One of the most frequent requests we hear from congregational leaders is: “How do we recruit fresh volunteers?”

Our religious educators have a lot of experience since they need to recruit a multitude of teachers each year.  The religious educator from my home congregation is a master at recruiting teachers–including me!  (I’m already signed up to be on the middle school teaching team for next year.)  She uses a technique from the workbook Sharing the Ministry: A Practical Guide for Transforming Volunteers into Ministry by Jean Morris Trumbauer, which I’ve adapted:

  1. Connect the volunteer role to the mission or vision of the congregation
    Be clear about how the volunteer role serves the congregation’s core purpose or mission.  This assumes that a) you have a clear mission and b) the role serves that mission.
  2. Be clear about why this particular person is a good fit for the role
    Be able to articulate the gifts that you see in this particular person that will be of service to the congregation’s mission as they serve in this role. It may be their open heart, their organizational skills or their particular knowledge on a topic.
  3. Benefits to the potential volunteer
    How will serving is this role enrich the volunteer?  You should know the person well enough to know what their interests and growing edges are.  Those recruiting volunteers in our congregations sometimes look no further than the profession of the potential recruit.  You’re an accountant?  Would you like to serve on the finance committee?  You’re a teacher? ….you get the idea. The accountant might have an interest in world religions or may wish to plan the Halloween party.  The teacher might like to sing in the choir.
  4. Accurately describe the role
    Be brutally honest about the time commitment and other responsibilities that are required to be successful in the role.  You should have a written job description describing the position in detail.
  5. Describe how the congregation will support the person in the role
    First and foremost, give the person as much latitude as possible in their position. Encourage the volunteer to participate in training, both in your congregation and that offered by the district and region.  I also recommend that you have an annual assessment process that includes the components of a) how well the ministry of the congregation is being served and b) a reflection on how serving in this role has helped the volunteer to grow and learn.  There should always be a mutual benefit.

Here’s a video showing an example of such a conversation:

About the Author
Rev. Renee Ruchotzke
Leadership Development Consultant, Central East Regional Group (CERG) of the UUA. I have a vision of Unitarian Universalist congregations being led by thousands of diverse, spiritually mature and passionate people ready and willing to spread the good news of liberal religion.  I believe ministry is best when shared between lay and professional leaders. More information about me can be found on the UUA website.