Gathering and Recruiting, Part 1

The subject of recruiting is a live grenade in all churches, and Part 2 of this edition will deal specifically with that topic. But in order to thoroughly address the larger issue we need to begin with a leadership skill that precedes recruiting; it is the skill of "gathering." If you can't gather you can't recruit.

Gathering, in plain language, is "collecting people." That sounds kind of funny, but I don't mean it like collecting stamps, baseball cards or Beanie Babies. Please don't create a mechanical image in your head of categorizing people on the collector's shelf of your mind. The flavor is much more of a leader who finds people interesting and full of potential-leaders who are good at gathering, love people and naturally migrate toward them.

Gathering is a skill or ability that leaders must have to be effective. It encompasses the non-negotiable fact that all leaders have a vision, and the fulfillment of that vision requires people. It's not about using or exploiting people to accomplish "your dream"; it's about valuing people and giving them an opportunity to use their God-given gifts and passion toward the fulfillment of God's plan, as communicated through human vision-casting.

Gathering is more than being a people magnet with no mission in mind, but less than recruiting for a specific purpose. It is the ability to draw people to you and to a cause.

A clear picture and test of your ability to gather people is to throw a party and see if anyone shows up! How many come? Who comes? This sounds very basic, but I am amazed at how many leaders can't throw a party-and if they did, no one would come. I was teaching this leadership skill recently and one pastor asked, "Why would I want to throw a party?!" Yikes!

Let's take this picture up a notch. I often hear a frustration among church leaders that sounds something like this: "No matter what I do, I can't get people to show up to my training meeting." The pastor or lay leader will often connect the people not showing up to the training event to a lack of commitment.

That's not true. People don't lack commitment. The truth is, they are simply more committed to something else than they are to your training event. The real deal is the leader's inability to gather people. Let's be candid: the person(s) that didn't show for you did show up somewhere else! Someone else gathered them. Someone else threw a better party.

I understand that flaky people exist, and you could light yourself on fire and they wouldn't show up for your event (actually that might do it), but I can promise you that focusing on the "flake factor" won't get you anywhere. Leaders look within and ask what they must do better to compete with the ever- decreasing market share of people's time. Leaders take responsibility. They know that if what they have to offer is of significant value (and is part of the big picture of a winning team), the people will show up. People are "gatherable" - just check out local movie theaters, stadiums and restaurants.

How do you develop your leadership skill of gathering people? Before we hit those beloved "how to's" we need to establish the fact that gathering is not just a leadership skill, but a lifestyle. "Gatherers" can't help themselves! Leaders know that when the potential of people and the opportunities of God come together something great can happen. They are always gathering a wide variety of people, not just to get a job done, but because they realize that people are the most valuable asset a leader can invest in.

1. Communicate a genuine love and concern for people.

It's one thing to say you love and care about people - it's another to consistently show it. Good intentions get leaders nowhere. Show it.

2. Remove all traces of irrelevance.

My 12-year-old daughter, Mackenzie, calls this the "geek factor." Basically, it means who or what is or is not "with it." My wife, Patti, bought me these new cool and trendy shoes. Personally, they don't look so new and trendy to me; they just look like "clog meets Birkenstock meets tractor tread," and presto a "new" shoe. (Hey, are there no new ideas, only combining of old ones?!) Anyway, Mackenzie, upon seeing them on my feet, says... "You've got to be kidding Dad." I asked what was wrong. I wanted to find out if the shoes were dumb looking or something. She replied, "The shoes are pretty cool; the problem is that you are wearing them." Hmmmmm. What about me is so irrelevant to my young daughter? Am I really Mr. Wingtips to her? Two lessons come from this. One, you can be irrelevant to people and not know it. And second, you may be "with it" on the inside, but still wearing Beatle boots on the outside. You purists, relax. This does not mean to "sell out." Those of you who are looking for an excuse to buy a red corvette and wear a gold chain...I don't think so. And it's not about whether or not you have a robed choir. It's about being real and connecting with people so they believe you have something relevant and of value to say to them. As for shoes, wear what you want.

3. Take the initiative to create energy and stir things up.

Being yourself has already been affirmed. However, regardless of your personality, you must get in the game and mix things up. Gatherers of people don't sit on the sidelines and watch the parade go by. They get in the parade and participate with all they've got. Actually, they would gather a few people to help them in the parade! Even better, they lead the parade. This is not about personality. You can create energy and stir things up if you are outgoing or introverted. It can be more of a challenge for an introvert, but it has been proven hundreds of times over that "reflective thinkers" can lead well. But they can't lead well if they take an academic, ivory tower approach to life. My dear friend, mentor and ministry partner, John Maxwell, is the quintessential "energy creator" and is one who "stirs things up." He often says to me, "Hey Dano, let's make a mess!" What he means by that is not random, unplanned, unintentional reactionary behavior; it's his way to express getting out on the edge and launching something new before it's perfected (or sometimes before it's approved or funded!! You go, John!). In contrast, Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church (6,000 - 7,000 in attendance) is quiet, introspective and reflective. He is also a brilliant leader who stirs things up. Leaders (gatherers) never let the ripple on the water go smooth. People are attracted to action not stagnancy, and this goes for both you personally as a leader, as well as the organization you lead.

4. Consistently make intentional positive investments of value in other people.

Gatherers are not collectors of people who put them in glass boxes like trophies. They don't see people as a means to an end. They are respecters of God's amazing and extraordinary creation. Leaders honor the people they gather by investing into their lives in such a way that the people are "bigger, better and stronger" because of it. Leaders invest more into people than they expect out of them. That's a basic law of transformational leadership. Give more than you get. People figure out quickly if you want them only for what they can do for you, and they, quite candidly, will resist being gathered.

5. Communicate clearly the reason for gathering and the value of the gathering.

Up to this point, I have resisted making comments that may be considered as an element of recruiting. But gathering and recruiting are related, and they do overlap. Recruiting, however, is more specific (person by person) than gathering. So this point focuses on gathering a group for a specific purpose, without necessarily emphasizing any one individual.

This idea is reflected in things such as: a Sunday School class, a small group, a training session, a special meeting, or a youth social activity. People resist being gathered when the reason for gathering is not crystal clear. And more importantly, they absolutely will not be gathered for anything if they don't see significant value for themselves and for the church. There may have been a day when people would show up out of loyalty or whatever, but those days are gone.

6. Deliver.

Do whatever you do with class, style and excellence. Every time you gather a group of people, large or small, you are developing a track record that determines whether or not they will come back the next time. From your church service itself (yes, that is gathering) to a special business meeting with your Elders, plan to deliver with excellence. If you are thinking that people should come to church because they love God, and your Elders should show up because...because they are committed leaders in the church and "by golly I expect them to show up" - think again.

People will come if it's good and they believe it's worthy of spending their valuable time. That's the deal; that's the bottom line. You must deliver. Good enough doesn't cut it. Lack of preparation is lethal. Remember, someone else out there is willing to pay the price - and unfortunately the one who will pay the price to "gather" is often not another church, but one of the world's many attractions and distractions. People are smart shoppers and their time is limited. Promise value and substance - and deliver.

The next edition will pick up right here and move to the skill of recruiting - talk with you soon.

This article is used by permission from Dr. Dan Reiland's free monthly e-newsletter 'The Pastor's Coach' available at www.injoy.com.