Guest post by Stephen Blandino
One of the most frequent questions in small group world is, “How do I recruit more leaders?” Whether your church is just launching groups or you’re many years into the journey, the recruitment of leaders is more often than not a front burner issue. And it’s easy to get discouraged when the leadership gap widens.
While there’s not a one-size-fits-all strategy for recruiting leaders, I’ve found four practices particularly helpful to get the ball rolling and gain momentum.
Practice #1: Informational Systems – I’ll readily admit that the first practice sounds rather boring. There’s nothing flashy about those two words but I’ve found they are essential to recruitment. Practice #1 is all about putting the right systems in place to aid and enhance the recruitment process. These informational systems might include a web-based application or sign-up form, bulletin response cards, an email blast system, web announcements, social media tools, blogging, video messages via tokbox.com, or online surveys. I’ve used all of these approaches to aid the recruitment process. Informational systems do two things: They provide a broad communication system to get the word out and they simplify the process for potential leaders to express interest.
Practice #2: Inspirational Opportunities – The second practice is completely focused on vision casting. Several years ago I heard a pastor say, “There’s a big difference between need-casting and vision-casting. People will always respond to vision quicker than they respond to need.” Think about it. How would you respond if somebody announced Sunday morning, “We need some youth workers really bad. We’ve got all these kids and we need help. It’s only for a couple of hours each week and if nobody volunteers, I don’t know what we’re going to do.” Would you volunteer? My guess is you’d sink down in your seat and pretend you didn’t hear a word. But if somebody stood up and shared testimony of a student’s life that was transformed last week at youth camp, your attention would be glued to the stage. And if they followed up the testimony with a passionate challenge to invest in the next generation, you just might give serious thought to volunteering.
The same principle holds true when you’re recruiting small group leaders. Your job (and more importantly your senior pastor’s job) is to leverage inspirational opportunities to recruit leaders. Whether it’s a church-wide campaign, a leader recruitment Sunday with an inspiring message, a vision night, or helping potential leaders see that small groups come in all shapes and size (lifestage, topical studies, workplace groups, married, single, etc.), identifying the best platforms to cast vision is crucial. Your congregation must hear, see, and feel inspiring vision…not be made to feel guilty by a pressing need.
Practice #3: Invitational Challenges – No matter how good you are at PR, nothing beats a personal invitation to lead a small group. I often work with a team to assemble a master recruitment list with the names of people we feel would do a great job as a small group leader. We send all of them a letter with a challenge to consider facilitating a group and then each member of the team makes follow-up calls. We allow opportunity for potential leaders to pray about the opportunity, but we always call back until we get a definitive “yes” or “no” response. While the practice of “Inspirational Opportunities” is a great way to cast the net wide, the practice of “Invitational Challenges” is the personal touch that many people need. It’s harder to say no to a personal, face-to-face invitation over a cup of coffee.
Practice #4: Investing Strategies – The final practice addresses your leadership pipeline and how you identify and invest in future leaders. This pipeline might include leader-in-training small groups, rotating the facilitation of groups, or recruiting co-leaders or apprentices. Last year I wanted to initiate a recruitment/training opportunity for potential leaders that would help them understand the DNA of our small groups. So I put together a practical study guide based on our small group model, formed a couple of small groups that met at Starbucks, and together we worked through the material. It’s not a way to recruit the masses, but it was one more strategy to recruit and invest in leaders using an intentional developmental approach. Several of those emerging leaders went on to lead groups. One couple even told me it was just what they needed to gain the confidence to lead.
Question: Which of the four practices have worked for you? What other practices or ideas have you found helpful?
Stephen Blandino is the Executive Pastor at Christ Church in Ft. Worth, Texas where he oversees staff, small groups, adult discipleship, and leadership development. His experience includes being the Vice President of a leadership development organization where he provided oversight to product development and conducted more than 100 leadership conferences and trained over 13,000 leaders across the United States and in Japan. Stephen has written 8 small group curriculums and has a book on personal growth coming out later in 2011. You can learn more about Stephen at www.stephenblandino.com