Making recruitment work for everyone in the band

Everyone sees recruitment and new ringers as a “good thing” and there is definitely a lot of talk about how we need to recruit new, often young, ringers to ensure the future of bell ringing. All the talk is about “how to make teaching work for these new ringers”. What gets neglected is that for some people and bands, such activities can be disruptive and put them off their hobby. Not because they are people with bad attitudes but because to train people up properly takes a lot of time and commitment. This may not have been required in the past because the teaching, if it happened at all, was less intense than it is required to be nowadays to retain a fair number of ringers.

Think about everyone in the band

New recruits need time on the end of the rope, varied teaching and perseverance to succeed. Support from other new ringers is a key retention driver. How do you provide that in a band when virtually every other ringer is so much better than them?

Teachers need to commit over a long period of time. They can put so much into developing individual ringers they can suffer from burn-out.

Other members of the band will naturally have less time on the rope at the practice. This is probably ok in the short-term but it takes years to produce a good method ringer and unless they are looked after, other band members can start to get fed up with this.

So what are the options?

Carrying on as you always have will produce the same results as you always have (there’s a famous quote there somewhere). So if you’ve been able to train and retain a steady stream of new ringers and kept a happy band in the past, then carry on. If, however, most or all of your new recruits drift away or come along but stagnate, you might consider doing things differently.

You could be brutally honest, decide you’re not a teaching tower and kindly introduce anyone who approaches you to learn to ring to a more learner-friendly tower. Even better, offer to do the introductions and take them along to meet the band or Tower Captain (ensuring they don’t get cold feet after an initial rejection). Don’t expect them to come back to you when they are trained up, but feel good that you are doing them and bell ringing a service by giving them the best chance of learning to ring and sticking at it. This is a brave decision to take, as there is an unwritten expectation that all towers will teach, however it doesn’t have to be forever. Circumstances change – ringers retire and feel that they “want to give something back” or the band starts aging and has to recruit or it will stop ringing.

Alternatively you can decide to do things differently. Not only putting lots of energy into your new ringers (feeling anxious not to lose them) but also equally importantly putting thought and time into maintaining the motivation and enjoyment of your existing ringers and regular visitors who used to come to your practice because it was more advanced. How about:

  • A monthly advanced practice run on an invitation only basis.
  • Regular quarter peal and peal attempts.
  • Combining with another local tower or cluster to organise special practices on a particular method or aspect of ringing, such as conducting or composition.
  • Splitting your practice night so that the last half hour is always reserved for more advanced ringing – new ringers can of course stay to watch and listen if they wish, but they’ll be doing their own ringing earlier on.
  • Making Sunday Service ringing by invitation only so that the band has an opportunity to ring longer touches of methods.
  • Ensuring that everyone present at the practice gets to ring at least one touch of something they’d like to ring if possible … with a steady band, not just a quick plain course of something at the end as an afterthought.

A lot (probably too much) for one person to organise, so delegation will be required. This is not a bad thing as no-one has a monopoly on good teaching, leadership and organisation.


The Bob Doubles effect

No, this isn’t another resource on teaching Plain Bob, but it’s about taking care of your existing band after a large influx of learners have joined.

Initially, everyone was delighted with such a positive response from the recruitment campaign and eager to help as the new band members progressed through rounds, call changes and Plain Hunt.

Perhaps the band had previously been ringing Treble Bob or Surprise methods on a practice night – and all this was abandoned to nurture the new ringers, the existing team unselfishly put their own ringing on a back burner. But after a further six months of ringing mostly Plain Bob Doubles (with perhaps just a quick touch of something more advanced now and again) it’s become obvious that the ringing abilities of the original band members have declined and some people don’t come that regularly any more.

What's next?

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