Orange Slices: “How to Recruit Special Needs Volunteers”

When it comes to running any ministry, recruiting volunteers is a high priority. Harmony Hensley, Pastor of Outreach and Inclusion at the Vineyard Church in Cincinnati, has taken recruiting from a necessity to an art. As a result, her outreach events reach thousands of people each year; her Prom outreach has been replicated across the United States and in Europe as well! She shared some of her strategies at Orange.

Harmony’s primary focus during the session was “showing the extravagant love of God…” not just to families with special needs, but ALSO to volunteers, vendors and the community at large. She emphasized that not every volunteer is equipped for, or even meant to provide direct care to a child with special needs. However, she is committed to finding a role for willing folks to contribute in meaningful ways. For example, she contacts business owners in the community to contribute goods and services for her Prom and Respite outreaches, knowing that this invitation allows them to make a difference in the Kingdom and welcomes them into relationships with the church.

When asked how she retains volunteers, Harmony didn’t hesitate. “Love them. Do life with them. Assure them that we’re in this together, and you’re not going to let them down.”  Harmony places a high value on relationships, and believes that a primary part of her role as a pastor is equipping the saints to expand the Kingdom. She emphasized that by building relationships, understanding each volunteer’s gifts, and creating a community, volunteers grow in faith and leadership.

In addition to building relationships, Harmony placed a high value on communication. “We serve a God of order,” she said, and shared that clear communication and planning is critical to the recruitment process. By clearly communicating the vision of the ministry, she said, volunteers understand their role in accomplishing ministry objectives.

By including volunteers in the inner-workings of the ministry, Harmony believes that programs, events, and most importantly, relationships will be strengthened. She states that as a pastor, she is mindful that building a competent team is not only necessary, but also Biblical; she cites Acts 2:42 as a model for community. In addition, Harmony has created what she calls the “Asteroid Principle” to ensure that egos are set aside in order to build the Body of Christ:

In the unlikely event that I, (insert your name here), should be struck by an asteroid, all relevant ministry materials are documented in such a way that “the show will go on”, the Kingdom will advance, and no one will even notice I’m gone.”

As Harmony “mobilizes the masses” to serve at special events and in regular programming, she knows that she’s not only ministering to families affected by disabilities, but the volunteers as well.  “We’re giving them front row seats to the Kingdom!”  




1 thought on “Orange Slices: “How to Recruit Special Needs Volunteers”

  1. “We serve a God of order.” Amen! So many in leaders forget this. I learned early that volunteers will not stay in an unorganized ministry.

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