Recruiting volunteers is a significant part of any ministry leader’s job. They make ministry possible. So, what can you do to effectively gather a team of people who are passionate about God’s work in the world?
The Importance of Recruiting Volunteers
How many of us have found ourselves working long hours, feeling overwhelmed, burned out and alone in our role? How many of you have stepped on stage Sunday morning, asked for volunteers, and had no response? Are you wondering what happened to all those volunteers you used to have? Are you taking on too much but don’t know how to do the job any differently?
Recruiting volunteers is one of the most important aspects of your job and your call to ministry. It can make work easier. Work-life balance can improve. You can have more time for yourself. And space can be created for your imagination to go to work envisioning the ministry’s future.
Furthermore, we are called the body of Christ. Consequently, there are no one-woman or one-man shows in the Church. Well, at least there aren’t any that thrive. We serve God and the world best when we’re leaning on one another’s strengths.
So, you know you need volunteers. And you know life with a team in place will be better. But, how do you invite them effectively? And how do you keep them engaged and joyful in serving?
Read on to find out! And don’t forget to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below. Especially if you’re flooded with volunteers, share with the ICM community what’s worked best for you.
Recruiting Volunteers in Today’s World
Our volunteers are busy people. Heck, we’re all busy people!
Most of them are professionals who endure long commutes and work hours. They’re striving to be present for a whole host of kids’ activities when not away on travel or caring for their aging parents’ needs. Finding time for their own spiritual formation, rest, and exercise feels almost impossible. And they long for more family time and less fast food.
Consequently, today’s volunteers can be understandably hard to wrangle. And they may seem demanding. Research shows they desire flexibility, expect to be empowered, won’t tolerate working alongside incompetent volunteers, are tech savvy, and don’t want to be micromanaged.
They truly want to make a difference. But they have little time and can take on few extra commitments. Almost all of them are working and several are single parents. Furthermore, many of those who would serve already volunteer for multiple organizations.
This is a lot for them to manage. And it’s a lot for you to navigate.
Some of you may be feeling hopeless because you’ve been trying to gather leaders all year, and it’s just not working. Getting a little discouraged? That’s why we’re here!
It’s still possible to gather a team together in today’s crazy world. There are ways of meeting people where they are. And you can learn to understand their needs and the best ways to include them.
Recruiting Volunteers and Keeping The Happy
- Set realistic expectations. Get creative. Offer short-term projects as volunteer opportunities. Or ask for involvement that requires no commitment. For example, use online tools where people can click to donate or vote or give input. Or hand out wristbands for people to wear to market your ministry. Alternatively, tap into retiring boomers for longer-term involvement. Keep in-person meetings short and to a minimum. Instead, try video chats. Start a Facebook group or use a messaging app that’s tailored to group communication (like, Slack).
- Nurture and equip volunteers. When recruiting volunteers, pay attention to their strengths and interests. They want to feel significant and utilized. Then, equip them to use their specific gifts, talents, passions, and ideas to accomplish the mission of the ministry. This will make the most of your team and create investment on the part of your volunteers.
- Be strategic. Instead of making an announcement from the pulpit, approach individuals in whom you see possibility. This tactic is far more effective. First, simply ask a person to consider serving. Then, check in with them the following week to find out how they’re feeling about it. Tell them about a specific way they would be useful given who they are. Then, invite them to come observe or take a tour of the facility. Give them some time to ask questions and pray about it before following up over coffee or lunch.
- Stimulate inner motivation. All of us are driven by different internal and external factors. This is true for each person you have on a team of leaders. Volunteers may be self-serving, seeking relationships with others, driven by their beliefs. Learn what motivates each of those serving. Then, make a special effort to focus on those motivations.
- Offer special privileges and perks. Send volunteers to conferences, provide training, give free food, logo apparel, awards during meetings, a write-up in newsletters, send thank you cards (coming SOON from Illustrated Ministry), get their favorite coffee on the way to church, and have fun together. Very rarely do your volunteers get recognized and encouraged in their lives and careers. Gifting that to them makes a big impact.
- Move from delegation to empowerment. Start volunteers at the delegation level, which means you do the planning and they execute the tasks you assign to them. Later, empower volunteers to do it their way in design and execution. This offers volunteers ownership in the ministry, help them feel valued and trusted, and allow you to invest more in the process of visioning.
We hope this post has provided some helpful tips for you in recruiting volunteers for the work God is up to through your ministry. If you’re looking for even more tools, pick up a copy of The New Breed: Understanding and Equipping the 21st Century Volunteer.
And we’d love to hear what’s working for you. Don’t forget to share in the comments section below!
Volunteers are not always busy people. We have had volunteers who are trying to get back on their feet after health issues, usually a combination physical and mental health. They can’t cope with set rigours of responsibility to work but need/want to do something. Volunteering is a useful half way house. They are needed but you ensure they don’t carry responsibility because they can’t take that burden yet. You grow them back into confidence by words and actions and letting them see the positive difference they can make. Volunteering allows a whole range of commitment and ability, but you have to recognise what role you play as well as what role they can play.