As church leaders, we can’t afford to minimize the importance of strategic recruiting, both for volunteer and staff positions. Getting the right people, with the right disposition, connected to your ministry and vision is very often the difference between achieving God’s agenda and missing the mark.

During my fifteen years at 12Stone Church, I’ve encountered several unique recruiting challenges and learned some things along the way.

  • As Pastor of Connection, I recruited greeters for the church and the people who made follow-up phone calls to guests.
  • As Pastor of College Ministry, I recruited young emerging leaders who would invest in their generation.
  • As leader of the 12Stone Residency, I travel the country to recruit the sharpest next generation pastors I can find.
  • As a leader at 12Stone and head of the Leadership Expansion Team, I spend time recruiting staff members for the church.

Even though I was targeting different kinds of leaders in each position, the following five principles were universally helpful to the recruitment process.

1. Recruit with a leader’s mind and not a pastor’s heart.

Recruit with a leader’s mind and not a pastor’s heart.

I believe this is the number one mistake pastors make while recruiting. Your pastoral heart will tell you that everyone has potential — which is true. While everyone does have potential, recruiting from this perspective can lead you to say yes to the wrong person.

Your leader’s mind will tell you that everyone does not have equal potential.  The purpose of recruiting is not to find potential; the purpose of recruiting is to find extraordinary potential.

A word of caution: we must be wary of recruiting out of pressure. Pressure to “get someone in the spot” causes us to over-value potential and pick the wrong person.

2. Don’t look for “nothing wrong.” Look for “something right.”

This principle is similar to the first, with subtle differences. After meeting with someone to assess their potential for the position, you will inevitably leave with one of three impressions:

  1. There’s “something wrong” with that person-  Avoid them.
  2. There’s “something right” with that person- Go get them.
  3. There’s “nothing wrong” with that person- This is the tricky scenario, but I suggest you pass on them as well.

If you want to build a team that goes to the next level, you need “something right,” not “nothing wrong.”

3. Know what you are looking for.

When I was leading the greeter team, I wanted to find people who were outgoing. When I led college ministry, I would make location an interview topic because I was looking for college students who wanted to stay local. Now, as I recruit residents, I am looking for young people who could excel at our church.

When you know what you are looking for, you can prepare questions that will help you uncover those values in the people you interview. Great questions add clarity to discernment in recruiting.

Since most of the potential residents have never been to our church, I ask strategic questions to see if they will fit in our unique and robust culture.

I ask them the following questions:

  • Would you rather work at a church that reaches people for Christ or one that serves the poor?
  • Would you rather work at a church where everyone knows each others’ name or where new people are coming all the time?
  • Would you rather work at a church where the pastors are strategic leaders or where the pastors are loving shepherds?

These are tough questions because they pit two important values against each other; healthy churches seek to reach people for Christ and serve the poor. But every church culture has a leaning, and my job in recruiting is to make sure potential resident lean the same direction as my church. If they don’t, then perhaps they are not a good fit.

4. Choose your bait wisely.

When recruiting, choose your bait wisely.

I am drawn to USMC commercials on TV, not only because I am a former marine, but also because I’m impressed by their effective strategy. Their commercials resonate with the “do I have what it takes?” question inside us all. They put the right bait in the water to catch just the right type of recruit (knuckleheads like me!).

Like the Marines, be mindful of the bait you use because it creates expectations for the position. What you catch people with is what you keep them with and what you call them to.

If you want to catch eagles, then point to the heavens and use vision as your bait. Eagles want to soar high and are willing to sacrifice for a team that will push the limits. If you want to catch ducks, then just pull out some bread (superficial bait like money, for example) and they will flock to you (for more context on eagles and ducks, read THIS post).

5. Recruiting is always a risk. Keep taking it.

Recruiting is always a risk. Keep taking it.

George Anders, an expert in the field of finding talent, wrote a great book called The Rare Find. He suggests that, no matter how good you are at spotting talent, at some point you are just buying lottery tickets: you don’t really know what’s under there until you start scratching. I agree. I have made many mistakes in recruiting, but every now and then I hit the jackpot! When I do, my ministry goes to the next level and it validates the risk of recruiting.