“Man… we have so many volunteers, we don’t even know what to do with them all.”
Have you ever heard anyone say that?
We definitely haven’t.
In our FOMO-driven world, it’s often hard to get people to commit to anything. The people who do volunteer seem to flake out and we are left on Sunday mornings short-staffed and struggling to be the most effective we can be in our different ministry areas.
But we believe it doesn’t have to be this way. We believe there are practical steps you can take to get more people to volunteer in your church and help your ministries thrive. That’s what we’d love to share with you today.
1. Figure out exactly who you need.
“How many volunteers do you need?”
Do you notice the problem with the above conversation?
More is not a goal. It can’t be reached. There is no end in sight.
And when your church hears this, they can almost sense this “doom and gloom” in your voice—the quest for never-ending volunteers. Or it sounds like no one can measure up and do all that needs to be done.
It honestly doesn’t sound like volunteering will be fun or an enjoyable experience.
Something to help break this cycle is creating a volunteer org chart. Writing down every single role you’d like filled (whether you have a person to fill it or not) can give you an exact idea of how many volunteers you actually need to effectively run each ministry area.
Not only that, but once you realize you need a fifth-grade kid’s leader, a production director, and a volunteer coordinator—you will be able to recognize people’s gifting to find the best people to fill your missing roles, and not just filling them up with warm bodies. Which leads us to our next point.
2. Ask people personally.
People can’t volunteer if they don’t know volunteers are needed.
And again, there’s a difference between announcing that you “desperately need kid’s ministry volunteers” (cue every Cheaper by the Dozen scene where twelve kids are running around wreaking havoc on everyone and everything—no thanks) and a simple “we need three elementary school classroom leaders.”
It makes it sound much more structured and like that is a much more attainable goal.
When you know what you’re looking for, you begin to notice people in your church.
Maybe there is someone in your small group who is really wise and soft-spoken and they’ve never volunteered because they’ve felt like they needed to be the outspoken life-of-the-party to volunteer. But they might make a great discipleship team member to pray with people after the service or get people connected to your church.
How much more would it mean for you or your staff to go up to someone and say, “Hey, we are so glad you’re a part of our church family. You know, I’ve seen that you are a great listener. That is a gift! Would you consider being a part of the discipleship team? I think you’d be really great at it.”
You might even be making someone aware of gifts they didn’t even realize they had. We love hearing stories of churches that do this.
3. Be clear about what is expected of your volunteers.
Every volunteer needs a job description.
Just because it isn’t a paid position, it doesn’t make it okay to throw your volunteer to the wolves. Like any other job, you need to provide clarity for the person filling a volunteer role.
How long do you need them to serve? Is it short-term or long-term?
Do you need them at one service? Both services?
Every week? Every other week? Once a month?
Be specific. Clarify what your expectations are. That way people know exactly what you expect of them and with that information, they can let you know if they’re able to meet those expectations.
4. Celebrate your current volunteers.
Rick Warren started his book The Purpose Driven Life with these words: “It’s not about you.”
But if we want volunteers who are going to stay engaged, it does need to be about them a little bit. A little encouragement goes a long way. People need to feel important. They need to feel like what they are doing matters. This will motivate them to continue serving.
You can do this in small, inexpensive ways like thank you notes, bragging about them on social media, telling stories about volunteers from the pulpit, giving them a gift, and letting them know they’re doing a great job and that you’re thankful for them.
You can also do this in bigger ways, like throwing a volunteer appreciation event. You can do it big and make it a show with entertainment or just a simple dinner.
Either way, it strengthens your relationship with your current volunteers, encouraging them to continue serving and staying engaged, as well as showing people who are not volunteering what the benefits of serving are.
It’s important for people to see that in addition to being selfless and giving their time and energy to serve, they will gain friends and a family to serve alongside. They’ll see that they will learn and grow through serving others. These are the things that will intrigue people to volunteer.
Take a Next Step
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 staff that will bring clarity and help begin to alleviate your frustrations.
Get your FREE copy of the Senior Pastor's Guide to Leading Staff today.