New Study Shows How to Persuade People to Volunteer

Asking people to volunteer can be stressful.  If you don't go into it with the right perspective, you can feel like you are bothering them or even feel like you are using them.

You may have thoughts like "What if they say no?" or "I feel like I'm annoying them."  

It's true.  Not everyone you ask to volunteer will say "yes."  But a new study shows how to persuade more people to volunteer.

Psychologist Robert Cialdini say in his new book Pre-Suasion that if people feel like they "owe" you, they are much more likely to say "yes" when you ask them to help you.  It's called the "rule of reciprocation."  Plain and simple...if you want to persuade someone to volunteer, do something to help them first.  And make it something meaningful and unexpected.  So what does that look like in children's ministry?

Invest in parents before you ask them to volunteer.  If the only time you communicate with parents is when you are asking them to volunteer, you (and they) will feel like you are using them.  But if you pour into them, provide tools for them to disciple their children, support them and partner with them, it will be much easier to hear a "yes" when you ask them to serve with you.

Support other ministries in the church.  Do you want to enlist teenagers to serve?  Go help out at a student ministry event first.  Do you want to enlist ladies to serve?  Offer to teach a parenting class.  Do you want to enlist men to serve?  Lead a men's small group.  Do you want to enlist senior adults to serve?  Volunteer to drive the van for one of their outings. 

Invest in people in the church.  Look for people you can help.  Look for people you can serve.  Look for people you can encourage.  Look for people you can support.  Do this and you'll be surprised how many of them will say "yes" a year from now when you ask them to serve with you.

As I look back, many of the people who have served with me have been people I was able to help first.  Robert is a great example.  I was able to lead Robert and his family to Christ.  I had the privilege of helping disciple Robert as a new believer.  And when his niece was going through a tough time, my wife and I were able to come alongside her.  Down the road, it was an easy ask when we needed someone to step into a children's ministry role.  Robert was glad to say "yes" because of the investment we had made in his life.

I know.  You have spots you need filled now.  You have immediate needs.  You're not alone.  I do too.  And what I'm talking about in this article may not fill them before next weekend, but it will pay huge volunteer dividends down the road.  And once you get the cycle going, you'll eventually find yourself ahead of the curve with a solid group of people that you can ask to volunteer with the confidence they will say "yes" because of the investment you've made in them.