10 Best Ways to Ask a Volunteer to Serve

Check out the 10 best ways to ask a volunteer to serve—based on concepts from the world of advertising sales.

You’ve scouted the best prospects for your volunteer positions, you’ve made lists and organizational charts, you’ve created an amazing recruiting campaign, and now you’re ready to pop the big question: “Would you like to join our team?” All your hard work boils down to that one question—and your potential volunteers’ responses.

“Why yes, I’m honored to serve in children’s ministry!” You will dramatically increase your chances of hearing these golden words when you implement some”deal-closing” ideas drawn from the world of advertising sales.

10 Best Ways to Ask a Volunteer to Serve

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Then communicate more. Provide prospective volunteers with as much information as possible concerning the responsibilities they’re considering. (Job descriptions help.) Often people will say no simply because they’re afraid of what they might be getting themselves into. If you fill in the blanks for them and maintain open communication, you’ll both be clear on the position’s expectations. This way, you’ll also avoid the pitfall of having your hard-won, new volunteers quit because they weren’t given full disclosure of the position’s requirements. Everyone wins with complete and concise information.

2. Tout the benefits.

People want to know, “What’s in it for me?” Before approaching someone about a volunteer position, discern what possible benefits exist for the potential team member. Whether it’s emotional fulfillment, greater exposure to your church, or just a great way to make a difference, know these upfront. The potential benefits help people catch hold of your ministry’s vision.

3. Welcome volunteers as friends.

Building relationships in any recruitment venture is key. If you haven’t taken time to connect with your prospective volunteers on a personal basis, they’re far less likely to commit to your team. Take a potential volunteer out for coffee or share a meal together. Work on building rapport, sharing your ministry vision, and expressing your priorities. When people experience firsthand your passion for ministering to children, they’re much more likely to join ministry forces with you.

4. Don’t waste time—yours or theirs.

People appreciate straightforwardness and forthrightness, even when the news isn’t good. If you foresee problems with a background check, mismatched goals, or any other stumbling block, it’s best to be honest. Often potential problems can be worked through and reassessed. By being succinct, direct, and kind in all your communication, you not only show respect for others’ time but also you allow prospective volunteers to see that you handle situations with efficiency and ease. Direct communication isn’t always easy; but when an issue is skirted, everyone’s precious time is wasted.

5. Value and treasure people.

Never treat people as a means to an end. People immediately sense if your recruitment goals supersede your genuine interest in them. Always show respect for people as individuals—not bodies on an organizational chart. Let your behavior and courteousness toward prospective volunteers speak for itself. Your most committed and loyal team members will be those who truly believe you have a genuine interest in and love for them.

6. Remember your higher purpose.

Sometimes it takes away the apprehension and pressure of recruiting when we step back and remember that popping the question really isn’t about us. It’s about serving God and children. So focus on the outcome of your efforts instead of the negative feelings you may have about possible rejection. Rather than allowing anxiety to stall your efforts, allow yourself to think of the children who’ll be positively impacted and how this uniquely qualified person can make that special difference in your children’s ministry program.

7. Check back later.

Remember that a “no” today could be a “yes” tomorrow. People’s lives and responsibilities change. The more people you connect with, the more possible volunteers you’ll have later. If you show appreciation for people’s situations, they’ll most likely be open to serving in the future.

8. Affirm people’s qualities.

Everyone likes to be affirmed. And what better compliment is there than to suggest to someone that he or she would be a welcome, vital part of your children’s ministry team? When people feel you’ve noticed them and their unique gifts and talents, it translates into a strong affirmation—even if their answer is a no.

9. Know when to say when. Recognize when a situation is a “no-go.”

Although you might’ve invested time and energy in a potential volunteer, if you’re sensing red flags or the person expresses serious doubts, walk away with good feelings on both sides. Persuading someone to take a position who truly isn’t equipped to do so is a huge mistake—and will lead to far more work later. If a potential volunteer exhibits a large degree of apprehension from the start, chances are the experience won’t be a positive one long-term. Walk away.

10. Give people amazing opportunities.

Remember, if the opportunity to serve is never offered to someone, that person never gets to experience the joy of putting abilities and spiritual gifts into action. Many times we make assumptions—about people’s lives, their circumstances, and their desires—that are plain wrong. Some of your most dedicated and effective volunteers may be people you least expected to show any interest in children’s ministry. It pays to get to know your church members, make personal contact, and—of course—ask! When you pop the question, it could start an amazingly memorable experience—for you, your volunteers, and the children.

Looking for more volunteer recruiting tips? Check out the Group U course The L.I.F.E. Strategy for Recruiting and Equipping Volunteers. This online training course will help you learn how to discover, recruit, train, and retain volunteers. You can also check out these articles! And for even more ideas and daily posts of inspiration, follow us on Facebook.

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