A recent article I read stated that women are four times more likely than a man to apologize all the way through a presentation.[1] Those constant apologies foster distrust in listeners, causing them to be much less likely to approve whatever she is proposing. The more I thought about this article, the more I believed it. But I have heard both female and male leaders apologize all the way through their appeals more times than I can count. When I tell them, “Hey, here is what you said,” they sputter, “Me? No, I never apologize when asking for volunteers.” So now I usually record it and play it back for them just to show them how many times they actually do it. One young lady apologized nineteen times (I counted) in a ninety-second appeal asking people to serve. So she apologized roughly once every four to five seconds. That’s a record, so far.

Before you start yelling that you would never do that, I challenge you to record and listen to yourself when you do an appeal (for volunteers, budget or anything else). Also read your email and voicemail appeals. Did you know there are a lot of ways to say “I’m sorry” without realizing it? How about this children’s pastor’s appeal, with my thoughts in parentheses:

Hi, I’m Pastor ____________. (So far so good.) Can I have a minute of your time? (Uh oh. Said every vacuum salesman/Jehovah Witness.) Sorry (1), I don’t do this very often (Why tell them this?) So excuse my (2) nervousness. This Scripture (read verse) oops (3) lost my place, sorry (4). What I need to tell you is this: I’m no expert (5). (If you are up there talking about it, we all consider you the expert until you told us otherwise. Why did you just tell us this?) But I really think (You think or you know?) we need people badly in the preschool area, because we have a lot of holes. (Why do people not want to work there?) We are just doing our best over there, and we need you. (Um, you want me to do better than you at it?) So if you could just spare a little of your time, just an hour a month, (Wow, you really do not expect much.) please, we could really use you. I’m never too good at this (6). (At what? What exactly are you asking me to do? How do I get started?) So I hope you’ll bear with me (7). (You are up there and I don’t have a choice.) So if you can help, let me know. (How can I let you know? Where do I find you? What are the steps? What exactly do I have to do? How can I get my questions answered? Oh never mind.) Thank you for giving me your time. (This can count as another apology, such as, Sorry I took your time.”)    

Yikes. 7 to 8 apologies??!

Contrast that with a different pastor’s appeal for volunteers I heard about a year ago:

Hey, I’m ____________, elementary director here at _________________. Behind me you’ll see pictures of the elementary dance team doing ministry downtown for our Love Your Community Day. (Whoa, that is amazing.) Our kids’ ministry is growing fast! (Something cool is going on there.) Our mission is to reach the kids of this city with the love of Jesus, while meeting their needs in a real way. (They know what they are doing!) I want to take this moment to thank our leaders for making this happen! You represented Jesus well that day, and what a difference we made! (These leaders are valued, and they are winning at their mission, a mission that is important!) With our classes growing this fast, we are going to need a more people on our team, so I am taking applications for our next season of programming. (People want to do this. They don’t just take any trained monkey.) Are you interested in more information on joining our kids’ ministry team? (Yes, I’d love to be a part of something like that!) It is not easy, and sometimes it breaks your heart. Like last week, when six-year-old Hannah from the homeless shelter walked barefoot  to the parking lot where we were ministering because she wanted to hear the music about Jesus. She hadn’t had a meal in a day and a half. We fed her a great meal, prayed with her, and she won a teddy bear at the end of the day. I’m telling you, the cost is worth the difference we get to make in kids’ lives and in our city! (Oh, my gosh. I’m crying.) Don’t wait. (I won’t!) Sign up today. (Where? How?) For more info call us at __________________________, email us at ____________________, or you can find me immediately after the service at ________________________.

She had me in tears, ready to sign up right then! It’s no surprise that she had a flood of signups—and a lot more growth over that next year. What did she do right with her appeal? She pushed vision, strategy, and excellence. The ministry was winning at a goal and the volunteers were appreciated.

There is one overarching reason to never apologize for asking someone to work in children’s ministry:

SERVING JESUS IS THE GREATEST OPPORTUNITY SOMEONE CAN BE A PART OF.

Being a part of explaining the story of Jesus; being there when they “get it”; praying with them to receive salvation; seeing them learn to talk to and experience God themselves; helping them find their God-given gifts and the joy of serving—these are the greatest moments I have ever had. Offering someone a chance to use their gifts for something that matters and will last into eternity is the kindest thing you can do for them. You need to understand this down to your soul right now.

If you do not see the “mission critical” impact of what you do, no one else will either. If you don’t believe in the eternal significance of what you are doing, right down to your toes, how can you ask others to take on this journey with you?

You see, American culture has it all wrong by supposing that volunteering is a nice thing to do if you have extra time. Scripture tells us that every Christian—not just the pastor—is to be actively engaged in serving and using his or her gifts to serve Christ, His church, and the lost. Our consumer mentality tells us that the church is here to serve and entertain us by providing us with something. This thinking couldn’t be more wrong and unbiblical. In reality, God created and loves His church desperately. The church is a hospital, a rescue center, reaching out to those without Jesus, and training and equipping Christians to reach the lost. We are to train Christians how to serve to their fullest potential. This serving is not optional; Scripture warns that God will hold us accountable for how we use our time, treasure, and talent. On that day, when everyone gives an account for how they spent their lives, when only what was done for Jesus matters, how many will be ecstatic that you asked them to serve? So do not hesitate to give someone the chance to serve—and do not apologize for doing so.

Want more tips on recruiting volunteers? Check out “Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch”, now available on Amazon.com, for a comprehensive look at the do’s and don’ts of effective recruiting.

So honestly, do you apologize too much? What have been your best recruiting, presentation strategies? Trisha

A man holding a card with a hand written message on it, Sorry.

[1] Brian Williams, NBC Reports, Sorry, it’s true, women apologize more. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/39384763/ns/health-womens_health/t/sorry-study-shows-why-women-apologize-more/#.VAOcfMVdWro, 2012, accessed May 2014

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