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Beyond Arm Twisting: Calling and Recruiting Officers and Volunteers

Maybe get Mr. Incredible to serve on your nominating committee...

Maybe get Mr. Incredible to serve on your nominating committee…

Some time ago we saw a Facebook conversation about different approaches to calling officers in the church. Here were a few of the responses…


I don’t have any great ideas here….but I know of a Presbyterian church that is doing their recruiting seasonally rather than by task. So, they have Advent/Christmas, Lent/Easter, etc. teams that work across the whole life of the church, from Education to Mission, to Worship to Stewardship. They have found that folks are able to commit to a season (working a few months ahead and then the season of) and then being “off” for a while. Don’t know if that addresses the panicky thumbing part….but it allows for people to self identify which season they would like to work. (also posting selfishly so that I can see what others have to say! )


During my second year in a congregation, the Nominations Committee and I devised a survey for members of the congregation. Rather than asking what specitic position in the church they might be interested in, we had a list of tasks for people to check. We then took the returned surveys and matched desired activities to various committees, etc. That way we had people who were elected to jobs they would like. It wasn’t a perfect system, but it did help.


I like that idea…The challenge always is “knowing your people” and getting folks on the nominating committee who know the people well enough to know their gifts. I am not sure why we treat nominating as so “secret”. We should probably survey folks and get it from them. What WE think they like to do if different than when they think.


At our church, some years ago one of our ministers adapted Marcus Buckingham’s “Now Discover Your Strengths” (currently called “Strengthsfinder”) into what we called the Strengths Ministry. Many members of the church went through the Strengths Ministry workshop, and individuals’ top 5 strengths were recorded in a database at the church. Then, people could be identified by their strengths (reducing burnout) and the appropriate balance could be created on committees and the like. We are not perfect in our use of this and we haven’t had a workshop for a while, so newer members aren’t in the database, but it has overall been a great (long-term) strategy for us in identifying people for various roles in the church.


We’ve done away with a formal board structure. We now have just a leadership board and other teams. Our teams don’t have any terms. We can serve on a team that we love forever. So now more people are doing what they are passionate about for as long as they want. There is still some arm twisting for nursery volunteers and such, but I’m a do-er and I hate formal board meetings. But I’m perfectly happy to work on mission projects, lead huge fundraising efforts for mission trips, etc. Also happy to direct a youth choir, plays, etc. So the new system really appeals to me.


We switched to a call process a few years ago. The first meeting of Nominating we do a lectio on call (e.g. Eph. 4). Then we talk through qualities we need for elders, and for deacons. Then we look at specific leadership roles that need to be called (e.g. head of Worship or Mission or Children’s Ministries committee). we pray over names for a couple of weeks. We come to consensus about a person to approach, then invite them to meet with two nominating committee members to issue the call. We ask them to think & pray on it for a week or two. It takes time, but after a few years of this our Session is really strong, and people know it’s a real call – not a desperate last minute ‘need a warm body’ phone call. We have left positions empty if we cannot find the right person to fill the position – which leads to conversations about the position itself.


How do you all call, recruit and train leaders? What has changed about your approach?

And how will these ministries change even further in “the church that is becoming?”

 

photo credit: timaoutloud via photopin cc

Many Bodies, One Table

by Elizabeth Howell

Our church is one of the few congregations in our city that still offers a weekday morning Vacation Bible School.  It is a lot of work to make the week come together, but the children and volunteers love it.

ehowell1Early in 2012, I set to work preparing a curriculum that would fit our goals for Christian education.  After much brainstorming, my key volunteers and I settled on the theme “Come to the Table: A Journey from the First Passover Meal to the Last Supper.”  Our goal was to teach children about the Eucharist, and to connect the story of God’s people in Exodus to the Sabbath meal Jesus shared with his disciples on Good Friday.  For weeks, we tossed around ideas of creative ways to help the children express what they would be learning each day.

My creative and enthusiastic co-director Kathy knew just where to turn for inspiration.  The image of our week would be the communion table.  With only an old donated kitchen table, we turned to a church member with the skills and vision to create a beautiful piece of worship art.  As this man planned and measured and ordered thousands of tiny colorful tiles, I hoped the piece would come together as he dreamed it would.  Many times throughout last spring, I thought to myself that an ordinary person would not have the patience for such a venture.  This man was not daunted.  His plan: to have 100 children create a mosaic of the Last Supper over the top of a worn out kitchen table.

ehowell2This one member enlisted the help of a woodcutter and a portrait artist in our church.  He fortified the table to withhold the weight, another member enlarged a children’s coloring book page to be our pattern, and others set about sanding and painting.  At last, the prep work was complete.  It was time to turn the table over to our children.  Over four mornings in July, the children of our church and neighborhood created a communion table that will host a sacrament for generations.

Each day, I photographed the progress.  Little fingers, many little fingers, pieced together the Last Supper.  We were all fascinated to see the scene come to life.  Each day, volunteers took time to allow our children to choose their tiles, to slowly squeeze out glue, and to fit their colors into place.  They were so careful with their work.  The stage of our Fellowship Hall, where the children worked, was quiet with reverence, as they meditated on piecing together this holy scene.

Reflecting back on this VBS project, I often consider how much easier it would have been for the adults to do the work themselves.  It took far more time to plan, to prepare, and to wait for younger, unskilled hands to complete the table.  It is the work of these little fingers in partnership with our artists and volunteers, however, which gives the table its deep meaning in our church family.

ehowell3I think about this often.  Like many of you, I feel the frustration of recruiting many hands to staff programs and mission.  Some days, it is a struggle to find those bodies that can make an event or a worship service come together.  From time to time, I find myself doing the work a volunteer should be doing.  I tell myself it would be simpler for me to accomplish the task myself rather than find, call, and train a volunteer.  If I’m not careful, however, it is easy to forget how much more worthwhile it is to share that load and enlist the participation of others.  My ministry is to equip these people, not do the work of the church alone.

I remember those adults who patiently waited for children to work and to find just the right tile that was the perfect shade and shape.  My job is to do just that.  My job is to wait, pray, and patiently discern ways to equip God’s people to share in the ministry of Christ’s church.  My job is to equip them and to walk beside them, seeking out ways that their gifts might meet a need, fitting just the right tile into just the right space.


Elizabeth Howell is the Associate Pastor of Christian Education at  Second Presbyterian Church in Roanoke, VA, where she coordinates Sunday and  mid-week educational opportunities for children and adults.  She loves  worshiping with her congregation, ordering fresh packs of curriculum, and taking  long walks with a hardhat (her church is in the midst of an 18 month  renovation!).  In her free time, Elizabeth enjoys spending time outdoors  with her fiancé Chris and their dogs Penny and Berk.