Here’s a not-so-secret secret: People want to help. They genuinely, truly and sincerely want to help. So when it comes to recruiting – and retaining – volunteers, the problem is not the interest of the person in your pew. Instead, it’s that we expect that they will seek us out and ask to serve.
But newsflash: That's not going to happen.
The good news is that people are the one resource every church has more than anything else – so your pews are filled with prospective volunteers. And to make your big event services, like Easter and Christmas, run smoothly, efficiently and effectively, you’ll need to capitalize on people’s inherent want to help because as we all know, events are a volunteer all-hands-on-deck, three-alarm fire kind of celebration!
Every church could use more passionate and excited volunteers. And we’ve discussed the topic extensively because recruiting and retaining your volunteers is an ongoing and critical mainstay for a thriving church.
And in the first of Chris Mavity’s ebook series, Your Volunteers: Recruit, he discusses the process of recruiting and equipping church leaders with the strategies and tools required to effectively steward your church’s number one resource – its people.
"...a volunteer base will stay very small unless you can create high energy around the service opportunities you provide."
You have to make serving something that people feel like they're missing out on if they don't do it. How is that possible? Here are a few tips on how to recruit more people to serve:
- Develop people; don't fill slots: You have to change your mindset with volunteers and stop seeing them as a way to ‘get things done’ or simply a means to an end. Start seeing volunteerism as a way for your church to develop and disciple people.
- Simplify the choices: Don't overwhelm people with hundreds of volunteer opportunities. Narrow your options down to the ones that are most critical to fulfilling your vision and the mission of your church.
- Identify the right attributes: When you develop a new service opportunity, take the time to identify the personal characteristics necessary to really succeed.
"Take time to study the people who are already really good at this. What characteristics do they have?"
- Be clear on your non-negotiables: Clarity is powerful. When people understand what is expected of them and what isn't, they’ll be far more likely to step up and serve. A lack of clarity breeds confusion and a fear of failure, leaving good people sitting on the sideline.
- Invite volunteers; don’t recruit them: The differences are subtle but powerful as language plays a key role. While Developing a volunteer strategy with ‘buzz’ and a waiting list of people wanting to be involved is not easy but nothing worthwhile ever is. your actions may be that of a recruiter, using an approach that feels more like an intimate, personal invitation rather than a cattle call sends a very different – and powerful – message to the recipient. It’s not what you’re saying but rather how you choose to say it – and approach it. And when you invite people to be a part of ministry through volunteering, use a peer-to-peer approach instead of just announcing your needs in the weekly program with an ‘all call’ approach.
In his ebook, Mavity also goes on to explain that all too often, we treat our volunteers like they are a commodity rather than a person we are called to steward. We have a lot of needs in our churches so we tend to look for any ‘warm body’ to help us. This creates burnout – not a thriving church.
So he offers the following four action steps to help you sow today what you can hope to reap tomorrow:
Use the fill-a-slot recruiting strategy when you have basic, temporary roles to fill.
Use the select-a-person recruiting strategy when you need a highly specified skill and long-term commitment.
Before you start selecting or recruiting anyone, identify the characteristics of the person you are looking for based on the roles you need filled.
When you select someone and ask him or her to serve in a specific role, be sure to establish a time commitment and an escape clause up front.
Getting to invite people to participate in ministry is a privilege. God didn’t intend for us to sit and wait for His return; He wants us to get involved.
And it’s our job to facilitate and lead the participation of those entrusted to us because ministry is for everyone; it’s what we are all called to do. Recruiting is then the means by which we select the right person for the right role at the right time in the right place in order to advance the Kingdom.
And once you evaluate your needs, develop a process, and reserve the time and energy to experiment to determine what will work best to fulfill your church’s needs, you’ll find that the spiritual health of your church community will reap the benefits of your efforts.
There's always a next step:
Subcribe to the Ministry Lab and stay tuned as we take a deeper dive into training volunteers all through out the month of April. In addition, download your free copy of Chris Mavity's first ebook in our Volunteer Engagement Series: "Your Volunteers: Recruit"