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Small Group Leader Recruiting: When They Say "No"

Recruiting small group leaders? At the risk of sounding oversimplified, let me suggest you just invite them. The number-one method for volunteer involvement continues to be personal invitation. Often we don’t ask, because we’re concerned volunteers will say “no.”                                                

Hearing people tell you “no” is all part of the process of inviting people to serve in ministry. They’re not saying “no” to you but rather to the opportunity to serve. Try to keep this perspective since the more people you invite, the more you’ll hear that word!

When Someone Says “No”…

Don’t panic.  Becoming “Joe-salesperson” to get a volunteer to say “yes” will only be seen as arm-twisting and manipulation. Instead, try and discern the reason for the “no.”  

Here’s what “no” often means:

1. “I don’t feel qualified.”  New Christians especially may feel like they don’t have the background or experience to serve.  This is really a training issue.  Inform them of training opportunities to equip them to be successful in the position.

2. “This is not a good time.” Everyone has seasons in life when they may not be able to serve. Children, health, employment (or lack of) may interfere with a person’s time commitment.  They may be more receptive if a different schedule is offered or if they are contacted when the next opportunity becomes available. If you discover a ministry need in this volunteer (illness, unemployment, etc.), you’ll transition from being the “inviter” to the “minister.”  Be sure to connect the person to the appropriate care providers at your church.

3. “That’s not a good fit.”  Your volunteer is not saying “no” to serving—just to the position.  Explore what other options may be a better fit and refer the person to the appropriate ministry leader. There may even be other positions available within the same ministry area for your referral. The volunteer may prefer serving as the assistant group leader or host. If someone else is recruiting for these positions, don’t forget to pass this information along and make sure no one falls through the cracks.           

After They Say No… 

Once you discern what the “no” represents:

  • Thank them for prayerfully considering the opportunity to serve. Be polite and appreciative for their consideration of the service opportunity. Your appreciation can be shown through a follow-up phone call or a thank-you card.
  • Record their response and follow up as needed.  For example, if they tell you they’d be interested in helping next year, someone will need to give them a call.  Many tracking programs have “tickler reminders” of when to make the next contact. A “no” today may be a “yes” later! 
  • Provide information on what happens next.  Be sure the volunteer knows what happens next—even if no action on their part is required.  Include any action steps if you’ll be referring them to another ministry area or will be contacting them in the future. Confirm the outcome in a respectful manner, so you don’t have people avoiding you when they see you coming down the hall.

Don’t let a “no” response get you down. Inviting people into ministry means sometimes people will say “yes” and sometimes they’ll say “no.” Keep focused on the main goal: growing people as they find their ministry.