Recruiting and Keeping Teachers

Recruiting is the holy act of helping others discover their leadership gifts.
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Reasons and Excuses

Dealing with excuses is one of the most delicate aspects of recruiting. For one thing, "excuses" are sometimes valid reasons. Learning to tell a reason from an excuse is part of the discernment that goes with recruiting.

If a prospective teacher says to me, "Gee, I'd really love to teach a class, but I'm president of the PTA this year, and I just can't take on another duty right now," my reply would be, "President of the PTA is a strategic position, and I want to support your commitment. Perhaps when your term is up, we can take another look at the possibility of teaching." Then I would stay in touch and show a genuine interest in that person's duties with the PTA.

If someone just doesn't want to get involved, anything can be an excuse: "My mother comes to town every other weekend" or "Our family likes to go hiking and I just couldn't make a commitment." Those are excuses, pure and simple. If a person really believed the class was worthwhile, such activities would soon take second place.

The Inadequacy Excuse

One response that requires some special attention is "the inadequacy excuse," which says, "I don't have the gifts, experience, or knowledge to teach this class."

When you consider it, the inadequacy excuse is actually a good place to begin. People should be intimidated by the job of teaching, whether it is teaching children, youth, or adults. It's a profound responsibility. We can often answer the inadequacy excuse by offering help, training, prayer support, and resources to the prospective teacher.

One of the most common inadequacy excuses is "I don't know enough to teach this subject." In that case, I might ask, "Would you feel more confident if I helped you learn the subject?" or "How about if I give you some excellent resources?" or "Would a co-teacher help?" Then I listen carefully to the answers so that I can determine if that person just needs help and encouragement in order to say yes—or if I need to find another teacher.

Another factor that sometimes elicits "the inadequacy excuse" is the language used when we recruit. If I paint too grandiose a picture of the eternal significance of teaching college students, my prospective teacher is likely to respond, "I'm not a good enough Christian to have that kind of impact!" Instead of inspiring and motivating, I've scared that teacher away!

The language of vision and ministry should be appropriate to the level of the person we're talking to, and appropriate to the level of the teaching task.

Don't Take Yes for an Answer

Another principle I always follow in recruiting: Never let people respond in the initial conversation. My job is not to rope people into my program but to help them discern the will of God. The question is always, "Is God truly calling you to this ministry?" If God has not called that person, I don't want that person to teach. So I always close with words to the effect, "Let's pray and think about this possibility for the next few days."

The Elijah Syndrome

Teaching is draining. After a class, many teachers fall into "the Elijah syndrome"—a sense of energy depletion, dissatisfaction, and malaise, often accompanied by spiritual attack in the form of self-doubt and doubting God. We look back on our class time and think, "Who am I kidding? They're not getting anything out of this class. I'm a failure."

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