Three Strategies For Recruiting More Volunteers
Right about now, in the middle of summer, we start to panic.
It’s the same at every church, all over the nation. We are all freaking out.
We don’t have enough volunteers for the fall ministry season!
Ok. Everyone calm down. We can do this.
In fact, I have some ideas on how to recruit enough people for your upcoming volunteer needs.
Something that we’ve done in our ministry is put our volunteer needs in front of everyone, every week, whether the staff member works with volunteers directly or not.
The reason we do this is that we have come to understand that the strength of our ministry rises and falls with the strength of our volunteers.
In fact, I believe that having enough of the right kind of volunteers is the most important measure of success in our ministry--at least the kind of success we can directly impact.
Because of this, everyone, whether their job is volunteers, teaching, administration, or sound and lighting, is responsible to recruit great volunteers.
In order to keep volunteers front and center for everyone, at our weekly staff meetings, we walk through two exercises.
The first is to communicate, in a visual way, where we still have volunteer needs. Every one of our campus teams reports volunteer vacancies and celebrations.
For example, they might report that they still need a 7th grade girl’s small group leader but they will celebrate that we recruited a 10th grade small boy’s small group leader.
This happens every week so that it is always on our minds.
The second exercise requires every team member to finish this statement:
Here’s what I’m doing to recruit a volunteer this week...
This statement ensures accountability and drives progress.
If you want to recruit more volunteers, make volunteers something everyone is responsible for and something you constantly talk about.
When it comes to communicating volunteer needs to our congregations, there are three types of communications that are most effective.
In my experience, the announcement time during your church service is the least effective place to ask for more volunteers.
When the host, MC, announcement person - whatever you call it in your church, stands up and says:
Our kids’ ministry needs more volunteers. You can sign up at the volunteer center in the atrium.
The response from the congregation is usually pretty minimal.
One of my friends puts it this way,
When you ask everyone, you ask no one.
This type of communication just doesn’t feel personal.
I believe it’s far more effective to tell stories during this time slot. Put one of your best volunteers on the stage or in a video and let them talk about how meaningful their experience has been.
This type of communication inspires as well as communicates the need for more volunteers.
Let’s just be honest about something, the senior pastor of your church has the loudest voice. It’s just kind of how things work.
There’s just something about being the leader that people tend to listen up when you speak.
Because of this, when the senior pastor, or whoever is preaching challenges people to volunteer, the impact of asking will likely be greater than an announcement or blurb in the bulletin.
Something that often happens in the sermons we preach at our church is that one of the application points will be a challenge to volunteer.
For example, I preached at my church last weekend and one of the points of my sermon from James 2 was that authentic faith responds to the needs of people around us.
One of the application points was to serve consistently by scheduling it--by putting it on a calendar.
Then, I gave three examples of people who do this.
One of the examples was small group leaders in our student ministry.
I was attempting to do two things in this bit.
I was encouraging people to develop authentic faith through responding to the needs of people in their lives and I was challenging people to volunteer in our church on a regular basis.
There is a way, in a sermon, to recruit volunteers if you do it in the right way.
If you want to recruit more volunteers, convince your senior pastor to begin highlighting volunteer opportunities that fit applications within his or her sermon when it fits.
Perhaps the most effective form of communication, when it comes to recruiting more volunteers is personally asking the right people to serve.
What really works is sitting down with someone and telling them, face to face, that there is a volunteer role that we believe fits them really well and then inviting them to consider stepping into that role.
In order for this to work the fit and the ask must be authentic, which requires that we actually know the person we are asking--their passions, gifting, and availability.
A best practice in this area is often to ask your best volunteers:
Who do you know who would be great at what you do?
Current volunteers usually know what people would be a great volunteer.
And, if they know the person, you can then ask them if they would be willing to personally invite the person.
A personal invite is more impactful in the context of relationship.
The bottom line here is that personal invitations are usually the most effective way to recruit volunteers.
The last piece of the puzzle, when it comes to recruiting more volunteers is to take the long view by focusing on the experience of your current volunteers.
Here’s the basic idea: When the volunteer experience is meaningful and fun people will enjoy volunteering. When they enjoy volunteering, they will continue to volunteer and invite others into the experience.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to recruit more volunteers is to focus on the experience of your current volunteers.
Here are a few ideas for how to do this:
Who is checking in with your volunteers to listen, encourage and guide? This should be happening on a regular basis over coffee or lunch.
Your volunteers long to be heard and invested in. Focus on the experience through relationships.
Volunteers want to do great work. No one enjoys being terrible at anything.
Give them the tools they need to succeed.
Focus on the experience by training your volunteers.
We have a phrase on our staff team that goes like this:
That is a story that needs to be told!
When we hear a story of the impact volunteers are having, we understand that that story needs to be told to the rest of our volunteers.
Because volunteers need to be inspired!
Volunteering can be difficult and draining.
Telling stories of why what we are doing matters helps restore energy. Focus on the experience by inspiring your volunteers.
T-shirts, hats, journals, coffee mugs, sunglasses, bumper stickers...these are all examples of “swag” that we have given our volunteers as a way to say “thank-you!”
Free stuff that is cool and useful is a great way to inject energy into your volunteers.
You might think it is a frivolous waste but in my experience, well designed swag delivered at the right time can be a powerful tool in crafting a great experience for volunteers.
Fall is coming and we need more volunteers. Don’t panic!
Make sure your needs are front and center for everyone, communicate your needs in the right ways in the right places and focus on the experience.
Oh, and pray. You should definitely pray.
We’d love to hear your great ideas on recruiting volunteers. Feel free to share or ask questions in the comments below.
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