Clergy, CASA & Community: Faith-based Volunteer Recruitment

This article is the second in a series focused on our faith-based volunteer recruitment initiative – Clergy, CASA, and Community. One of the most important things we have learned through our four discovery meetings is the diversity of cultures that a recruiter might find in church communities. We asked faith leaders some questions about how a recruiter would make a lasting connection. Read the the questions and their responses below.

How can a recruiter develop interest within a faith community?

  • In our community, there needs to be something on the “inside,” meaning the congregation drives the effort and then church staff will take the lead. The ministry must align with both the heart and the people to encourage buy-in.
  • Recruiters should be sensitive to all callings of the church and know that their mission might not be the only one.
  • Reference a member’s name when contacting the church to make a connection, or have that member (perhaps a current CASA volunteer) connect you with the pastor.
  • It’s important for a recruiter to use the same messaging each time.

What are some examples of an outside organization that may have taken the wrong approach in reaching your community?

  • They didn’t follow up or weren’t consistent after they visited our community.
  • They didn’t connect their ask with the church’s ministry — meaning they didn’t do their homework before they approached us.
  • One single program or ministry can’t dominate our work. Our calling is expansive.
  • They didn’t expect to be invested long term. Working within a church takes time to get to know us.

Faith leaders have repeatedly shared their value of connection and relationship building in order to recruit CASA volunteers from their membership. Here’s another important question we asked:

What would you want a visitor to know about your faith community?

  • Sometimes people don’t need a ministry, they need a mission. We will announce and make public this mission (of serving kids in foster care) on a regular basis.
  • Visitors may not understand the various aspects of service of the church. We serve the community that our church is part of, and the best way to get closer to God is to get closer to his community.
  • The church is the solution to this problem and was mandated to do this; the government wasn’t. I’m proud of this (willingness to work with the faith community).
  • We want visitors to see our involvement in the community. Our vision is to have  foster homes waiting on children, rather than children waiting on homes.

Although these pastors come from very different faith communities, the common thread among them is a willingness to serve children and families impacted by the foster care system. Faith-based recruitment requires both an appreciation of this common “calling” and an understanding of their cultural differences.

At our last discovery meeting, A Conversation with African American Clergy, Texas CASA Recruitment and Retention Officer Dennise Jackson shared the following:

“We learned from black pastors of the mistrust they feel when it comes to the child welfare system. They also shared with us the importance of understanding the culture of their church and the roles that different folks play in the church. I specifically remember one pastor talking about the first lady (pastor’s wife) and where she sits in the congregation. The number one thing to know is you do not sit where the pastor’s wife sits. Understanding and respecting these ‘little things’ are crucial to our ability to build relationships with black churches.

We want to be part of the black church because it is an essential part of the African American community. We also know that black volunteers understand the biases a black child may face in the foster care system.”

Faith-based recruitment takes an investment of time on the part of the CASA program, but is ultimately a sustainable way to bring high-quality, diverse volunteers to your organization.

To learn more about how to become involved with the Clergy, CASA, and Community initiative or to get more information about the culture of faith communities, please contact faith-based recruitment consultant Keri McDonald at [email][/email].

Read the other Clergy, CASA and Community articles.