We’ve spoken to hundreds of pastors and churches.
Not once have we heard this sentence:
“Man, you know, we have some really great people serving all over our church, but I think there’s just too many of them. We don’t know where to put people anymore!”
Why is that?
Why does there always seem to be a lack of volunteers willing to serve consistently on Sunday mornings? How can we get people plugged in to a ministry they enjoy or they’re gifted in?
To know what may be holding some people back, let’s look at four things that are keeping people from volunteering.
1. It’s complicated to get started.
Some barriers are necessary.
For example, many youth and children’s ministries have what’s called a “6-month” rule, where you have to have been regularly attending your church for 6 months before you’re ready to volunteer with a ministry. Rules like these thwart potentially dangerous people from being able to interact with children and promote safety.
However, I’d say that’s one of the few exceptions to the rule.
For the most part, the harder you make something, the fewer people will do it.
While the example above could be named a “necessary” barrier, we often see two unnecessary barriers.
The first is the faith barrier.
The “faith” barrier requires all volunteers to recite the apostle’s creed, be a member, tithe, and sell their firstborn child to serve.
While we understand the importance of wanting to make sure your people are legit, especially someone in a teaching role, like a small group leader, does a greeter really have to be a member? Does a bass player have to be saved? If they’re restricted, they’re missing out on so many opportunities to be in community with other believers and on hearing and seeing the gospel lived out daily.
Don’t miss those moments.
The second common barrier we see is the age barrier.
The “age” barrier is as simple as it sounds. You may not see potential in a volunteer because of their age. Some of your best volunteers may be in high school. Or older! Don’t discount anyone because of their walk of life. Get to know people and find out what they’re purposed to do.
Get rid of unnecessary barriers, make it an easy process to volunteer, and everyone will do it.
2. The commitments are not clear.
This is probably one of the biggest reasons we see for people not volunteering, dropping out, or not serving with excellence.
Every volunteer needs a job description.
You wouldn’t start a job without knowing what you were doing, how you were expected to do it, what you were getting paid, and all the little details in between.
People need and look to you to provide the clarity. They need a physical “job” description that tells them exactly what you expect from them in their ministry role. As a Church Fuel member, you have access to a Volunteer Job Description template that shows you exactly how to form this document and guides you in exactly what you should include in it.
How long will people need to serve? 1-2 years? 6 months?
How long do you need them to serve? One service? Both? Every Sunday? Once a month? Every other week?
Be specific. Don’t expect people to know what you expect of them. Lay it all out there on the table.
3. The needs are too generic.
Ever desperately pleaded with your congregation before?
“We need children’s ministry workers!”
What does that mean?
The first image that comes to mind is a scene from Cheaper by the Dozen when Steve Martin’s kids unleash a snake at their home during a party and madness and/or chaos ensues.
In that case, count me out.
Really though, what does that mean?
Do you need small group leaders? Assistant leaders? Production people? Actors? Worship leaders? Floaters? Check-in people?
Instead of saying you need kid’s workers, say you need an assistant teach to help with the 3rd to 5th grade room.
You need another set of hands to help with production.
Or you need a married couple to greet for the second service.
Be clear about your needs.
4. You’re not asking people personally.
Many of your people, especially your introverts, will not volunteer if they don’t think there is a need.
Even if you screamed it from the platform, making it personal and encouraging someone with what they’re gifted at may be the thing that makes them want to take the next step.
For me, it was a church leader approaching me a few years ago saying “hey, you are really great and consistent leading worship in your campus ministry. Why don’t you do that for your church?” This made me “take the leap”.
For others, it could be a college student that is a great with social media and could oversee your communications team.
Or a married couple who you think would be great co-ed small group leaders.
You can’t recruit leaders from the stage.
You’ve got to get personal.
Are there any other things that prevent your people from volunteering? Or do you have ways you like to onboard people? Let us know. We love to hear from you.
So What's Next?
How do you take the stuff in this post and put legs on it? From someone who used to be a pastor and church planter, I know it can be frustrating to implement.
We know you care deeply about leading a healthy growing church because it means leading more people to Jesus. Leading volunteers is an integral part of that process so everyone can spend time on what they're best at. As a result we created a free guide to leading volunteers that will bring clarity and help begin to alleviate your frustrations.
Get your FREE copy of the Senior Pastor's Guide to Leading Volunteers today by entering your name and email below.