it always comes back to people
Any ministry leader with a thriving ministry will tell you how important volunteers are to making each and every experience “go.” You can have hundreds or thousands of people show up to an event. You can have the best lights and sound equipment in the country. You can have the sweetest guitar and top of the line projector, you can even purchase the best curriculums or have the best programs, but without volunteers to oversee and perform the necessary tasks, you don’t actually have an experience.
I’m sure there is some person out there who would argue that you could automate tons of those processes. I am all for technology, artificial intelligence, and robots to make our lives easier. I firmly believe churches could majorly up their game in automating a lot of jobs and processes. If a robot can vacuum your house and mow your lawn, and apps can turn your lights and thermostat on. Then there is room for tech growth in ministry, but you know what an app can’t do? An app can’t greet you at the door and know your name. An app can’t hug your child or change their diaper. Technology can’t serve you communion or pray with you. Those things can only be done by a person, a volunteer, someone passionate about your “house” and your people.
volunteers are crucial to the work you do
Okay, so hopefully you already knew how ridiculously crucial volunteers are to the weekend experience. Hopefully, you also love the socks off the ones you’ve got, consistently reminding them how grateful you are that they are on your team. However, I know some of you might be in another camp, where you know how important they are but you just can’t get enough of them, or you can’t keep the ones you have. Volunteer recruitment is an on-going process. If you are in the business of volunteerism, then just accept that recruitment is also always on your agenda.
Here are five things you could potentially consider using as new strategies to boost your recruitment efforts in relationship to volunteers.
rebooting your volunteer recruitment strategy for the fall
#1 see if your lead pastor will do a “volunteer push” from the pulpit
I know this is a touchy subject for a lot of folks, and I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, but I have been at churches 10,000 people big, and I’ve heard the Lead Pastor help recruit, and I’ve been at churches much smaller, where that’s not their thing. Personally, I land on the side that a Lead Pastor, at least once a year, if not several times a year, should sincerely encourage their congregation to serve.
The “Lead” Pastor is the “Leader” for a reason, and attendees are the most emotionally connected to their Pastor as well. A Pastor who asks his people to serve can sometimes make a significant impact. When a Lead Pastor asks it’s like casting a large net. You will get “wide” results instead of “deep”, but you will get results.
#2 set up a “signing bonus” for new people who sign up for the fall
Everyone wants to be rewarded and recognized. When there is even a little bit of incentive attached to something, it can make a huge difference. When you do a volunteer push, you could announce a “signing bonus” from the onset. Let people know if they sign up for the fall; you’re going to give them a $5 gas gift card or possibly some free specialty beverages at your cafe for a period of time.
You could even make it part of your initiation process that a ministry leader will take them to lunch. Or if money is an issue, then get creative, have your student ministry donate their time to detail all the new volunteers vehicles or any idea you can come up with. If you are concerned about people taking advantage of your bonus, you can set it up so that volunteers get their signing bonus when three months have passed. Regardless, make it fun!
#3 create a competition between ministries to see who can get the most volunteers each month
This idea is directed at staff and high capacity leaders, but there is a lot of value in an idea like this. Humans need motivation to get jobs done. Obviously, there is some intrinsic motivation because every ministry needs volunteers, but there can be ongoing staff motivation by creating a competition between departments to encourage recruiting. At the end of the year, you could even take the ministry team who recruited the most people for the year out to lunch or dinner.
I know people are reading this and would say that’s the job of a ministry leader, but extrinsic motivation is paramount to on going success. These are tiny tweaks that can help re-boot your strategy instead of just doing what you’ve always done.
#4 create a volunteer structure that doesn’t only depend on you
This is an “easier said than done” point because now you’re not only looking for volunteers but high capacity volunteers. However, it’s the job of the ministry leader to create this type of structure. A lot of volunteers will take leadership positions with greater responsibilities if you only ask.
Consider a “coach” or “team lead” that will oversee other people within your ministry. Find volunteers who will completely take things off of your plate or possibly even do tasks for you midweek. Some people are not comfortable committing to one job on Sunday’s at 10, but will serve for 6 hours on a Tuesday. Work out an organizational chart of every position you desire that would make your ministry work more efficiently and then try to actually bring it to life.
#5 commit to asking one new person every week
The “personal ask” always goes the furthest. It’s really easy to say, my ministry doesn’t have any volunteers because my pastor never mentions it from the pulpit, OR we don’t have “fresh blood” because our church doesn’t offer a “signing bonus” for new volunteers. Yes, it’s true all of the ideas in this article could definitely help your volunteer recruitment efforts if implemented.
However, in my personal experience, the personal ask produces the most loyal volunteers of any on-ramp for serving. Yes, you might cast a much larger net when your pastor mentions it; you will get a lot more “interested” people, but that doesn’t always translate to people who are faithful and passionate about your ministry.
The “personal ask” is uncomfortable. You have to put yourself out there and possibly be rejected. This is why attempting to ask someone each and every week will make you great at asking. Your church size has to support this, but if there are new people who you think might be a good fit, then muster up some courage and see if they’d be willing to join your team.
Recruiting volunteers is no easy task. It requires on-going maintenance, administrative organization, and passion that never dies. If you feel like your tactics have gotten a little stale, then the fall is a great time to boost morale and try some new things. Consider doing it as a staff and see what kind of fruit you get when you plant seeds for a big harvest. A potential volunteer can be in your pipeline for months before it translates to their placement, but don’t give up! Keep pushing forward and I’ll know you see a great harvest.
Chief Creative OfficerStacia has over a decade of ministry experience, with the majority of that time leading next generation change. She has experience leading almost one hundred volunteers, and developing curriculum for kids and students. Stacia has a B.S. in Church Ministries and Biblical Studies, as well as experience educating in an elementary public school environment. She is also immensely creative and accomplished in teaching children about the wonder of God.