Overwhelmed with the details associated with pulling off a college retreat, I was desperate. We had multiple services happening in different locations, so I could not physically be in two places at once. I needed a volunteer.
I didn’t think I could find someone who would take care of retreat registration as well I would do it. What if they wrote down the wrong information or couldn’t answer questions asked by those who were interested in going? What if they were late or didn’t even show up at all?
In the midst of this challenging ministry moment, in a hallway on a Sunday morning, I discovered the solution to my dilemma. I found Africa, a 24 year old woman named Africa Martinez. After a mutual friend of ours introduced us, I asked Africa if she had found a place to connect yet at our church. Discovering she was not yet connected, I asked her about her interests hoping to help her find the best place. Africa began talking about her passion for organizing things. She actually enjoyed details! Afraid I might scare her away by being so bold so soon, I meekly asked if she would help me with registering college students for our upcoming retreat. Her response: “Yes! I would love to help! I have wanted to connect for awhile but hadn’t found something I would enjoy.”
I soon discovered that Africa could organize better than I ever could. I also realized that I was able to more effectively connect students to our retreat if I was away from the table and sharing the vision of the retreat with students who usually walked around in groups. Once they were interested, I would hand them to Africa at the registration table. In addition, with Africa helping in one location, I was freed to go to another location.
My experience with Africa reminded me: effective ministry leaders never serve alone. Leaders influence others. As a result, in order to become effective leaders, I have had to learn to recruit others to my cause, finding, motivating, and guiding those around me to serve.
Three perspectives on recruiting have transformed my ministry. First, people need to serve more than I need them. Second, people long to serve in areas in which they excel. Finally, people want to be a part of something significant.
PEOPLE NEED TO SERVE MORE THAN I NEED THEIR HELP
As a young leader, I often felt reluctant or even afraid to bother those I was recruiting. My attempts at recruiting others went something like: “I hate to bother you, but would you possibly consider praying about the possibility of helping in our nursery?” The results of my efforts were way less than impressive.
When I recruited others apologetically I seemed to be indicating that what I was asking them to do was not something they should even consider. They could sense that I felt guilty for asking them to do something I wasn’t willing to do.
Remembering that my greatest moments of personal growth had taken place in the context of serving others, I began to realize my approach needed to change. My motivation had been filling a need. I may have communicated that the parents or even the cute little preschoolers had a need, but as a church leader, I seemed to be approaching the potential recruits as if I was asking them to do me a favor. I desperately needed them to rescue me. Those who turned down my invitation seemed to smell my selfish motivation or my desperation.
Many times, my approach towards recruiting was the result of feeling like my role as a church leader included taking care of the people in the church, making sure each person received the teaching, the nurturing, and the loving they needed to grow. As the trained-by-seminary and called-by-God pastor, I thought that I was the most qualified and the most effective person for that job. Unfortunately, I was undermining my own efforts to help people grow by eliminating the fastest and most effective path towards that growth – serving.
In the New Testament, Paul went to great lengths to write about the importance of serving as a body and using our spiritual gifts. If pastors and church leaders are the only ones who should be serving, then why would Paul write these letters to all of the followers of Christ in particular cities? I had been operating as if Paul had only intended his letters for those who were in leadership and that spiritual gifts were only given to clergy.
Paul often reminded those reading his letters that all followers of Christ were called and even gifted to serve. Furthermore, when Paul specifically addressed church leaders, he reminded them of the importance of recruiting others to serve with them. Paul challenged Titus to raise up elders from among the Cretans, a group which was considered by one of their own prophets to be “liars, evil brutes, [and] lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12). Rather than ask Titus to do all of the work necessary to reach Cretans and disciple Cretans, Paul knew that the very process for reaching and discipling Cretans included creating places for these “lying, evil, and lazy” people to serve. In fact, some of them should so grow in their relationship with God that they would become qualified to serve as elders and “entrusted with God’s work” (Titus 1:7). Quite a contrast! Titus’ goal was to create a community in which evil people became overseers.
So how could Titus help transform someone from evil to elder? In another letter, Paul gives us a clue as he describes the role of spiritual leaders, those considered apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Paul challenged the Ephesian leaders “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:12-13). Serving leads to maturity. When we fail to create the opportunities for people to serve, we hijack from them the opportunity to grow.
People need to serve more than I need their help. This new perspective resulted in a dramatic transformation in my understanding of my role as a leader. I was called by God to become obsolete. My job was to raise up leaders who would replace me.
Asking people to serve knowing they needed to serve gave me greater confidence and even urgency in my conversations with people. I approached others ready to do them a favor – allow them an opportunity to become the person God created them to be. In my own life, I had discovered that Jesus spoke with great wisdom when he reminded his followers that when we lose our lives in serving others, we find our lives (Matthew 10:39). As church leader, I became more committed to helping others experience this miraculous and mystical experience.
PEOPLE WANT TO USE THEIR TALENTS
Finding Africa reminded me of the importance of recruiting someone to serve using their strengths. I realized that when I asked people to serve using their background, personality, talents, gifts, and passions, I found people who enjoyed serving. These men and women seldom burned out. They sensed that God had created them for this very opportunity. Certainly, they realized that there are times when they needed to do things that they did not want to do. In these moments, they relied on their character and grew in faithfulness and perseverance. These moments, too often, are the rule rather than the exception. A person’s ministry should be something she looks forward to rather than something she dreads.
So how do I determine what to ask someone to do?
Throughout Paul’s writings to the early church, he refers to the importance of understanding and using our spiritual gifts. In addition, Paul challenges these early churches to see themselves as part of a Body, each person having a significant part of the whole picture. Paul was helping us learn how to recruit. He knew that when we can connect a person’s uniqueness to their ministry, we will be amazed at the positive results.
Through tools such as the Myers Briggs Temperament Indicator (a personality assessment), Gallup’s StrengthsFinder, and Erwin McManus’s Character Matrix (Uprising: A Revolution of the Soul), our ministry leaders at Mosaic, our church in Los Angeles, strive to help others find their God-given uniqueness while helping them grow in faithfulness, humility, and gratitude. Quoting the movie Spiderman, we challenge people “that with great power comes great responsibility.” As women and men begin to see their uniqueness they begin to pro-actively serve. At Mosaic, often our struggle is keeping track of all that our leaders have initiated rather than finding enough people to help out.
As we begin to organize around the talented people God has brought into our community, we begin to realize there are some ministries that should come to an end. When no one remains passionate about a ministry, we should not feel the need to perpetuate that particular ministry just for the sake of keeping it going. We must trust God to bring us people with passions and talents to do what He wants us to do, rather than simply looking for people to fill slots.
By learning to recruit others based on talents and gifting, I can lead people more talented than I am. Too often, I felt that I could do things better than those around me. I felt like I needed to be the best speaker, leader, singer, architect, designer, etc. As a result, I failed to create a place for others to serve. When I acknowledged that I needed others as part of a team to help me accomplish our mission, I began to see the value in others.
An incredible advantage of recruiting others to serve using their talents and tapping into their passions includes the ability to connect those who do not follow Christ to our community. When a spiritual seeker has the opportunity to paint, dance, greet others at the doors, serve the homeless, or organize a softball tournament, we have the opportunity to invest in them while they begin to enjoy our community.
As I have become a better recruiter, I have become better at helping others see their gifts and talents to help them find their niche.
PEOPLE WANT TO DO SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT
When I was recruited to serve in the parking lot at Mosaic, the leader recruiting me asked me if I was willing to help solve a problem our church had struggled to overcome. As a new person within our church, I was excited to be invited into something so strategic so soon. When I realized that I was solving a major problem, I became more willing to wear an orange vest, carry a walkie-talkie, and direct traffic. Several months later, when I was invited to serve with the youth group the invitation was first presented as helping our multi-ethnic church overcome one of the challenges associated with a diverse ministry. We had a multi-ethnic kids’ ministry and a diverse group of adults, but our teens remained homogenous. These leaders realized an important principle in recruiting: people want to do something significant.
Seeing the big picture helps people find their role as significant. As a leader I have grown to discover the importance of helping people connect their activities with the movement of God.
At Mosaic, we encourage our set up team to pray for the guests who will be coming that night to our gathering. As our teams clean the bathrooms, mop the floors, set up chairs, or move equipment, they are reminded that all of their efforts are worthwhile for those who will be coming. I look for opportunities to remind those helping of the supernatural ways God continues to work in the lives of those that come each week. Marriages have been restored. Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, among many others have chosen to follow Christ. Emotionally broken people have found healing. Lonely people have discovered friendships. Even as I meet with our team leaders, we enjoy sharing stories about the lives being transformed within our community. Everyone serving can celebrate since they are a part of the process whether they are helping with the gatherings on Sundays, meeting in a small group during the week, or helping with a ministry team. Our efforts remain God’s means for changing lives.
The early church recognized the importance of connecting seemingly small tasks with the overall movement of Christ. As the early church began to struggle with conflict between those who spoke Greek and those who spoke Hebrew, they decided to appoint some people to become waiters, people to serve the tables. Rather than just enlist anyone willing to do it or try to coerce those not willing to do it, they actually created a rather remarkable standard. To become a waiter, the person must be well respected, full of the Holy Spirit, and wise (Acts 6:3). Instantly, when no one seemed to be willing to help solve the problem, serving as a waiter became a position of standing. The early church added value to what should have been important to others already. By creating this radical minimum standard,*the early church leaders recognized the value of meeting the needs of the widows.
Every person within our community is significant and has something important to contribute. Creating a process and a standard helps people rise to a new level of service and grasp the significance of their efforts.
At Mosaic, anyone can serve. In order to oversee others, an aspiring leader must join our volunteer staff. These men and women make a higher level of commitments than many pastors do. The potential staff goes through a six-session mentoring relationship “Life in Christ.” The mentor helps ensure the mentee has made a commitment to Christ, has been baptized, has gotten connected to a small group or ministry team, has started serving, has a vibrant relationship with Christ, and has a commitment to grow in character. Once the mentee completes this process and has gotten connected in these ways, she or he attends “Life in Church.” This one day seminar includes a time for vision casting. We describe who we are and where we are going. In some ways, our goal is to convince these new recruits not to join staff.
If a person is still interested in joining our volunteer staff after “Life in Christ” and “Life in Church,” we ask them to commit to the Lord that they will live an authentic and godly life, continue serving in a small group or ministry team, tithe towards Mosaic, and live an evangelistic life. Finally, once a person has completed this process and made these commitments, we commission them, laying hands on them, anointing them with oil, and praying for them and their ministry. We have been amazed at how people in Los Angeles who seem to have an aversion towards commitment, willingly pursue joining staff with us. As a result, we have a committed core ready to sacrifice and serve the crowd we are attracting and the city we are striving to reach. Those serving see their efforts as extremely significant.
All around us, God has provided the people resources needed to accomplish His mission. I’ve learned that we can maximize our efforts when we recognize that people need to serve more than we need them, people long to serve in areas in which they excel, and people want to be a part of something significant.
*”radical minimum standard” comes from a message from Erwin McManus