Recruiting and Keeping Teachers

Recruiting is the holy act of helping others discover their leadership gifts.
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For example, let's say I've noticed a young mother who's been attending church for some time. I may be tempted to ask her to baby-sit in the nursery. But when I get to know her, I discover that she is gifted in relationship skills and has a desire to evangelize. So, instead I might ask her to design a meaningful outreach program for young mothers.

I believe in using the small-group programs in helping me recruit. If I need a certain kind of teacher for a certain class, I sometimes will call up a small-group leader, describe the need, and ask if she knows anyone who can fill the bill. Small groups can be an effective avenue for uncovering and unleashing hidden potential in the church.

The Recruiting Team

I find that the most effective approach to recruiting—particularly in a large church—is a team approach. Hierarchical relationships cannot supply the broad network of relationships, the pool of ideas and imagination, or the depth of mutual support that team relationships provide. Moreover, teamwork—that is, community—is the biblical model for almost all Christian ministry.

The best recruiter for a ministry is the person who is closest to that ministry, the person who is the most excited about it. So the person who is enthusiastic about working with second graders is a better recruiter for second grade teachers than even the pastor of the church. With a team approach, individuals can be delegated to contact prospective teachers for the areas where they have the most interest and enthusiasm.

The Recruiting Conversation

A lot of people seem to prefer Sunday mornings as their recruiting time. I think this is a mistake. If I'm recruiting teachers for a two-year commitment to a class, I don't want to catch someone on the run in the hall on Sunday morning. I want a quiet, unhurried environment.

I try to schedule recruiting conversations well in advance. For most people, teaching is not just an add-on; it's a major rearrangement of their lives. So in April I'm already looking at my needs for September and beyond so I can give prospective teachers the time they need to plan, to pray, and to prioritize.

I try to recruit people for two-year commitments, with time off during that term so they're not working every week for two solid years. I often tell people, "During the first year, you're learning the job. During the second year, you should be training your successor." Teachers sustain two year-commitments fairly well. Some last much longer, especially if we are careful to schedule breaks, breathers, and vacations.

I try to give the prospective teacher room to sense the authentic guidance of the Holy Spirit. The danger of recruiting is that we can easily become manipulative. We can become so convinced of the rightness and importance of our agenda that we try to bend the will of another person to the needs of our program.

I believe some of the most important time I spend in the recruiting conversation is not the time I spend talking, but the time I spend listening. I listen to the prospective teacher's questions, fears, and apprehensions. I listen for signs of excitement and enthusiasm. And when there is reluctance on the part of the prospective teacher, I listen to discern the difference between reasons and excuses.

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