12 Steps to Multiply Your Volunteers
Recruiting and managing volunteers is a universal challenge for church leaders. Every minister dreams of a day that more people will want to serve than there are tasks to complete. Many would be satisfied by overcoming the 80/20 rule. Some would pay a king’s ransom just to convince one person to teach the 3rd grade Sunday School class. The relentless pressure to find more volunteers consumes an inordinate amount of energy and points to an important fact.
Every church is a volunteer organization, regardless of whether or not it employs a Minister or even an army of ministry staff members, because no congregation can afford to hire enough people to complete the vast amount of work required to keep things running smoothly. Fortunately, God blesses each church with people who are uniquely equipped to carry out specific aspects of the church’s work and ministry (see Romans 12:4-8 and 1 Corinthians 12).
1.Make It Easy
All of the other steps will be undermined if your onramps to service opportunities are hidden, confusing, or inconvenient so it is important to start here. Since certain roles require background checks and other evaluations, though, this step is concerned less with speed and more with process. Make certain that your process for joining a ministry team is clear, simple, accessible, and well-promoted.
2.Ask People to Serve
Some people will proactively seek out a ministry role but most will be perfectly content to let someone else run the show, particularly if they never hear the words, “We need your help.” So let people know they are needed. Preach a sermon series each year on gift-oriented service, promote ministry needs from the stage, highlight a ministry in the bulletin each week, and train team members to be recruiters.
3. Focus on Gifts and Passions
Individuals who hate kids shouldn’t be encouraged to serve in the nursery. People who can’t carry a tune in a bucket have no business leading worship. God has given each person unique gifts and passions to benefit the church so help people find the most natural ways to use them. Create and publish a list of every ministry role along with the primary gifts and passions associated with each one.
4. Offer One-Off Opportunities
The first step of the journey is always the hardest but the trip is a lot easier to sell when it is only a single stride long. This is the beauty of one-off serving opportunities. People are more likely to sign up for a one-time service opportunity but that will also make them dramatically more likely to start serving consistently based on the fun, joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment they experienced.
5. Create Job Descriptions
One of the most common reasons that people hesitate to volunteer is a fear of the unknown, often revolving around the level of responsibility, degree of difficulty, or time commitment. Any one of these questions left unanswered can be a significant hurdle. Fortunately, providing clarity and confidence is as simple as creating and posting a job description for every volunteer ministry role.
6. Provide Training
Training people before throwing them into a ministry role is essential for building and sustaining a successful volunteer ministry. Training boosts the volunteer’s confidence and competence, it results in higher-quality results, and it dramatically reduces turnover. Provide written expectations, engage in conversations, and require the volunteer to shadow someone who is currently fulfilling the role well.
7. Create Redundancy
This may seem counterintuitive since it is difficult enough to find one person to fill each role, but double the number of slots that are available for entry level jobs. If one person typically stands at a door to welcome guests, increase it to two people. If two people brew and serve coffee, increase it to four people. The increase in low-stress opportunities provides a great way to get more people involved.
8. Structure Breaks
The average church goer is used to missing at least one weekend worship service per month so asking someone to serve every week indefinitely can be a deal breaker. Remove this hurdle by building breaks into your volunteer schedules so team members can anticipate and plan for time off. The added benefit of structuring time off is that people will be less likely to randomly skip out on their responsibilities.
9. Empower a Volunteer Champion
Many organizations struggle with focus and consistency, and churches are often the worst offenders since every week tends to have a totally different emphasis tied to the sermon topic. To make serving an overarching and consistent priority in the church, empower a person or team with authority to promote ministry opportunities, monitor recruitment and training processes, and compile and tell stories.
10. Leverage Relationships
The chance to complete a task is not actually very inspiring. A role perceived to be important is slightly more compelling but even that isn’t enough to produce long-term participation. The ability to work side-by-side with friends to fulfill an important role, on the other hand, is a recipe for fulfillment, personal ownership, and longevity. Assign every role to a ministry team and ensure that they foster relationships.
11. Tell Stories
A success story is an invaluable recruiting tool, whether it a volunteer who was blessed through serving or someone whose life was positively impacted by a volunteer. Use stories to help people recognize needs, see that the strategies work, and envision themselves being a difference-maker. Then offer the people who were just inspired to change the world an opportunity to serve.
12. Love and Celebrate Your Volunteers
Volunteers who feel loved and celebrated will arrive early, work hard, have great attitudes, and be your best recruiters. Team members who do not feel appreciated will quit and it will become infinitely more difficult to replace them. The degree to which people feel successful and fulfilled is strongly influenced by external affirmation so create opportunities to publically recognize their efforts and successes.
The percentage of church members who are serving is important because the potential of a church is directly related to the degree to which people are engaged in ministry efforts. Extract and unleash the full power of your congregation by implementing the 12 Steps to Multiply Your Volunteers.
Jeffrey Derico, PhD
Center for Church Leadership