Help! We Don’t Have Enough Church Volunteers

Posted by Aaron Buer on August 25, 2022

Every August, we freak out about not having enough volunteers for the fall ministry season. It’s just part of the ebb and flow of ministry. This fall feels different. The game has changed.

Less people are volunteering and people aren’t volunteering in the same ways. You might say I’m freaking out a little more than usual. Maybe you can relate.  

What do we do? How do you do ministry when you don’t have enough volunteers? How do you get enough volunteers? I have some thoughts.

Listen

My immediate response to a lack of volunteers is frustration. Why aren’t people stepping up?

I have found that a more helpful response is to ask good questions, such as “Why don’t people want to volunteer?”

Pre-Covid, we had Saturday night services at every one of our campuses. It was always a challenge to recruit volunteers for those services, but since we had been holding Saturday night services for over a decade, it was doable. Now it’s not.  

With our worship volunteers in particular, we have discovered that the game has changed. People are unwilling to serve half of Saturday and half of Sunday. It’s just too big of a commitment. 

We’ve realized that things have changed and asking volunteers to step back into the old way we used to do things is not something they are willing to do.  

If you’re struggling to recruit the volunteers you need for ministry this fall, you may want to ask some deeper questions to learn why they don’t want to volunteer. There’s probably a reason worth understanding.

Adjust

A philosophy that I have attempted to live by as a ministry leader is that God has given us the volunteers we need to do the work He is calling us to do. In other words, maybe you do have the volunteers you need and simply need to adjust the way you are doing ministry.  

Perhaps instead of co-led small groups, it’s time to use a single leader. Maybe instead of a Saturday night service, it’s time to try three Sunday morning services (this is what we are doing at my church).  

Although it is frustrating to not be able to pursue all the ministry opportunities we did in the past, this is a season that forces us to ask a critical question: What is core to our mission? What are the things we just have to do and what are the things we are in the habit of doing that aren’t central to our mission?  

Perhaps this volunteer shortage is an opportunity to adjust how you do ministry to better fit what God has called your church to do in your specific community.  

 

Invest

In the student ministry I led for years, my dream was that our ministry would be the best place to serve.  In other words, my hope was that our volunteers would never want to leave because they loved serving so much.  

If you are experiencing a volunteer shortage, something you can focus on is investing in your current volunteers and their experience. This won’t solve your volunteer shortage issue for next month, but it could solve it for the coming years.  

People who experience deep relationships, thoughtful guidance and meaningful work as volunteers come back year after year and invite their friends to join them.  

Building a life-giving volunteer experience can be your best recruiting tool. So, if you’re struggling to recruit the volunteers you need, focus on the volunteers you have and build for the future.  

 

Invite

You might be thinking, That’s great but what do I do about next month?!? One last thought on how to invite people to serve: In my experience, the most fruitful invite is a personal invite.  

When you invite everyone, you really invite no one because everyone thinks to themselves, “Someone else will step up” and no one does. Asking people to serve from the stage during your church service is usually an ineffective way to invite people to serve.  

What is more effective is a personal tap on the shoulder and a personal invite: “I think you would be perfect for this.”  

The most effective volunteer recruiting happens through relationships. As we ramp up for fall ministry, use your relational network. Ask your current volunteers, “Who do you know who would be great at this? Could you make an introduction for me?”

Over to You

It’s a weird time to be in ministry. People aren’t volunteering the way that they used to. This is both a challenge and an opportunity. Let’s stay encouraged and get creative as we lead our ministries and churches this fall.   

Topics: Advice

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