What’s the one area of your church that, if you could improve it, would dramatically impact the effectiveness of every ministry of your church?
While you could make an argument for each of these, in my opinion, it's volunteerism.
Imagine if your church was full of highly committed, skilled, veteran volunteers.
The effectiveness of every ministry would skyrocket.
Because of the season we’re living through, this probably feels like wishful thinking.
Maybe your church is a bit like my church right now.
We’re scrambling to secure enough volunteers to even open all of our ministries.
How in the world do we get from barely open to thriving when it comes to volunteers?
In this post, I want to share a few practices that have been tremendously successful for us.
I believe they work in any season.
If you focus on these principles, you will slowly build a thriving volunteer culture and that, my friends, will impact every ministry in your church.
INVEST in Them Personally
What kind of person brings out your best?
Whether it’s work, family, friendship, or sports, the kind of person who brings out your best is the kind of person who makes you feel valued, heard, and known.
The foundation to a thriving volunteer culture is investing in your volunteers.
This happens when you stop thinking of volunteers as a number or role, and instead start thinking of volunteers as people to be invested in.
Invest in your volunteers this fall.
Figure out a way to meet one-on-one with each volunteer and get to know them personally.
Ask them to share a bit of their story with you. Write an encouraging note to each volunteer.
Put in the work so you can greet each volunteer by name.
Invest in your volunteers relationally.
People who feel valued, heard, and known tend to stick around and put in their best work.
Focus on the EXPERIENCE
When I led our church’s student ministry, we had a mantra for our volunteers.
We would say, “our student ministry is the BEST place to serve.”
We poured energy, focus, and resources into providing a fantastic serving experience for our volunteers.
My goal was that our volunteers would never want to leave because of the fun and meaningful experience.
How did we do this? Fun. Community. Food. Swag. Did I mention food?
We built a structure so that our volunteers served with the same handful of people every week and built meaningful relationships with them.
We provided dinner for our volunteers every time our student ministry met.
Every year we gave our volunteers a new t-shirt, sweatshirt, or coffee mug. Something special to communicate how much we valued them.
And, we sought feedback often.
- “Is serving here fun?”
- “Do you look forward to Wednesday nights?”
- “What would make the experience of serving better?”
We constantly worked on providing a great experience for our volunteers.
Over time, we created a culture that was magnetic, both for attracting new volunteers and retaining veteran volunteers.
If you want to create a thriving volunteer culture, focus on the experience.
EQUIP Them for Ministry
Alright, real talk. If you invest deeply in your volunteers, provide them with a meaningful experience, and they don’t know what they are doing…it’s kind of pointless right?
Whether it’s small group leaders, hospitality hosts, budget counselors, or worship leaders, volunteers need to be equipped for ministry.
In order to be effective, they must grow in knowledge and skills.
So, here’s an important question: How are you equipping volunteers for ministry?
Whatever the context, this is an important question.
In the student ministry I led, we trained and equipped our volunteers every week.
Before students arrived, we would eat and do a short training segment.
For other ministries, training once a month may be all you need to grow the needed knowledge and skills with your volunteers.
Identify the skills you need in your volunteers and then figure out how to equip them with those skills.
This can happen through meetings, mentoring, or videos.
There are great organizations like Orange that provide high caliber volunteer training. Maybe that is a great route for your church.
Help Them WIN
Lastly, imagine a football game without keeping score. Boring.
Imagine a school without grades. Dull.
Imagine a volunteer role without a clear win. Confusing.
Here’s the deal: Everyone likes to win and everyone hates to feel like they are losing. It’s just part of being human.
Every time your volunteers show up to serve, they should know what winning looks like.
They want to know when they leave at the end of their volunteering experience that they pursued the tasks, conversations, or exercises that matter.
An important aspect of creating a thriving volunteer culture is to identify the wins for your volunteers. It’s simple things like:
- Greet every person within fifteen feet with a smile and every person within five feet with a “hello.”
- Greet every person in your small group by name.
- Do “highs and lows” with the kids and then spend 10 minutes talking about the Bible story.
- Seek out people who are standing alone and engage them in a short conversation.
It’s all about identifying specific wins for volunteers so they aren’t left guessing whether they did well or failed.
This is especially important in confusing roles like leading a small group of 6th graders.
Something I find helpful is to begin each volunteering experience with something like, “Here’s how to win today…”
Give your volunteers a target.
People who feel like they’re winning feel good about their efforts, like they are making an impact and growing in their role.
Don’t underestimate how important this is.
I recently read something from Reggie Joiner where he wrote,
“The quality of your volunteers will determine the health of not just your ministry but your entire church.”
I believe this is true.
One of the most strategic investments you can make in your church in this season is investing in your volunteer culture.
Invest in them personally, focus on their experience, equip them for ministry, and help them win each and every week.