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Recruitment During and After the Pandemic

Pre-pandemic, I wrote my article about recruiting lay leadership, “It Gets Harder Every Year.” And we thought we had problems then!

Here are some thoughts about recruitment during the pandemic and post-pandemic.

What we know:

People are staying home. Or, they are at least staying-in-place, which could mean with a relative or in a vacation home. Many people are not working. People who are working from home are enjoying more flexible schedules.

Children are not going to school and summer programs. Thus, parenting is 24/7. (The responsibility was always 24/7, but now those kids never seem to leave the house!)

People who have never been a part of a video conference call are now joining these calls. And liking it. Travel time is not an issue. Childcare is not an issue. And, time stewardship is often better on a call than a “real” meeting. Virtual calls can be more focused and shorter. Thus, virtual meeting attendance is better than meetings that require physical presence.

What we do not know is how these current situations will affect our churches and church’s ministries. However, I believe that this could be good news for those recruiting leadership for church programs and missions.

People say “no” because of the curse of awful meetings. If meetings are focused and brief, if meetings are easy and convenient to attend, if meetings can be done while I’m cooking dinner – sure, I’ll be there!

Another reason people say “no” is because they are overly burdened. The burden may be due to family commitments, job commitments, community volunteer commitments (including church!) and a variety of other ways that people are maxed out on their commitments of time. Commitment has often been measured by physical presence. Now, we are finding ways to meet many of those commitments “virtually” through a video conference call, by working from home, and even going back to the ancient technologies of a telephone call or a (gasp!) hand-written note expressing our love and concern.

Another burden these days is grief. When we are in grief – and who isn’t these days? – we often do not have the energy or creativity or enthusiasm to lead. There is no quick and easy solution for this, of course. Grief takes time, whether it is grief over the death of a loved one or grief over a job loss or not having a graduation service or canceling that long anticipated vacation trip. However, as we heal from grief, we can gain wisdom and compassion. Wisdom comes when we ponder what is most important and therefore how I am now willing to commit my time. We gain compassion for others now mired in grief, to give them time and space to experience the loss and to support them with kind words and actions.

We cannot know how long the pandemic will affect us or our church. However, this can be a period of wise reflection on the best use of our time and resources. This can be a time to gain empathy and compassion for the grieving and the needy. This can be a time when we learn how to be better stewards and to make better decisions – including when to say “no” and when to say “yes.”

These thoughts above are from Dr. Rick Jordan, our partner based out of Lewisville, North Carolina. He has been in various positions from the local church to state and national leadership roles.

It Gets Harder Every Year

By. Dr. Rick Jordan

Editor’s note:  With our attention focused on the pandemic these days, we also don’t need to forget that we cannot do ministry by ourselves. We must have other people joining us! Whether we return to our churches soon or sometime later, these helpful tips from our new partner, Dr. Rick Jordan, will get you ready for getting your laity better engaged with your church’s mission. 

That is what three Baptist ministers in North Carolina I spoke with recently told me. We were talking about the recruitment of volunteer leaders for church ministries. The minsters are Tom Allen, First, Southern Pines; Tommy Bratton, First, Asheville; and Gina Brock, Ardmore, Winston-Salem. All three are veteran ministers who have spent much of their career recruiting, training, and affirming those who lead Bible studies, mission groups, music ministries, and aged-group ministries.

You might think that with all this experience, everything would be easier than it once was. So, what’s gotten harder over time? The recruitment and retainment of lay leaders.

Here are some reasons:

  1. Even the most faithful leaders have a different matrix for judging faithfulness. “It used to be that I could count on one person leading a Bible study class and they would be teaching 50 weeks in the year. Now, even the most faithful are missing 10 weeks of the year.
  2. Where are those leaders when not at church?  Enjoying our very mobile culture. They are out of town visiting children or grandchildren.
  3. Lay leaders do not want to be tied down to an every-week commitment. With more disposable income, some persons have purchased a vacation home at the lake, beach, or mountains. Or, they are traveling for long weekends at vacation destinations.
  4. This means, when they are gone, often they are off for weeks at a time.
  5. Thus, most people do not want to commit to taking a role by themselves. “Most of my Bible study classes have 2-4 leaders in a teaching rotation. That means up to four times more work in recruiting and training.
  6. There are also multi-generational expectations. Some older persons prefer classes segmented by gender. Very few younger persons want that. Some persons want to be in a class with peers; others look for a multiple-generational class with leaders from different generations.
  7. Some people are hesitant to lead because they feel ill-equipped or not as knowledgeable about the Bible and theology.
  8. In some churches, the political polarization that hurts the spirit of our nation has trickled into the classrooms. Few people want to be facilitators of weekly political debates.
  9. The church has lost the “built-in” people: stay-at-home wives/mothers and retirees.
  10. Everyone is very, very busy. Time is the most valuable commodity.

What to do in this new world? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Remind lay leaders that they do not have to have all the answers. Trust that the Spirit can bring wisdom to the group through a good question or exercise.
  2. Affirm lay leaders for the time they are willing to give. There are still persons for whom the leadership role is what they do until they get too sick to be present or they move or die. Let them know you appreciate their fidelity.
  3. On the other hand, do not criticize those whose lifestyles keep them on the road or out of town. Let them know how much you appreciate the ministry they are fulfilling.
  4.  Affirm the rotation model. It allows flexibility for leadership and it gives class members an opportunity to be led by a variety of voices and personalities.
  5. Explore the “Johns Creek model” for your Bible studies. This is what a church in Alpharetta, Georgia has been doing for many years. Leaders are recruited to become experts in a subject (for example, the gospel of John) which they then teach for six months to a class before moving on to another class.
  6. Recruit leaders for short-term projects. One church has recruited eight different women to lead Wednesday night Bible studies on eight different women Bible characters. Another church focuses on short-term projects such as planting flowers in the prayer garden and decorating the church for Advent.
  7. Always be looking for fresh voices, fresh leaders.
  8. Never, never, never recruit someone who is not currently active in the church in hopes that this will encourage them to be more active or to make them less critical.
  9. Do background checks on all leadership who work with youth and children.
  10. Simplify the church programs so fewer persons are needed. For example, maybe the committee of six could become a committee of three.
  11. Be willing to use non-church members for leadership. One church recruited an “outsider” to lead their Financial Peace University course.
  12. Approach new recruits with respect and tact. “Your name was suggested in serving as ___. Are you interested in hearing more?” Let them know “the why” of this ministry – why it is important and how it fits into the church’s vision. Let them know why you believe they have the skills to do this leadership role. Don’t demand an answer on the spot. Send them a task description with an agreement to call them back in a week.

These thoughts above are from Dr. Rick Jordan, our partner based out of Lewisville, North Carolina. He has been in various positions from the local church to state and national leadership roles.