Does your church depend on volunteers to accomplish the work of the ministry?
(Hint – yes it does!)
After being the Volunteer Scheduler for several years at our church I can certainly relate to the frustrations of filling the positions week after week. If you are anything like me, you look for ways that you can improve your volunteer recruitment and retention.
By committing any of the following seven sins, you not only burn out your volunteers, you run the risk of chasing them away altogether – leaving your service high and dry without key positions being filled.
Sin One: Expecting Announcements to Get Volunteers
I know I have made this mistake. Often, we try asking for Volunteers during the church announcements. Maybe we even have a talented graphics guy create a beautiful image or even a creative video to try to get people to Volunteer. (That is one of the things David used to do for our church)
Then we are surprised when no-one, nobody, not even one person volunteers. We feel so disappointed.
Why? “It was a great video” you say to yourself.
People are about relationship and they want to be asked personally. Additionally, there is a sense of ownership and encouragement when you ask a specific person to fill a specific role. Does it take more time? Yes. Will you get more willingvolunteers? Absolutely!
Sin Two: Go It Alone
We know that we need to ask people directly, but maybe you don’t know WHOto ask. The great thing is, it doesn’t have to be JUST you doing this!
Talk to other staff at your church or even other volunteers for suggestions on who they think would be a great fit for your open positions. When you are part of a large church or multi-campus church, you cannot be expected to know everyone. However, you can “network” to find the right people. Talk to others about the most needed positions and have them help you recruit. They may know someone you don’t who would be the perfect fit.
Sin Three: Recruiting Life-time Individuals
The problem with volunteering is that people sometimes feel stuck once they begin. They often feel that it is a lifetime sentence – with no possibility of parole!
When asking people to volunteer, let them know that it doesn’t have to be forever. Give them an end date, like one semester, with the option for another semester.
By letting people know that there is a “light at the end of the tunnel,” they won’t feel trapped and can feel like they are working towards something. They may even have the freedom to fall in love with the position and stick with it!
Sin Four: Assuming That “No” Means “Never”
Timing is everything. When we get the courage to recruit someone and then they say “no,” we often feel rejection.
For example, I needed someone to help in our Children’s Ministry and I felt that (after talking with several people) Johannes was the perfect person. But when I asked her, she declined. She explained to me that with her 5 children, one who was having medical issues, she just couldn’t commit to the role. A few years later, I asked again and she was excited to fill the position and thrilled that I asked her. In fact, she led our Children’s Ministry for a couple of years with great enthusiasm.
Sometimes the “no” means, “not now.” Sometimes it means that the prospect volunteer feels that he/she would rather do something else. When the answer is “no,” I often ask if there are any positions in our church that they would love to do, but were never asked.
Sin Five: Being Body Driven Rather Than Position Driven
We often fall into the trap of the BIC (Butt in Chair) syndrome. Because we are in desperate need for a volunteer and need them quickly, we plead our case to anyone who “fogs a mirror” and at the last minute grab someone to be a “Butt In the Chair.”
Most times the chair is better empty than filled with the wrong person who does nothing or is high maintenance. I know we have seen this in many of our ministry positions. Also, by just filling the position, we may be depriving the right person of the opportunity to exercise their God-given talents in that role.
Sometimes, we announce, “Please come and serve in this position. We have a great time and we need your expertise.” But we don’t tell the prospect what we want them to do or why we think they might be a great fit.
When I look at the volunteer team I think—”position.” I ask, “What positions do I need filled to accomplish our mission?” “What do I want the team members to do?” And then I look for people who can fill those positions.
Focus on finding the right person for the right position instead of finding just anybody to fill a position. One great way to help with this is by doing a spiritual gifts inventory. Then, determine the types of gifts you want in the volunteer positions and target people exhibiting those gifts.
Sin Six: Give the Position the Wrong Job Title
What’s in a name? Plenty.
Let’s say you ask for help as a “Greeter.” Most people can greet someone, but you probably want them to “Welcome people” (yes, there is a difference). This may involve not only opening the door, saying “hi” and handing out a bulletin. It may involve engaging them in conversation, making them feel welcome and direct ing them to where they need to go. Do you see how that is different than just greeting?
So what you are actually asking your volunteer to do needs to be in their job description. Take time to write a job description for every position (or ask the Team Leader to write it since they know what is needed). This should include:
- Title (ie. Welcome Center Host)
- Goal of Position (ie. Using the gift of hospitality to help people feel at home)
- Job Description (ie. Including walking people to find Kids Ministry and introducing them to a Team member instead of pointing the way)
- Time Required (ie. Need to arrive 30 minutes before the Service begins…)
- Length of Commitment (ie. Minimum one semester)
- Training Provided (ie. Team Leader will be training you on this date)
- Qualifications or Skills required (i.e. Background check for those working with children)
- Benefits to the position (ie. Opportunity to meet and connect with new people)
Be as detailed as possible. Expect to write a short paragraph for each section. People appreciate knowing what is expected of them upfront.
Sin Seven: Taking Volunteers for granted
I can’t emphasize this one enough. If you want to recruit and keep your volunteers, it is important to publicly thank them. If people see how much fun it can be to volunteer and how appreciated the volunteers are, they will want to be part of the team. Additionally, those current volunteers will talk to others about how you showed your appreciation for their efforts and will become your biggest champion and best resource for recruiting new volunteers.
Volunteer appreciation can be as simple as a small “thank you” note and a Starbucks gift card all the way up to a great Volunteer Appreciation Event where the leadership and others serve the volunteers as a thanks for how they have served the church.
David and I LOVE to help church leaders and staff actively thank all their volunteers with a special event that is just for them. We give them an evening they will remember with joy for a very long time. Using magic and comedy we entertain your volunteers with a memorable evening.
One of our favorite Volunteer Appreciation Events was set up like a night at the Oscars Awards. The church wanted to give their volunteers a celebrity experience. It was a formal night that included a catered dinner, a red carpet, and of course paparazzi taking photos of them. All the glitz and glam of Hollywood made them feel like the stars that they are!
No Awards night is complete without some professional after dinner magical entertainment. We will WOW, amaze, and dazzle your volunteers making them feel like stars and they will be thanking YOU!
Would you like to learn more about how we can help you show your volunteers just how much you love them?
Drop us an email, or if it is easier, call or text us at 214-257-0903 so we can talk about making your next Volunteer Appreciation Event the best yet!
I adapted this heavily from Tom McKee’s The Seven Deadly Sins of Recruiting Volunteers.