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Whether serving as greeters, ushers, musicians, or children’s ministry leaders, church volunteers are a vital part of any healthy church. Yet motivating people to volunteer at church can feel like a daunting task. According to the latest data, only 35% of Americans volunteered time to religious organizations last year—the lowest percentage on record!
While there may be fewer than usual volunteers at church, there’s still an important truth every pastor should remember: When given the opportunity, people are willing to help in both good and bad times.
With a well-thought-out plan to find, motivate, and retain volunteers, you can move forward with confidence in recruiting volunteers for church ministry. Let’s dive into the steps and tools you’ll need to effectively manage your volunteers from day one.
Poorly planned volunteer programs often lead to high turnover and burnout. Before you begin recruiting, here are some key steps you need to take to ensure that everything runs smoothly for your church volunteer groups.
1. Understand your church volunteer needs
Don’t assume your leadership knows all of the volunteer needs in your church. Instead, survey your staff to better understand their needs. This is a good opportunity to ask important questions like:
Uncovering the answers to questions like these will help you recruit the right number of volunteers and place them where they can make the greatest impact.
2. Simplify the volunteer signup process
Imagine that a new member or regular attendee at your church wants to volunteer. Where would they go or who would they ask? And if they decided to volunteer, what would be their first steps?
It’s important to make the volunteer signup process as straightforward as possible. Start by creating ministry volunteer forms on your church’s website and mobile app. If you have a welcome booth or information station at your church, provide them with printed signup forms to hand out.
3. Prepare your church volunteer software
One of the most effective tools to save time and simplify your tasks is a church volunteer management system. This software helps your team do more with less, such as:
The best church volunteer software is integrated with a broader church management software (ChMS). This allows your leadership to manage church volunteers, members, small groups, events and registrations, donor information, and more—all in one place. A ChMS also simplifies communication by enabling group messaging for coordinating team meetings, events, and schedules.
4. Create church volunteer applications
Have your leadership team create a church volunteer application form template that can be modified to meet each department’s needs. Throughout the application process, be sure to digitize and archive any documents for your records.
Next, schedule a time for an interview to get to know the volunteer, their interests, relevant background and experience, and how much time they can commit to serving. Share with them what they can expect from being a part of a volunteer ministry team.
5. Perform church background checks
For the safety of your community, it’s a good practice to conduct church background checks on all volunteers. There are several platforms to choose from that provide various background check forms for church volunteers. Keep in mind that some positions will require more scrutiny than others, such as finance and children’s ministry background checks.
6. Develop an amazing volunteer onboarding experience
The volunteer onboarding experience sets the tone for what it’s like to serve at your church. What do your church volunteers experience on their first day “on the job?” Do they feel appreciated, well-informed, and prepared to be part of a successful volunteer staff, or are they pushed right into work, not knowing exactly what to do? Perhaps most importantly, do they understand how their work supports your church’s mission?
Creating clear expectations, connecting everything back to your church’s mission, and celebrating your volunteers will make them feel valued and encourage them to keep serving!
Once your church volunteer program is ready, it’s time to begin raising awareness about service opportunities. However, simply making a blanket request for everyone to sign up isn’t enough. Check out these four strategies to increase awareness, drive interest, and get more volunteers.
1. Make serving part of your church culture
It’s important to remember that your church’s culture begins with your leadership and then cascades to the rest of your members. Acts of service and servant leadership should be celebrated as part of your community’s identity.
When your pastor and church leadership are excited about serving, this creates a culture that encourages other people to join church volunteer groups.
2. Share service opportunities across all channels
If your members don’t know which opportunities are available, they’ll never sign up to volunteer. That’s why you should cast a wide net by sharing volunteer opportunities everywhere:
When recruiting volunteers for church ministry, have them sign up on your website or mobile app. Your online church volunteer application should include basic information about what the role involves and the next steps after applying.
3. Personally invite people to volunteer
Church leaders can often identify which members might be a good fit for a particular volunteer role. When this happens, it’s important to be bold and ask the person to consider volunteering.
This doesn’t have to be a hard ask, but rather something as simple as, “Hey Chris, I love seeing your photos on Instagram! We’re looking for a volunteer to help our team with church photos for social media. Would you be willing to help?” This lets the person know that they are seen as someone of value and that their talents are needed.
4. Share stories of the impact your volunteers make
Storytelling is a powerful tool for inspiring people to action. When you notice a church volunteer making a difference in your community, share their stories during your weekend services. Similarly, volunteers often experience personal positive changes that stem from their acts of service, and sharing these stories will inspire others to volunteer.
Remember, recruiting volunteers for church ministry provides your members with a unique opportunity to make a real difference in people's lives by serving as Jesus’ hands and feet.
Volunteers often need encouragement and appreciation to stay energized and motivated. Here are some simple but effective ways your church can help.
1. Connect service to the discipleship journey
Discipleship is the process of becoming more like Jesus by spending time with him, learning from him, and becoming more like him. Jesus provides us with the ultimate example of serving others, and part of our discipleship journey is learning to serve others.
When your community understands why Christians volunteer, it allows them to find more meaning, appreciation, and ownership in their service to others.
2. Have easy-to-use tools for organization & communication
Not having the right tools for a job can make work more difficult or even impossible. Investing in time-saving tools—like church management software, planning tools, and church volunteer apps—demonstrates that your church truly values your volunteers and wants them to succeed.
3. Match volunteers to roles that best match their strengths
When a volunteer opportunity opens up, it’s tempting to give it to the first person available. However, this can lead to frustration or burnout. During your volunteer interview, let the applicant know if there are other volunteer opportunities available that would be better suited for them.
The more that you can match a volunteer in a role that aligns with their gifts and strengths, the more satisfaction they’ll find in their work.
4. Offer training materials & support
Part of being a leader is finding fresh ways to improve processes and build up your team. Encourage your leadership to look for inspirational websites, books, or blogs to help them improve their ministry effectiveness. Instruct them to share these with volunteers along with new training materials or resources they may find helpful.
5. Provide plenty of snacks & drinks
Your volunteers have busy schedules outside of church, but teams get excited when they know that food, snacks, and drinks will be available for them. Have your leaders find out what snacks and drinks their teams prefer, and be sure to discover any food allergies. Create a snack budget and be sure to have more than enough for everybody.
Resist the temptation to take your church volunteers for granted. Remember that they’re sacrificing their time and energy to serve your community. Any of the simple acts listed above will help your teams feel appreciated, excited to show up, and ready to participate again!
Everyone appreciates hearing a heartfelt “thank you” for their efforts and hard work. Check out these fun and powerful ways to show your volunteers how much they are valued.
1. Show public appreciation
Make it a habit for your leadership to thank volunteers from the pulpit during church announcements or special events. Teach your congregation to thank volunteers when they greet you at the front door, teach your child’s class, bring out fresh coffee, or set up chairs for special events.
2. Build personal connections outside of church
A major benefit of volunteering is building relationships with others in the community. However, it’s not always easy getting to know people when you only see them once a week for a couple of hours.
That’s why it’s a great practice to create opportunities for volunteers and church leadership to spend time together outside of church. Organize a picnic, movie night, barbecue, or other fun activity that will allow everyone to get to know one another.
3. Give them a break
Sometimes we take our faithful volunteers for granted, not realizing that they haven’t had a day off or attended a weekend church service for a long time. If members on your team haven’t taken time off for a while, offer to have someone else fill in for them. You can make it extra special by arranging a babysitter, buying movie tickets, or giving them gift certificates to a restaurant or theater. This reminds your volunteers how much you value their time and sacrifice to serve your congregation.
4. Showcase your volunteers & cast vision
Each of your church volunteers has a unique story including their life experiences, spiritual testimony, vocational calling, and why they’re serving at church. Take time to publicly recognize your volunteers’ contributions (individually or as a team) to the church. For example, you might select a “Volunteer of the Month” to showcase how they’re making a difference in your community on your social media, church bulletin board, and pre-service slides.
5. Host a church volunteer appreciation event
Many churches will host a special event to appreciate their volunteers. This can be something simple like a barbeque or picnic, or something more extravagant like formal dinner or a gala. Whatever format you choose, be sure to recognize the impactful work they’re doing to bless your community, as well as to reinforce your mission and vision as a volunteer ministry.
As your church volunteer groups grow, the more complex it becomes to manage and communicate with your teams. Having the right church management software can simplify your volunteer processes, streamline communications, and help your church be more organized when it comes to managing ministry to help serve the Kingdom.
If you’d like to see firsthand how Subsplash can help your church volunteers better manage their teams, schedules, events, and communication, schedule a free demo today!