Getting people involved in ministry is one of the great challenges every pastor faces. When surveyed, this part of the pastoral assignment always tops the list of greatest frustrations in local church ministry. So, desperate to get people involved, we can succumb to common mistakes–mistakes that will end up being more costly than we imagine. The old Human Resources adage is true–“You hire all your personnel problems.”

When recruiting people for ministry assignments, try to avoid these common mistakes:

1. Failure to put enough importance upon recruiting

You need a plan. Don’t be careless or think this is an interruption of your regular work assignment. Give your recruiting effort the necessary attention so you can do it more effectively. Every minute you spend in planning such efforts carefully will benefit you greatly!

2. Inadequate support

Don’t ask someone to fill a task until you have determined how you will support their efforts. Training, encouragement, clarity of assignment–all these play a major role in the success the individual might experience. Get a support plan in place first, and then the promises you make in recruiting can be kept.

3. Unclear expectations

Expectations are the foundation of effort. When I know what you expect of me, I can aim at the assignment more effectively. If I don’t know the expectations, it’s difficult for me to think my effort really matters.

4. Lowering expectations to get recruits

Don’t be afraid of expectations. People aren’t looking for easy jobs; they are looking to make a difference. Significance is a core emotional need for adults. They want to give themselves to things that matter. If you downplay the needed effort or apologize for required excellence, you diminish the assignment. And, quite honestly, are you really looking for people who only do the minimum?

5. Pressuring by playing the desperation card or the friendship card

Don’t let need drive recruiting. You can “guilt” people into assignments (i.e., “If you don’t help out, we’ll have to stop ministering to these children…”) but when you do, you almost guarantee they won’t have a good experience. Always let a love for God and the passion for ministry guide someone’s decision to get involved.

6. Consistenly pleading and scolding from the pulpit

Remember your own childhood, when your parents “made” you do stuff. Rarely did those moments turn into joyful experiences. So when you complain publicly about your lack of workers, you don’t get good results either. And, if you try recruiting from the pulpit, the response you get won’t be what you need. Usually those who volunteer aren’t the people you really want in such roles.

7. Election

This tragic approach still governs some congregations. Electing servants seldom makes sense. In such settings, the right people may not be the well-known or popular people. Choosing someone for an assignment will almost always work out better.

8. Focusing on the negative

When you recruit, don’t center your message on what’s wrong with the ministry. Okay, maybe the previous helper dropped the ball, but every pastor knows that trashing your predecessor is a terrible idea long-term. So trashing the previous person for the role you’re asking me to fill isn’t going to work out much better.

9. Putting out an announcement and waiting for people to come to you

Be intentional in who you recruit. Pray for God’s guidance and know who you want to fill that ministry role. If you come to me with a possible assignment, I can quickly tell if you’re looking for me or just looking for somebody.

10. Recruiting already over-committed workers

Every church has great people who do what needs to be done. But don’t limit yourself to those who’ve said “yes” before. Getting others involved expands the impact of your church. And, if you push an individual into too many assignments, they may end up quitting them all.

11. Placing people into higher profile positions than their character will support

I heard of a pastor who asked two men to serve as deacons because he heard they were planning to leave the church. That’s scary thinking, isn’t it? Training can make up performance gaps, but character gaps aren’t as easily filled. Recruit for heart and you can guide the hands. Get people who understand and try to live your vision and values, and then you can teach them what needs to be done.

What do you think about this? Are there any mistakes you’ve made that you think we should add to our list? Let us know by commenting below.

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