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Volunteers...who needs 'em anyway?

Volunteer recruitment is so crucial to the life of modern ministry, some churches have staff positions dedicated to recruiting them. That should tell you the importance of having volunteers involved in your church. I’ve been around, and I’ve been doing music ministry since I was a kid. I am keenly aware there are churches that preach excellence but have part-time pastors, worship leaders, Sunday School Coordinators and the like. But most churches – if they have the financial luxury to do so – would probably make hiring a Volunteer Recruitment Coordinator a first hire. Volunteers are the lifeblood, the glue, perhaps the most important element of any successful ministry. The most obvious reason why is a church/non-profit simply cannot afford to pay everyone. We need help. These are some approaches on how to recruit.

Job Description: Time Commitment

Sure, I get it: you need help in the (fill in the blank) ministry/team. You could beg people from your platform on Sunday. You could make people feel guilty about how they’re awful they don’t already volunteer here, forcing you to guilt them into serving. You might even send out an email blast, tweet about it, whatever. But if you are not specific about what you need you very well might be shooting ministry’s foot. Allow me to explain.

Our Assistant Pastor always has the best of intentions. When made aware of a ministry need I would frequently see our AP grab a person and drag them to the leader of that ministry to make a connection on a Sunday morning. That might make an immediate connection but rarely does that connection have legs. I remember teaching a class at church and a woman interrupted me with a comment I have never forgotten:

“I am a single mother. I’m not joining anything until you tell me the time commitment. If you can’t tell me that or give me an estimate, I’m not joining.”

Wow. That hit me like a ton of bricks. It dawned on me she was speaking on a simple yet often overlooked element. Have an idea of what time commitment you’ll require. Is this for the Christmas season? Is it for a school year? Is it for a month? Is the expectation it will continue indefinitely? Also, will the person serve at every worship service, once a month, a month on then a month off? Have a clear understanding of what you’re asking people to commit to.

Job Description: Skills Necessary

Do you want anybody? Do you want a body? Do they need to be breathing? Alive? Or do you need a soprano to join your praise team that can find their vocal part independent of rehearsals? These are not the same set of skills. Be specific! If you want someone with teaching experience, ask for it. If you need help on your media team, specify it. If you need someone to play bass – well, you get the idea. One thing I’ve done to help our ministry go from good to great or at least, really good, is ask for what you what. Ask for what you need. “You have not because you ask not”. Don’t settle for just anybody; ask God to supply what you specifically need.

Job Description: Job Description

If you haven’t gotten the subtle hint, allow me to be more ‘on the nose’: I would humbly suggest you create job descriptions for every single need you have in ministry. A great starting point would be getting a book like this Church Job Descriptionsand modify to fit your situation. Answer in advance what skills are necessary, how long of a commitment it will be, is there training involved, do you need them every week or once a month, every worship service or just the Saturday ones? BE SPECIFIC! People are busy. People are overcommitted. Families are eating dinner in the car 3 days a week driving from activity to activity. You will not get quality volunteers if you send out a blanket ask. Quality is better than quantity and quality people want to know what they are signing up for.

How To Recruit In The First Place

Some brief thoughts to kickstart your recruitment process:

  • Encourage your senior pastor to preach/teach on the subject of volunteering

  • Tag a volunteer sign up day onto a natural fit of a sermon or sermonic theme(s)

  • Program a stand-alone event where it is super easy for folks to sign up, sounds like fun, looks like a party

  • Have your praise team sing, have a volunteer fair in your space, provide incentives for people to sign up and serve in a ministry

  • Be strategic about the time of year you have a ‘volunteer fair’

  • Utilize technology

  • Provide a text number for folks to sign up for something

  • Drive folks to a volunteer section of your church app

  • Create a digital sign up for ministry needs

And when you’ve done all of this, get back to people within 14 days of them reaching out to you. It shows you are serious about adding them to the team. It also shows you are organized and excited about growth.

There is no one way or right way to do it. Find the way that makes sense at your church. But definitely be prayerful about ways God can make your ministry attractive to folks not yet on the team.

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