Dougg Custer, WorldVenture’s vice president of Mobilization Ministries, shares his vision for the future of recruitment.
Q: What have been some of the challenges since merging the Connections and Mobilization departments earlier this year?
A: The learning curve is still very steep for me. I’ve officially been in the role since May 1. The challenges were many because of the reconstruction of the department. They put two departments together that had never been under the same umbrella before, but it made a great deal of sense that they should be.
We all want the same thing, but to be able to maintain the integrity and the standard WorldVenture has appreciated over the years is getting more and more challenging. There’s no sorting through good candidates; there’s scrambling and competition for good candidates from many agencies. There are 10 times more organizations looking for workers. And has the pond gotten 10 times bigger? Not at all.
Q: Has it gotten smaller?
A: I would say it’s not smaller than 20, 30, 40 years ago, but it’s not much bigger either. And life is tremendously different. When I was appointed 35 years ago, if either one of us had a divorce in our background, we would not have been appointed. Today, it’s rare that we get a candidate where they do not have a divorce in their background. WorldVenture used to require almost everybody to have a master’s degree. Today, it’s been changed to have the education complementary to the job you’re going to do, which does make more sense, but it definitely lowers the theological and biblical acumen that we took for granted.
We’re finding that our missionaries, our own people, are our best recruiters. But how do we bring potential candidates into contact with us? We need to come up with more events that do that, that bring people to spend a few days with us rather than chasing them around churches and campuses.
Q: How has the reorganization of the departments created better teamwork?
A: The assumptions about each other have broken down quite a bit. In the absence of accurate knowledge, assumption will jump in, and assumption is rarely accurate. We have had a great opportunity to work on the interpersonal relationships because we are in the same department now. Some fractured relationships have been healed, which has been wonderful to see. That helps form a solid foundation on which we can all do our work with more confidence.
Q: How are you overcoming the perennial difficulties that come with recruiting people for lifelong missions?
A: The challenge of today is a lot of deeply wounded people who have come to Christ, who want to serve Him and would love to do it in the arena of missions. Our own experience and counseling experts tell us these people are going to have even more challenges to overcome in a cross-cultural, high-pressure ministry setting. We need fields to be far more receptive and encouraging, while being willing to partner with these new kinds of missionaries. They want to be a part of a team; they need to be a part of a team. We just need fields to partner with the whole idea of helping train their own people.
Q: How has recruiting become better or easier?
A: Social media makes communication so much easier now. I was at Liberty University for a week. I’m still texting and emailing back and forth with a dozen of the students I met during the week. The tech really does help.
Q: What are some of your goals for 2015 recruitment this coming year?
A: We know that there’s a big bubble of resignations and retirements coming at us. Resignations have stayed pretty constant; we average about five to seven per year. We have, in 2019 and 2020, a huge number of missionaries hitting retirement age.
So 2015, 2016 and 2017 need to be big upturn years in appointees. We’ve averaged about 25 people a year. That needs to go up to about 35. That gets more and more challenging every year, because new mission organizations come into existence.
For more information about how WorldVenture handles missionary recruitment, check out how we send missionaries, how we support U.S. churches through our regional directors, and the many benefits of going with us.