If you lead a church or a non-profit, you understand that inviting volunteers to join your team is a part of the job. I would suggest that asking high-capacity volunteers who will be responsible for leading teams and individuals to step up, involves some unique strategies.
Here are four:
1. Make it Personal
When it comes to high-capacity leaders, they’re not going to respond to a ‘cattle call’ from the stage on a Sunday morning or a newsletter article begging for volunteers. In their mind, if the opportunity is being thrown out there to everybody it says, “anybody with a pulse can do this job.” It is certainly more efficient to mass communicate the need to everybody, hoping that a diamond in the rough might come forward. However, the person you’re looking for would almost certainly prefer a hand-crafted message. A one-on-one conversation gives you the chance to look them in the eye and say, “I think you are perfect for this role. No one could do this like you could. Do you think God might be calling you to this?” Personal invitations may not be as efficient but they are much more effective in getting the right people in the right roles.
2. Create a ‘Big Deal’ Environment
What you are asking someone to do isn’t just a mundane task, it is a big deal. Imagine you were bringing in a candidate from another part of the country and trying to convince her or him to accept a paid job at your organization. You would roll out the red carpet, you would map out your conversations, and wine them and dine them. You should approach a high-capacity volunteer ‘ask’ with that same mentality. It’s not a text message, or an email, or a “let’s grab ten minutes in my office after the service on Sunday.” Make it a big deal. The atmosphere of the ask needs to match the responsibility of the role. Maybe invite them to your home for a meal and a conversation, take them to a fancy restaurant, involve their spouse, maybe involve another colleague from your team. Make sure you are ready to present them with a simple job description for the new role too, but it needs to feel like a really big deal. Because it is.
3. Be Honest
Some leaders try to soft sell the role that they are asking a volunteer leader to step into. They say things like “This won’t take much time at all,” or “you should be able to squeeze this into your normal schedule,” or “you could do this in your sleep!” For true leader-types, these kinds of phrases are not motivating. They want to hear that there is a big problem to solve, a dilemma to figure out, and that it will take their best time, their best energy, and some sacrifice to pull it off. And in the end, there will be a kingdom-sized payoff! Don’t soft sell the ask, because real leaders like a challenge. Another temptation is to sugarcoat the situation they’re stepping into, but you must be brutally honest. When you estimate the number of hours it will take, be honest. When you describe the current culture that they’ll be stepping into, be honest. When it comes to your own strengths and weaknesses, be honest. Anytime there is fuzziness in the expectations up front, it leads to dysfunction later. So just be honest.
4. Connect the Dots to Important Outcomes
It’s so important for high-capacity volunteer leaders to see the grander vision that accompanies their role. Paint the picture of how their assignment will produce larger kingdom outcomes. Leaders won’t always respond to immediate needs, but they will likely respond to vision. Articulate how their behind-the-scenes accounting and bookkeeping ministry will allow your organization to change people’s lives. Remind them how leading the kids ministry will impact the trajectory of families for generations. You are not just asking them to lay bricks on a wall, you’re inviting them to build a cathedral.
Want more information and resources about how to build a team of high capacity volunteers at your church? Check out my book, Untapped Church.