You probably have all the volunteers you need, right? You probably don’t want any more people who are passionate about your ministry goals, huh?
Yeah, we didn’t think so!
We know churches are always looking for new ways to connect people in their congregations with volunteer opportunities. Each time we host a webinar or publish a resource around volunteers, we get huge responses. Clearly, volunteer development is a hot topic and a huge need for churches across the country.
So what’s the first step in growing a thriving volunteer ministry? It’s the first step in growing any kind of movement, really—attraction. You’ve got to create energy and momentum around your available service opportunities if you ever want people to volunteer for them. You’ve got to make these opportunities irresistible and create the impression that people will be missing out of something truly incredible if they don’t join in. (Because they really will be!)
How do you do that? Here are just a few tips to help in making volunteering irresistible:
- Don’t fill slots; develop people. It’s a challenge, but you’ve got to change what’s probably your default mindset when it comes to volunteers. Stop thinking of volunteer ministries in terms of slots to fill and ways to “get things done.” Change your thinking and your vocabulary to approach volunteerism as a way for the people in your church to more fully explore and develop their gifts and their discipleship journey.
- Keep it simple. Don’t bombard people with dozens (or hundreds!) of volunteer opportunities. Do the hard work of narrowing down your options to the ones which are most critical to the way your congregation “does church” and to the ministry goals most important to you.
- Build the profile. When you’re developing a new volunteer opportunity, make sure you’re identifying the personal characteristics someone needs to serve well in that role. Look at the people in your congregation and your community who are already really good at whatever role you’re examining. What characteristics do they have? What have their life and work experiences been?
- Get clear—really clear. Make sure you’ve clearly defined what you’re looking for volunteers to do. When people fully understand what’s expected of them (and what’s not), they’re far more likely to step up and serve; and when they do, they will feel that much more fulfilled because they understand what a “win” looks like. A lack of clarity breeds confusion and makes people wonder if they “have what it takes.” That means people with the gifts and abilities you need could be sitting on the sidelines, and you could be missing out on huge opportunities for ministry.
- Invite, don’t “recruit.” Recruiting is for college football teams. Churches who want to make volunteering irresistible have to invite people to serve. It’s a subtle but powerful difference. Your language around volunteering and your invitation process need to reflect that difference. You need to leverage your existing volunteer network in peer-to-peer invitations, rather than relying solely on blanket “recruiting” efforts like bulletin inserts or non-personalized emails.
Far too often, churches treat volunteers like a commodity to be traded rather than uniquely gifted people called to serve. We get it—you’ve got a lot of needs to fill, and your natural tendency is to look for the first “warm body” to fill a spot. But this is a sure-fire formula for volunteer burnout, not an attractive and thriving volunteer ministry. With some intentionality and a willingness to change the way you approach volunteerism, you can create an irresistible volunteer ministry with a waiting list of people who are eager to serve. It won’t be easy, but we promise it will be worth it!
Are people attracted to the volunteer opportunities in your church? Have you made volunteering irresistible? Tell us how you did it!