Help! I Need Somebody(s)

Jennie Barber —  October 21, 2014

JBarberRaise your hand if seminary taught you how to parse Greek verbs. Raise your hand if seminary taught you how to craft and deliver sermons. Raise your hand if seminary taught you how to recruit volunteers.

It’s likely that many of us who have left the hallowed halls of our various alma maters raised our hands for the first two. I’m guessing those numbers decrease when it comes to the third. We did not receive preparation or training for something the majority of pastors do on a regular basis. Lacking skills and experience in recruiting volunteers can intimidate and overwhelm us. We know we need Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, event coordinators, etc., but we don’t know where or how to begin. We know we need more than a lonely sign-up sheet on a clipboard in the narthex. We want to connect people with a ministry that empowers them to use their gifts.

In every congregation I’ve served I have been tasked with recruiting volunteers. While I wish I could say that my expertise in this area is strong, I can’t. (Apologies if you thought this post would solve all your volunteer woes.) What I can say is that I continue to learn. I continue to find new additions to my volunteer recruiting toolkit. Below are two I’ve included recently that I hope will be helpful to you.

1. Sign Up Genius

A friend of mine from seminary introduced me to this website that lets you create a sign-up list for projects or events. The two things I like most about Sign Up Genius are:

  • It allows you to specify your needs. Rather than sending an email asking people to “help with the ___________________” and awaiting the “reply all”, you can create a list that lets people choose specific tasks. You can keep track of what you have and what you’re still missing.
  • It’s friendly for users. They don’t need an account to sign up on a sheet. They can sign up any time and use any device to sign up. Individuals receive reminders via email or text.

2. A Process (from Rev. Mark DeVries and Ministry Architects)

  • After ten years of consulting with churches, Rev. Mark DeVries and his co-workers at Ministry Architects developed this process. It isn’t just for youth pastors. It is for anyone seeking to recruit committed, reliable volunteers to a particular ministry. Here’s what I like most about the process:
  • It is real about time requirements for the recruitment process. No magic promises you will find all the volunteers you need overnight. DeVries is straight up, asking you to commit to six months and two hours a week to effectively recruit volunteers.
  • You’re invited to honestly assess your ministry needs. Rather than getting warm bodies, you’re encouraged to think about the types of people you need to fill various roles in your ministry. It is tempting and easy to get quick and desperate in the volunteer recruiting process, but reflecting on your true needs pushes you to slow down and think.
  • It occurs in six concrete steps, answering the “how” questions that get us tangled up and keep us stuck.

Since I have only been in my current church for a few months, I confess I have not been able to fully engage in the process. I look forward to implementing it this year and into the future. To learn more about the details of the process, watch this video:


Recruiting volunteers for ministry will always be part of a pastor’s job description. We may always long for a magic formula or a perfect system. In reality, what we really need is to continue to develop and fill our toolkit. My limited experience has taught me this is what will best equip me to engage in the challenges and blessings of partnering with volunteers in ministry.


What is in your volunteer recruiting toolkit? What do you find most challenging about recruiting volunteers? How have you learned from your failures and successes?

Jennie Barber

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Jennie is currently serving as the Associate Pastor at Rivermont Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She is a wife, mother, lover of Asian food, and a pastor seeking to be a faithful disciple of Jesus.