Recruit volunteers to a vision, not to a job description

Over the years of leading those who lead groups, I’ve learned to employ a little-used secret volunteerfor recruiting volunteers. If you are a pastor, you must recruit people to be group leaders. If you are a group leader, you must recruit people to help you lead the group (see 3 Roles For Guiding Groups – co-author David Francis and I are quick to say that group leaders need help – you aren’t designed or spiritually gifted to carry the whole load of group leadership yourself).

Can’t I Simply Use a Job Description?

I’m a big fan of job descriptions. They bring clarity to any role and define the essential tasks of any position. But to recruit a volunteer using only this document will often not produce the results you want. The secret? Recruit people to a vision for the position. Show the recruit the job description, for sure, but don’t stop there.

Case Study

John is a Bible study group leader at his church. He leads a group of 20 adults in Bible study each week. He has found himself in need of a class secretary (I like the term “information specialist”). The basic tasks of this role? The class secretary will be responsible for keeping accurate attendance records for all members of the group. The secretary will arrive a few minutes early, gather the group’s role, and mark members as present or absent once the Bible study begins. If a guest visits the group, the secretary will gather their information, too, and pass it along to John, the group leader, after class. When the Bible study is over, the secretary will turn in the group’s attendance records and visitor forms to a centralized location on the church campus. That’s straightforward enough, right?

John has his eye on a group member he thinks will do a great job in the role of class secretary. He schedules an appointment with the person, and discusses the needs of the growing group over coffee. When asked by the person he’s recruiting about the essential tasks they’d be responsible for, John rattles off  the list of tasks from above. John’s just tried to recruit the person to a job description. Bad move.

What If…

Let’s rewind a little, and join John and his would-be secretary at the coffee shop. This time, John is committed to recruiting his fellow group member to a vision, not just to a job description. The would-be secretary asks about the essential tasks, which John covers in some detail, but this time he goes one step further. This time he recruits to a vision.

How is recruiting to a vision different than recruiting to a job description?

This time John adds the following thoughts as he attempts to recruit his fellow group member to a vision for the role of class secretary. He tells the potential helper that the secretary’s role is crucial to the future of their group. The secretary does several key things. He or she will make sure that accurate records of attendance are taken weekly. The reason for this is so that information can be shared with John and other leaders in the group so they can follow up with absentees. John explains that the class secretary plays a vital part in helping make sure that no one falls through the cracks in this group. People need to know they are wanted, and a good secretary who keeps good records is a front-line defense against people leaving the group because they weren’t ministered to during a crisis, or because they missed a few of the group’s meetings because of illness or travel and never were contacted – it happens all the time. John goes on to explain that for every adult or adult couple they keep connected to the group, it also keeps those people’s kids connected to the student ministry or kids ministry of the church. A good class secretary can literally keep entire families engaged in church simply by providing the teacher with accurate attendance records each week.

John’s vision for this role goes beyond simply checking role and turning in records to the church office. He sees the secretary as the person to “stop the bleeding” that most groups experience. He sees how a secretary can keep entire families connected to the church. That’s a bigger vision than just checking role!


John has learned that people must know the essential tasks they are to perform, so he always talks about the job description for the role he’s recruiting; but he’s learned to go beyond that and recruit people to a vision for each leadership role within the group. It’s made a big difference in the way people respond to the request to serve as volunteer leaders.

The next time you have to recruit someone to a leadership role, remember to present the job description, but move quickly into your vision for that role, why it’s important, and what it can do for your group if it’s done well.

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