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How to Effectively Recruit Leaders

Michael Gatlin

Michael Gatlin

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Every leader experiences a lack of leadership around them at one time or another. But as Steve Nicholson says, God has already given us the leaders we need in our churches. They just need to be developed. Our job is to invest in them to help them become the leaders that God has already designed them to be.

Once you have noticed leadership potential in someone, you have to invite them to start pursuing leadership somehow. To some of us, recruitment comes naturally. But for others, this step can be more difficult. Regardless of our natural ability, though, there are some practical steps and helpful guidelines we can use to help us recruit new leaders.

  1. Recruit with Vision

Vision is your very best recruiting tool. People are much more likely to want to be part of something if they can see a larger purpose or plan behind it. So, for example, if you were recruiting leaders for a children’s ministry program, you could say: “Come help with children’s ministry, because we need more leaders, because the room full of little kids gets too wild and need some ground control.” You might get some response with an invitation like that, but try this one instead: “Come help with children’s ministry so that you can help teach the children of our community how to be disciples of Jesus at an early age.” Which invitation would you want to accept?

Think back to what caused you to get into leadership, and what has enabled you to stay in leadership. Part of the reason is probably your vision for the ministry, isn’t it? Vision is the stuff that keeps us awake at night because we’re so excited about it. It stirs our passion. It fuels our sense of motivation. Without vision, we ask ourselves, “why bother?”

So try this:

A. Write out what you think is the vision for a few of the ministry areas in your church.

B. Look at what you wrote and ask yourself, “Is this compelling? Would I want to be part of this ministry based on this vision statement?”

C. If your answer is no, ask God to show you more of his heart for that area. If it’s worth doing, the vision should communicate that. Ask yourself, what is the desirable outcome in the Kingdom of God in this area? Allow yourself to dream a little. Use phrases like, “what would it look like if….” or “can you imagine the impact on God’s Kingdom if…”

D. Once you have rewritten this vision, share it often, with lots of people (you want to get really good at this). Remind regular volunteers how they are contributing to that inspiring vision when they serve and thank them.

E. Talk about vision in a way that points to the inspiring big picture, but also shows some smaller, more immediate steps toward that picture—on-ramps for people to picture themselves contributing to the big vision. These will be the more specific roles that you are recruiting leaders into.

  1. Recruit Both the Heart and the Head

In addition to the compelling vision, you need a clear job description to recruit someone into leadership. People need to know what you’re actually asking them to do. So lead with the why—tap into their passions, their heart—and follow up with the what—flesh out the purpose and parameters of what you’re asking them to do.

  1. Recruit With Clear Expectations

Just like you did with the vision, sit down and write out the job descriptions for all the different ministry areas and leadership positions for which you’d like to recruit leaders. This is important, not just for the person you’ll be recruiting, but for you. You need to think specifically about what you want done, and what exactly you want to invite people into.

Make sure you include the following in each job description:

  • The ministry area
  • The ministry title
  • Summary of ministry activities
  • Time commitment
  • Duration of commitment
  • Who they report to
  • What they are responsible for
  • A list of helpful spiritual gifts for the ministry
  • Other qualifications

So for example:

  • Job Description: Children’s Ministry Teacher
  • Ministry Area: Children’s Ministry
  • Ministry activities: Preparing and teaching children’s church lessons and activities, teaching children how to be disciples of Jesus
  • Time Commitment: 2 weekends a month, plus prep time=5-6 hr every two weeks
  • Duration of Commitment: 6 months, and then we’ll reevaluate
  • Report to: Children’s Ministry Coordinator
  • What they are responsible for: Communicating with other classroom volunteers, leading a lesson for the children
  • Helpful Spiritual Gifts: Teaching, Administration
  • Other Qualifications: Clear a police background check, Classroom management skills

So try this:

  1. Brainstorm a list of open leadership positions in your church or ministry area.
  2. Spend a few minutes sketching out the job description for each—these do not need to be elaborate.
  3. Ask yourself “what would I want this person to do? What would I expect of him/her?”
  4. Keep these handy—keep refining them as you go about your week and your ministry.
  1. Recruit According to Gifting

Once again, if you’re recruiting based on need, you won’t be as effective. So consider the gifts, abilities, and passions of the person you’re trying to recruit and try to invite them into an opportunity or leadership role that matches. The role you recruit someone into should be a step on the way of developing them into the mature, confident leader God has designed them to be. Don’t focus too much on getting specific slots filled—God has provided you with the right people to lead in your community. Your job is to help get them into roles where they can grow.

At the same time, you won’t always find the perfect match for each person. That’s ok. Be flexible and lead the people you recruit to be flexible. They probably won’t feel like the first thing they do is completely tailor-made to their abilities (and you probably won’t, either). You do want it to be a good enough fit that they are expressing some of their God-given gifts and dreams.

So, try this:

  1. Brainstorm a list of people you’ve identified as leaders and want to recruit.
  2. For each person, jot down some gifts or abilities you have noticed, or things that seem to motivate them.
  3. Ask God for his vision for each of these people—how he has designed them, how he wants to see them grow, etc.
  4. Then, consider the ministry vision and the job descriptions that you came up with earlier. Do any natural matches emerge between your list of names and your job descriptions and vision?
  5. Pray over the names and jobs for discernment and insight about the best fit for each person.
  6. You may discover that you have a job that no one fits, or a person that doesn’t fit any of your job descriptions (or both). Ask God if there are any people or opportunities you have overlooked.

What do you think? What works (or doesn’t work) for you when you recruit new leaders? What particular challenges have you experienced in recruiting? Comment below—we love hearing from you.

Michael Gatlin co-pastors, with his wife Brenda, the Vineyard church in Duluth, Minnesota. Michael also leads the Multiply Vineyard team which exists to encourage and empower local churches as they multiply disciples, leaders, and churches. Michael’s primary focus is to see Vineyard churches be healthy and multiply. His passion is helping people to discover and express all that God created them to be.

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