How to recruit volunteers

by Victoria Rankin, Urban Vineyard

Recruiting volunteers is essential for a work to be healthy, grow and multiply.

At Urban Vineyard, we talk about each of us recruiting three people – those who we notice are in church but not presently involved. We are intentional about involving others who attend regularly but are not enfolded in our community life. As “front half” of the church people (those involved, who attend regularly), we want to recruit those uninvolved “back half” of the church people.

This requires us to be proficient as leaders who can do what has been termed (in the Vineyard) IRTDMN (Identify, Recruit, Train, Deploy, Monitor, Nurture). In Urban Vineyard culture we have tweaked and rephrased this acrostic to – FIT DO (Find, Invite, Train, Deploy, Oversee).

Let me summarise the first two:

1.         Find

Be a people person. Never underestimate the power of building relationships with people before asking them to follow you. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Mingle. Look out for new people, get to know them, remember names.

Take an Interest. Ask questions related to their life. Listen to people’s stories. John Maxwell says, “Effective leaders know that you first have to touch people’s hearts before you ask them for a hand.”

Notice who you naturally connect with. They often become future co-workers, friends. Leadership flourishes within meaningful relationship, not mere regulations.

The more connection and relationship building from the outset, the greater the chance those you find will stay.

Ask God to provide the right people at the right time. We frequently ask God for more helpers/workers and they may be in our community already.

Pray for divine appointments. Who are you noticing, who is popping up on your radar? Who is emerging that you can invite or call forward?

Church is not just for our friends. This is especially true for Sundays, which are work days for leadership teams. The more connection and relationship building from the outset, the greater the chance those you find will stay.

There’s an old saying: “To lead yourself, use your head; to lead others, use your heart.” Always (try to) touch a person’s heart before you ask them for a hand.


In John 1:37b, the disciple asks, “Where are you staying?” Jesus replies, “Come and you will see.”

Practise the same invitational, apprentice-based model found in the Gospels. Introduce new people to others you know with similar interests, gifts.

When inviting people to be with you in task/roles/ministry:

Be enthusiastic whatever the task! We are privileged as servants who lead. May this be catchy and infectious for those we recruit.

Match jobs/roles appropriately. Be aware of one’s personality, strengths and gift mix – eg, avoid putting a greeter on the door who feels uncomfortable around new people. Bad experiences can be a cause of withdrawal from further involvement. We ask newcomers (at our welcome evenings), “What do you love to do/have been involved with in previously in community life?” This identifies gifting and interest areas more quickly.

Show and tell. Be practical. Demonstrate in order for tasks to be understood and goals achieved. Use run sheets, provide lists or details for people.

Stay alongside, until they are proficient and glitches are sorted. Few sign up to serve alone, it’s more fun serving with others.

Communicate the complete description of responsibilities. Make sure you know what they are at the outset.

New people have “fresh eyes”. Our ideas are not always best. Let’s listen well.

Clarify expectations from each other to avoid resentment.

Don’t change the game plan half way through the task without communication.

Have a verbally contracted time commitment. Include a review date from the outset. This allows a more “Easy in, Easy out” – no pressure to stay to a task beyond the agreement.

Motivation rises when goals are understood. Once this is clear, give others room, creative space to follow through using their uniqueness.

Connect to the big vision.

Always debrief. A question like “What could we do better?” provides validation and welcomes shared ownership.

Receive feedback with humility, which allows room for constructive criticism. New people have “fresh eyes”. Our ideas are not always best. Let’s listen well. “The underlying idea is you recruit to Jesus. If you recruit to station, turf, title, anything else but Jesus, you're in big trouble!” (author unknown).

Celebrate the wins. Share stories, be an encourager to those you find and invite to serve. Thank people often.