If you have just enough volunteers to get by today, what will happen when your church experiences a growth spurt? Now is the time to start laying the groundwork for a strong volunteer team.
You might be thinking,
“We don’t have enough people staying committed to serve now. How are we supposed to plan for the future?”
First off, you’ve got to stop the bleeding.
That means learning why volunteers keep drifting in and out of serving.
- Conduct an anonymous survey (you can quickly build one for free at SurveyMonkey.com and email it to current and previous volunteers) using a free set of Volunteer Survey Questions.
- Talk with people who used to volunteer and, without judgment or accusations, ask why they stopped.
- Talk with your staff and see if they know why people have stopped serving.
You’ve got to identify the problems before you can fix them.
Start addressing those issues right away.
Issue: Volunteers received multiple requests from different staff members to serve in various roles at the same event and got frustrated by the lack of coordination.
Solution: Use your church management system (ChMS), or a spreadsheet if you don’t have one yet, and track who volunteers in what roles within that system. Start a new process where before staff members contact people to serve, they have to check that system to make sure that person isn’t already committed at that day/time or that someone else hasn’t already contacted them. This also means your team has to become disciplined at entering that information into the system.
Issue: Some volunteers may have entered a really busy season (new job, buying/selling a house, new baby, etc.) and had to take a break. (See this post on “Why Volunteers Quit”)
Solution: Ask them if they’re ready to come back. Also, provide volunteer opportunities that are one to two commitments per month instead of every week.
Whatever the root cause, figure out how to address it and take action immediately.
Next, make sure you’re providing sufficient training and clear expectations to new volunteers.
If they don’t know what you want them to do, they’ll do their best and make it up as they go along. They’ll probably mess up somewhere and you’ll both be frustrated. If a volunteer feels stressed out and confused every time they serve, they won’t last long.
Once you deal with the immediate issues and have at least enough volunteers to keep things moving, now it’s time to focus on the future.
What are the goals of your church leadership team for the next one to five years?
- Do you plan to add a college ministry?
- Are you looking to grow the church by 25 percent?
- Do you intend to launch a new campus within five years?
All of those goals will require more volunteers to make them successful.
First up, you need to determine how many more volunteers you’ll need and in what roles.
You need a target to aim at here. Talk with your staff about these goals. Get their input. Do you have the right roles and reasonable numbers included? Change as needed based on their feedback.
Next, how many volunteer leaders will you need?
These are volunteers who’ll coordinate and lead teams of other volunteers. Consider your current volunteers and which of them are already natural leaders in the group.
Focus your initial efforts on developing them as leaders.
- This means asking them to take on more responsibility (talk with them individually to make sure each person is able and willing to take that on).
- Consider organizing a quarterly meeting of volunteer leaders to get their input, encourage and develop them.
- Ask these volunteers to help you invite more people to serve.
- Share your goals with them and ask them to be part of the team to achieve those goals. When you share the vision and the why, you inspire people and help them realize that they can play a vital role in achieving that vision.
Finally, make sure the people in your congregation know why you want them to get involved beyond attending a service.
It can’t be all about getting stuff done. While that’s a valid need, focusing on a volunteer program as discipleship instead of a volunteer workforce is much more effective.
A discipleship mindset will impact how you approach asking people to serve, how you train and develop them, and how you communicate with them.
When we serve, we grow.
I’ve developed lifelong friendships, learned from my fellow volunteers, and became a stronger Christian as a result. Focus on developing an environment where those are the normal results.
It takes time and focused effort, but it is so worth it. If you get discouraged, ask God to show you how your volunteers are growing spiritually. He knows we’re only human and can’t see the eternal impact of our work. Ask him to help you get a glimpse of what he’s doing in and through you. Hold on to those testimonies and use that as motivation to keep asking, developing, and building a strong team of faithful volunteers.
By investing in your current volunteers, you’ll start adding to the team and will create a strong foundation of volunteer leaders as you grow. That foundation is key to maintaining and propelling church growth.