of children that are abused will become child abusers in adulthood.

Preventing child abuse

Churches need to do everything possible to prevent child abuse. This includes a strong teaching program. Children, parents, and church workers need knowledge about child abuse, and how to prevent it.

Most of the warnings to children are about strangers, not friends and family members. However, sexual abuse of children is rarely with strangers. Children should be taught that their body belongs to them, and they have the right to say “no” to anyone who might try to touch them in uncomfortable ways.

Children must be taught the difference in good and bad touches, and good and bad secrets. Good touches are like hugs or pats from special people, and they make us feel good and never need to be hidden. Bad touches involve areas covered by a bathing suit and make us feel uneasy, guilty, confused, embarrassed, or afraid. Good secrets are like surprise parties that everyone will know about later. Bad secrets are things that no one should ever find out about.

Children need to be taught to always tell if someone asks them not to tell. Parents should become suspicious when an adult begins to shower excessive attention and or gifts on a child. Parents and church workers should be very sensitive to any changes in the behavior or attitudes of a child. These may be signals of problems.

Churches should teach

The church needs to make a clear statement that child abuse is wrong. Some of the physical abuse of children is done by church people who attempt to obey the scriptures. They misquote Proverbs 13:24 and have it say, “Spare the rod, and spoil the child.” Churches need to help parents recognize the difference in Godly discipline and physical abuse of children.

The church needs to take steps to help prevent child abuse from happening. A strong family education program will help. This teaching should describe the ideal Christian home, and should address such areas as communication and discipline.

Special parenting workshops could address the problems of child abuse. These might give descriptions of various kinds of child abuse, identify characteristics of parents likely to be involved in child abuse, and give signs of child abuse occurring. Resource persons are available from the welfare department, the police department, children’s homes, or from
some denomination headquarters.

Churches need to teach workers and parents things like: a) a definition of child abuse, b) sexual and physical abuse symptoms, c) what constitutes inappropriate conduct, d) church policies that govern working with children, e) civil and criminal consequences of misconduct, and f) the rationale behind screening procedures. The church library should have at least a few books that deal with child abuse, and have them available for parents and workers to read.

The church needs to help those that have been involved in abuse situations, both givers and receivers. The church also needs to be sure that no form of child abuse is taking place by the leadership within the church.

Churches must report

The church must report any suspected case of child abuse in any of the forms discussed in this article. This is the law in all fifty states. Anyone having suspicion or knowledge of child abuse must report it to the proper civil authorities for investigation. Ministers appear not to be excluded from this. It is legally wrong and generally proves morally wrong to try to help without reporting.

The suspicion or knowledge may come from counseling, from conversation, from changing diapers, from observing behavior, or in other ways. All church workers with children need to understand this and know the procedure for reporting any suspicions. The church might require that the pastor be notified when reporting any suspicions.

Suspected cases of child abuse are to be reported to the local child welfare unit, usually the county or city social services agency. They have requirements as to how an investigation is to be made, and what to do with the results. If they believe criminal acts have occurred, they are forwarded to the county attorney for more investigation and possible prosecution.

Churches must protect themselves

Churches are being sued for being negligent for allowing abusers of children to work at the church, for not adequately supervising the children, and for failing to take proper steps when child abuse cases were suspected or reported. Churches should be sure to protect themselves by establishing adequate operational guidelines to cover these areas.

Screen workers

Potential workers with children and youth must be screened to help prevent any volunteer or paid staff member from committing child abuse. A six month waiting period for any new member is strongly suggested before allowing them to work directly with children. Screening will provide a number of benefits. It provides an opportunity to discourage and deter individuals who volunteer to gain access to children for sexual purposes. It may identify other applicants with histories of inappropriate conduct with children and enable the organization to reject their applications. It addresses concerns of parents and the general public regarding the safety of children receiving services.

Determine the critical information and establish criteria needed to screen volunteer applicants for your organization. Generally, it is agreed that any of the following should disqualify a person:

a) A failure to complete the screening process
b) A past history of sexual abuse of children
c) Conviction for any crime in which children were involved
d) A history of violence or any sexually exploitive behavior
e) Termination from a paid or volunteer position caused by misconduct with a child
Beyond these criteria, it is difficult to determine threats to children.

The basic tools for screening applicants using your criteria would include the application, an interview, and personal reference checks. More advanced screening could include home visits, observation, additional references, such as past supervisors, state criminal history case checks, and sex offender registries.

A written questionnaire should ask for present and past addresses and work experiences. References should be requested and all references should be checked. The form should be signed by the prospective worker and the signing should waive the right to inspect references and then gives the church permission not to hire or to dismiss if any false statement is given in the application. The hiring process should include an oral interview by the senior pastor, or a competent staff person. This screening should include asking the question, “Have you ever abused a child?” Other good questions could help uncover problems. Why do you want to work with children? What are your strengths with children?

Most child sexual abusers are repeaters. Many of them have been dismissed from a job or church position because of suspicion, and then later apply and get hired at another location.

Train workers

Workers also need to be trained in how to recognize child abuse, what to do when abuse is suspected, and how to help children that have been abused. A church worker may be one that a child would tell about an abusive situation. The workers with children need to be trained in how to respond to this situation. The reaction of an adult to a child’s revelation has the power to calm or upset the child. The child should be provided privacy to tell his story. Help him to realize he is not to blame. Help him to realize he is doing the right thing in telling, although he was probably warned not to tell.

Establish policies

Churches need to develop and publicize policies that deal with children and workers.
a) Children should not be allowed to go to the restroom or to another room or area of the building without a parent or competent adult of the same gender.
b) There should always be at least two workers in every room with children. This helps to protect the children, but if a worker is accused, it also provides a witness to clear the innocent worker.
c) Workers should wear name tags or smocks for identification.
d) Anyone under the age of 18 assisting with children must always work under the direct supervision of an adult.
e) All alleged incidents of sexual abuse should be investigated.
f) A worker should be identified to the children as one they can go to at any time without any permission to discuss any problems.
g) Periodically inspect classrooms, bathrooms, closets, offices, and any other area where children and adults may be together.
h) All children’s rooms should have doors with windows that permit visual inspection of the room without entering.
i) The children’s area should have controlled access and should be well lighted.
j) Closets and rooms not used for programs should be secured to preclude access.
k) All activities outside the normal planned children’s ministry calendar must be approved by the pastor or a designated person.
l) Children or youth in an overnight (camping or retreat) situation should not share sleeping quarters with adults.

Child abuse is a problem in our society, and it is having an impact on churches. Churches need to minister to abusers and those abused, to help prevent any form of child abuse in homes and in the church, and to protect the church from possible law suits.

Where to Look For Leaders

Perhaps the hardest part in finding church leaders is the start, finding where to look.

Where to look

Where does one look to find workers? Many sources exist in the typical church which can be used to gather a list of potential workers and to place them in appropriate positions. A list of potential workers needs to be maintained in every church. There is a sense in which every church member is a potential worker, but a potential worker list should be maintained that is more selective. A single list might be maintained by the pastor, the minister of education, the board of Christian education, or a nominating committee. Several competing program leaders or age group directors/pastors also might maintain their own separate lists.

A talent survey. A talent or interest survey is a good place to start. It can be taken of all the adult members. Forms for this are available at Christian bookstores and distributors of church office supplies. The forms basically list the various positions in the church, and the individual indicates what they have done in the past, what they are doing now, what they would be interested in doing in the future, areas of skill, talent, and gifts, and perhaps even factors in their life which would affect their availability.

Many church management software programs include a talent survey form with the membership profile. The church should plan the approach to distributing talent survey forms. One approach is as follows. Two weeks before the survey, pastor sends a letter to all members saying the church is looking for their assistance. One week before the survey, an announcement is put in bulletin and other church media to capture attention and interest with a sample copy of the survey. The Sunday before the survey, pastor preaches on responsibility of members serving and shares about survey. Surveys are distributed on a given Sunday. Turn them in or mail to church office. Three additional Sundays are provided for follow-up. Surveys are tabulated and contact is made with those volunteering. In the future, new member packets are to include survey. Finally, repeat the process in two years. Don’t have surveys filled out and not use them. This says to the people your gifts are not needed and you are of little value.

A talent survey like this can be of great assistance in the selection process. It also implies to the member filling it out that the church expects him to serve in some capacity. These can be distributed to the adults in Sunday School for several weeks to begin the file, and then given to every new member. This file can be very helpful in selecting workers. It may be difficult for a large church to manage all this data. This information can be put on the data base for the membership file of some computer record systems.

Sunday School attendance records. These records of individual adults, especially young adults, are a good source of prospective workers. Members attending adult Bible study classes on an average of three out of four Sundays are good prospective workers. This would be about 40 Sundays over the past year.

The individual contribution records. Because of the confidential nature of these records, the search may need to be conducted by the financial secretary. A list could be prepared of those giving above a certain minimum level. The minimum might be $10.00 a week, or a higher figure, depending upon the affluence of the membership. Consistency in giving should also be criteria to use for selecting potential workers. The Sunday School attendance and the contribution records should have a lot of duplication.

Substitute or associate workers. A teacher might even have an associate that is a teacher in training, and as soon as the class is large enough to divide, the associate could become the teacher of the new class.

Recommendations. Recommendations from adult Sunday School teachers are good potential workers. Ask adult teachers twice a year for recommendations for potential workers. Recognize those who suggest the most. They should become a network for new workers.

Historical records. The historical records of church organizations can reveal some good prospects. There may be as many reasons why people stop working in a church as there are reasons why they start to work. Some reasons are valid, but may not be permanent. A historical search will generally uncover the names of some present members who are not currently working, and can be added to the prospective worker list. The records of workers in past Vacation Bible Schools are especially fruitful places to look. Many people are first enlisted to help in Vacation Bible School, and then go on to become faithful Sunday School workers.

New church members. New church members should also be visited and the appropriate ones should be added to the potential worker list. Most churches have a lot of transfer members, and many of these are dedicated, trained, and experienced workers.

Those completing the potential worker classes. From all the available sources, a long list of potential workers should be made. This list should be maintained by a staff person like a Minister of Education, and made available to those responsible for the enlisting of workers.

Temporary positions. Provide temporary positions that persons can use as trial runs. Substitute teaching can be a good transition position to a regular teaching slot. Project type of committee assignments, like for a revival or anniversary may be a good place to try persons. Look to see who has served in short-term projects.

Pew cards. The cards provided in the back of pews in the auditorium could include a place to check for desiring to volunteer my time and talent.

Other factors to consider in enlisting

Selecting for a promotion level position. A church needs to make a distinction between “entry level” positions and those that are “promotion level” positions. Many businesses are very careful to start almost every new worker at what is called an entry level position, and any position that becomes open above that level is filled by selecting someone from within the organization for promotion. The possibility of advancement is a great aid in retaining workers (see the next chapter). Obviously the potential worker list that has been discussed in this chapter would apply for the entry level positions. When a position that is at the promotion level is open, the selection process would begin with the workers immediately below that position, probably those that were reporting to that position. Selection does not have to stop there, but it should start there.

Promoting from within will promote continuity, encourage people to stay, train people in organizational culture, build loyalty, and make the organization run much smoother. However, there are problems with promoting from within, such as: it promotes “group think,” restricts fresh ideas, permits people to have a laissez-faire attitude toward work, and develops resistance to outsiders.

Appeals for volunteers. All of the above has been directed toward leaders in the church seeking out individuals to later be enlisted in private. Some churches use public appeals where positions that need workers are announced and volunteers are sought to fill those positions. This public appeal has value which must not be ignored. It may discover new leadership from some unexpected sources. A great deal of emphasis is placed on “God’s call” to service in these public appeals. God often will raise up leaders from places overlooked by men. However, when people volunteer they must be screened, first with the workers covenant, and second with the job qualifications. It is difficult to say “no” to a volunteer, and this can create problems. This makes the requesting volunteers procedure difficult to administer.

Leadership fair. A leadership fair can be used to discover lay leadership. A leadership fair could be a fun experience for the whole church. A leadership fair is set up much like a mission fair with a variety of booths or tables, each dealing with some volunteer position in the church and the skills or interests needed to fulfill the position. Persons are free to wander about, stopping at the booths of their interest.

Some booth ideas are: a booth offering personal assessment of talent, skills, gifts, and training; a booth containing a questionnaire to help participants identify factors that have motivated them or would motivate them to service; and one having copies of job descriptions, job contracts/covenants, and resource aids for each committee, board, or leadership position. There should be a person at each table to answer questions and pinpoint possible volunteers.
The purpose of the leadership fair is to expose the entire church membership to their own skills, abilities, and talents and to point out the many positions in which persons may serve their church.

No job available. What does one do when there is not a suitable position available for a particular person? That question is seldom asked. The normal approach is to work from a vacant job and select the right person to fill it. If one becomes concerned about finding a job for everybody, rather than a person for every job, then this problem might occur.

There are four alternatives that are available:
a) Initiate a new ministry. This is the most creative, and often the most productive solution.
b) Refer the person to an agency outside the church to find an appropriate activity. I personally would have difficulty with this one.
c) Match the person to a position he may not be totally suited for or interested in.
d) Do not offer a position.

An impact player or superstar. Some people are really exceptional and you may want to create a special place for them. Some people will not fit the mold. Paul Brunner and the FBI Children’s Sunday School class at Thomas Road Baptist Church is an example of this. I recruited Paul to teach a fourth department for fourth graders. He was very creative, and soon the other fourth graders wanted to transfer into his class. In less than two years his class contained all the fourth graders. These people are super, but the organization has to be redone to allow them to function at their potential. Will you give them the freedom?

Too many programs and too few workers. Some churches have more programs than are needed or can be supported. Churches need to periodically evaluate programs to decide if they are meeting needs and are necessary. Be sure to assign the right priorities to the programs.

Recruiting programs or special recruiting emphasis.An extended recruiting focus should be used once a year. This plan would include several weeks of exposure to the entire church with posters, photographs, announcements, an information table, and other items all related to the plan’s theme.

A preview party can introduce people to new programs. Select a small group of people and invite them to come to a preview. The information is presented and they are given the opportunity to sign up for training. This would work well when starting a new program like AWANA, Mothers Day Out, Senior Adult Club, etc.

The church can establish sign-up booths at church like many are using as welcome booths for visitors. The sign-up booths would contain information on programs in the church that members can sign-up to work in.

Selecting and Enlisting Leaders

The church has three basic types of resources: human resources, financial resources, and physical resources (land, buildings, and equipment). The most important resource of the church is human resources––people.

When pastors become interested in managing the human resources of the church, they become interested in staffing. Staffing is one of the basic tasks or functions of leaders, along with planning, organizing, guiding, and controlling. Staffing is the task of finding the right person for the right position, and providing the training needed to make the person effective and fulfilled in that position. Staffing in the local church involves working with paid staff and with volunteer staff. The leader handles paid staff differently than volunteer staff. The focus of this section will be on lay or volunteer leaders.

If you studied the literature on volunteerism (both church and other non-profit organizations) for definitions of volunteers, you would find a lot of similarity. The two basic considerations are: 1) a volunteer willingly accepts the positions without being forced, and 2) serves without financial compensation.

Staffing with volunteer workers involves four parts: selecting, enlisting, training, and retaining. This chapter and the next one will treat these four parts.

Every believer is called not only to salvation, but also called to ministry. The Bible plainly teaches that Christians are to serve (1 Thessalonians 1:9). The doctrine of the priesthood of the believer (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 1:5–6; 5:9–10; 20:6) strongly implies that all Christians should be involved in serving God. The images of the church as a body, with every member functioning or serving, teaches this same thing (1 Corinthians 12:12–26, Romans 12:4–5; Ephesians 1:22–23). The Bible also teaches that every Christian has a spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12:7, 11) and these gifts are to be used to build up the church. Equipping believers for ministry is the task of the pastor. He is not to do ministry, but to equip the laymen to do it. The role of the pastor as equipper, or enabler, based on Ephesians 4:11–12.


The local church is responsible for enlisting and training its own leadership. There may be help available from publishers, denominations, and other sources, but the basic responsibility rests on the local church. A local church must depend largely on volunteer leaders for most activities. The demands of church program organizations are such that volunteers must be used, and lots of them. Every church needs more volunteer workers. The church is to use paid staff members, but not expect professionals to replace the laymen. In fact, one of the major jobs of all paid staff members is to develop the church membership and to equip them for service (Ephesians 4:11–12).

The rapid turnover in volunteers shows that churches have not done an adequate job of training and retaining. The average period of service for church volunteers is 3–4 years. There are many reasons for this turnover. Our mobile society is reported to have 20% of the American families moving every year. A growing church will also require additional workers to accommodate the growth. Some workers will backslide spiritually each year and either quit or have to be removed.

The nature of the church’s mission demands the best trained workers that are possible.


1. Abuse – Churches have a problem with abuse, where some workers that do not say “no” are overburdened with work. Some of these will actually change churches to get out from under the burden. One worker plus overwork equals burnout. It is said that 20% of the people are doing 80% of the work. These 20% are abused.

2. Disuse – Churches also have a problem with disuse, in that there are many church members that are only pew sitters and they are doing nothing. This problem is increasing, and many churches are called spectator churches.

Many people born in the 1940s and 1950s have reached the point where they want to pass on the leadership roles for church and community. “We have done our share,” is the feeling expressed.

There is also a problem with the availability of workers. The availability of volunteers has diminished. Economic needs often dictate that both parents be employed outside of the home; single parent families have grown in number; vocational pressures are of greater intensity; and the number of organizations seeking volunteers has multiplied significantly.

Even the change in types of vocations has an impact. More persons are involved in service jobs than ever before in history. Many of them find they are constantly being asked to direct their energy flow toward meeting the needs of others. For some of these people, opportunities to serve in church leadership positions may seem to be one more involvement which continues to drain and deplete them. They simply feel they can’t give any more, even though the opportunities sound worthwhile.

3. Misuse – Churches also have a problem with misuse, where people are put into a position of service for which they are not qualified or trained. Most churches work from vacant positions to find a person to fill the vacant positions. It would be far better if the church would help the members to find the right position. When the church considers the spiritual gifts, the natural abilities, the personality, and the desires of the members, and works with them to find the right position for them, the problem of misuse will disappear. The goal should be to involve every member of the church in some area of meaningful service.


What person or persons should be made responsible for this task of staffing? Pastors sometimes insist that the task of staffing belongs exclusively to them. These men “hold the reins too tight” and limit their ministries. A nominating committee is sometimes given the responsibility of selecting and enlisting all the workers for a church. This has advantages and disadvantages, but is probably not the best way.

The plan I prefer is to make every supervisor responsible for selecting, enlisting, training, and retaining their own staff of workers. The selection may require approval of the next level, or even the approval of the pastor, a nominating committee, or the board of Christian education. The approval will give some measure of control to the process, but by transferring this responsibility downwards in the organization, the load is not heavy on any one person or small group, and the enlisting and training can be more personal. The person who will supervise a worker is in a much better position than anyone else to tell the worker what the job is. The professional staff can concentrate more on developing the church membership, maintaining a file of potential workers list, and assisting with training the workers.