Bill Hybels' A.C.T.S. model for recruiting workers

Note: this material will be the basis of a new conference I will be doing. This year, I have concentrated on the "I. and G." of T.I.G.E.R. I am developing this seminar which will emphasize the "E. and R." Disciplemaking Teachers emphasizes the "T." If you are interested in hosting a conference, 575- 650-4564. Or, email me at

The bottleneck has always been laborers.

Jesus taught the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.

Jesus taught us to pray then he recruited his disciples to go out and preach the gospel. We do well to follow his example of praying and recruiting. Here is the text:

He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Luke 10:2-3 (NIV)

In small churches people think they are the exception. "Do you know what are problem is around here? We can't get enough workers. I mean, we just have so few people and the same small, committed core tends to do everything."

In big churches people are overwhelmed by the number of workers they need. "Do you have any idea how many workers a church of this size needs?" Indeed.

In big churches and small the great need of the hour is more workers. It is not so much more space or better programs or better material or slicker literature of a hot new contemporary band. The need of the hour has always been and will always be workers.

Effective servants of Christ do what Christ did. They pray for workers and the recruit workers.

I heard a Bill Hybels talk recently that offered some fresh insight as to how to recruit workers. It follows the acrostic A.C.T.S. If we would recruit workers, we need to do four things:

  • Attract
  • Connect
  • Train
  • Sustain

How to attract workers

Attract personally. Think of people you know. Write down the names of five people who are

  • Christians
  • attend your church
  • love your church
  • are not serving in any way.           Begin to pray for them.

Attract positively. Share a positive testimony about how you love serving. Tell them how much it means to you to be involved in the work. Your enthusiasm for the joy of the work is what will attract them.

Baby steps. Don't ask them to serve for the rest of their lives. Ask them to take a baby step. You might say something like, "Would you be willing to teach the introduction of this lesson?" Or, "Would you come with me one week as I teach these kids? Just hang out and observe." or, "Would you substitute teaching for me this one week?" Or, "Would you help Mary and Barbara plan three fellowships in the next three months?" Or, "Could you call this list of ten people and invite them to the upcoming fellowship?"

Debrief. After they take this baby step, talk to them about it. How did they feel? Would they like to do it again? Could they see themselves doing this some time in the future? Is there any sense of calling about this? Did they feel they were good at it at all?

Often time, in this stage, we discover we have a connecting problem. We don't want to connect people with just any ministry; we want to connect them with the right ministry.

How to connect people to the right ministry

The path from not being involved in ministry to being involved in the right ministry is rarely a straight line. We learn by doing. We learn by experimenting. We can fully expect that most of the time when people experiment with ministry, they will not get the perfect fit the first time. Maybe not the second or third time.

One of the best books I know on spiritual gifts is Peter Wagner's book, Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow. In this book, Wagner lists five steps to discovering your gifts. The second one is "Experiment with as many as possible." Encourage people to do this. Don't give up on the first try. Keep experimenting.

When we find the right fit, we discover something that. . .

  • We have some competence in. We may not preach like Andy Stanley, but we do have some competence.
  • We love it. Not that it doesn't have some pain, and isn't some work. Still, there is a sense of joy around serving in the area of our giftedness.
  • We have a sense of the importance of this part of the work. Mercy givers like to repeat the phrase, "They don't care what we know until they know that we care." Teachers like to remind us that the truth sets us free. Leaders can make a case for the primacy of the leadership gift. Truth is, it takes all the parts to make a body.
  • We might think our pastor does not do this very well. People with the gift of mercy want the pastor at the hospital every day, whether or not someone is there. People with the gift of leadership want the pastor to lead. People with the gift of teaching want the pastor to study. We are all a little guilty of gift projection--expecting others (especially our pastor) to do what God has called us to do.


I am on public record for saying that training tends to be over rated. I am a full-time Sunday School trainer and I say training is over-rated. Recruiting is underrated. Who you recruit is far more important than how you are training. Training can move a 7 to a 9 or a 4 to a 6. It cannot move a 3 to a 10.

Still, training is important. Gary Ellis, of First Baptist Edmund, Oklahoma shared with me this weekend his model of once a month training for his workers. He has a meal for his workers right after church. (Because they have multiple Sunday Schools he does this in two sessions.) He charges the teachers $2 each and subsidies the rest. He then meets with them and trains them for thirty minutes or an hour during this time.

One of the best ways I have seen to do training is to do it during the Sunday School hour. You can't do this more than about once a quarter, but because people are already there, you will get a real high percentage to show up. Have all the teachers get a substitute one week, and you pull all the teachers together for some training.

Every teacher would benefit from going through the following courses. If you have not been through all of these, I recommend you do so.

  • Disciplemaking Teachers
  • Seven Laws of the Learner
  • Seven Laws of the Teacher
  • Teaching with Style
  • Preaching for Life Change
  • Communicating with Bold Assurance
  • Teaching the Jesus Way

The best training is one-on-one coaching. Give them a job. Watch. Debrief. Fine tune. Improve. Encourage. Catch them doing something right and point it out.


We spend too much time telling people what they ought to do and not enough time rewarding them for doing the right things. We need to have systems in place to reward and encourage people to serve over the long haul.

I wrote two articles on this last summer:

The key to more ministry is more ministers. It is not doing the work of ten men, it is getting ten men in the work. The A.C.T.S. model can help you be a better recruiter.