Saturday, August 08, 2009

Why recruiting leaders in churches does not work

Most every church I've known has struggle in finding ministry leaders. There are undoubtedly reasons for this that are specific for individual churches, but I want to highlight a few reasons for these struggles that tend to be true in most churches.

Here are the mistakes that churches make in trying to recruit leaders:

1. Recruiting through impersonal means.
The bulletin is a lousy place to recruit. True, it may occassionally catch someone's eye and interest. But most of the time, it doesn't. Same goes for sign-up sheets, unless it is done in the worship assembly, in conjunction with a message on the subject, with time given for people to respond. Even then, one study has shown that personal recruiting is 5 times more effective than impersonal methods.

Reliance on impersonal methods is even less effective in big churches. Why? Everyone assumes that someone else will do the work or task. And in a large group, there is less relational pull. No one will know if you are a spiritual bum and never lift a finger to help. In smaller churches, it is harder to hide.

While I will at times put out invitations to serve in the bulletin and pass around sign-up sheets, I know that this usually at best raises awareness of the ministry. Primarily, the church bulletin is a place to celebrate ministries. A great picture or a powerful testimony of a ministry at work can do more to recruit new people than any generic announcement. (But personal recruiting is still best.)

2. Failing to consider a person's Strengths and Spiritual gifts when recruiting.
The fact is that when a person is given an opportunity to serve in the way that God has made them, rarely do their arms have to be twisted. Churches are horribly guilty of finding people to fit ministries, rather than letting ministry flow out of a person's giftedness and heart's passion.

True, some ministries need better organization and publicity. But much of the time, churches need to let ministries die if there is no one to fill the post. We are in the people business--and so is God--not the program business. A program is a life of its own that continues regards of the people involved. We need to let more things die in churches so that people can be freed to pursue the ministry God has put upon their hearts. At High Pointe, most all of our new ministry leaders have come from people going through a personal strengths and Spiritual gifts assessment.

3. Failing to reach out and make new disciples.

I am finishing up reading Organic Leadership by Neil Cole, a very interesting book. He says the following:

"When churches reach new people, the changed lives infuse the whole congregation with energy . . . . If your ministry is struggling without leaders, do not reevalutate your leadership development program. It is time to reevalulte your disciplemaking system. If you are doing next to nothing to reach lost and broken people, your leadership development system will yield very few resutls." (p. 138-39).

I am very pleased when I go back to Liberty (my previous church where I ministered for six years) and I find new converts serving on the minister search team, serving on outreach teams, and serving as ministry leaders in finance, transportation ministry, and more.

Recently at High Pointe, one of our new converts from Celebrate Recovery said that he wanted to help transport our clothes for our Clothes Closet ministry. (Read his story). And he volunteered to do this even before being baptized! New converts provide passion, energy, and new leadership in all kinds of different ministries. (Of courses, we should not forget that the primary goal is to send them back on mission and not become part of an internal church ministry machine.)

So, if you want to find new leaders, recruit personally, help people discover their strengths and spiritual gifts, and make new disciples of Christ!

What thoughts do you have about recruiting and developing new leaders?


Chuck Shepard said...

I couldn't agree more. So many times there is an emphasis on having a sign-up sheet or forcing the continued existance of programs versus encouraging people to discover and follow their talents/strengths. God has provided all of us with different gifts. Focusing on bringing people to Christ (Disciples making Disciples) will create a wealth of new, fired up Christians ready to "plug in" somewhere.