If you are unfamiliar with Sue Miller, let me first recommend that you make it a goal to listen to her speak sometime soon. On Wednesday afternoon, I attended her pre-conference workshop on the topic of “How to Recruit Volunteers.” While not everything she mentioned was brand new to me, I definitely grabbed a few ideas I can use in my ministry. I will do my best to pass along the highlights of her workshop.

She started off stating that she had a background as a classroom teacher, so when she began her ministry with children, she did not know how to recruit volunteers at all. Her first eye-opening experience happened at a park-league baseball meeting, where the coach basically told the parents what they would be required to do. He knew they were busy, but he did not let that get in the way of his passion about the sport and the kids. That taught her that the number one thing that will inspire volunteers to step up and serve is the leader’s passion. She could have stopped right there, but she went on to state four things that every volunteer wants.

Every volunteer wants something significant to do. We need to break up our volunteer roles into different sizes (small, medium, large) in order to customize the vision for different audiences. Allow them to try out the ministry before jumping all the way in. She stated that high quality people respond best to a personal ask from a leader, which means that we need to not us email, phone, or text message when approaching a potential volunteer. We need to look them in the eye and personalize the ask based on their gifts and abilities.

Every volunteer wants to feel valued. Work on a concise job description for each volunteer position before meeting with a leader. Also, honor the process you set up. For example, do not let too much time pass before following up. Seek to match up their gifts with a serving opportunity, and make sure to appreciate each volunteer. This is huge!

Every volunteer wants to be connected. Sue stated there is a difference between a renter and an owner is the community. We need to make it feel like a family. Celebrate and pray together. People will easily leave a task-force, but few will leave a family. To me, this is a big area that I need to step up.

Every volunteer wants to make a difference. We should not waste their time. Do not forget the power of the story. An example given was sharing teenagers’ salvation stories with children’s ministry volunteers. They had a part in that. We need to figure out how to celebrate our volunteers, and we need to challenge them to grow as leaders.

Her final statement should be the goal of every leader looking to recruit and keep volunteers: “I exist so that you will fly as high as you can.”

Sue Miller joined Orange in 2005 after 17 years of leading Promiseland children’s ministry at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois.  Sue was instrumental in leading the change process that grew Promiseland into a cutting edge ministry known around the world. The story of how all that happened is told in her book, Making Your Children’s Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kid’s Week.

Sue travels extensively teaching and helping churches partner with parents.  She mentors leaders, inspires volunteers, and serves as a consultant for churches who want to go Orange.  And in her spare time, she leads the charge with the First Look curriculum team at Orange.

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