With identifying roles, recruiting, training, supporting, encouraging, and appreciating, volunteer management can quickly seem like an overwhelming task. Add to all of this that the ways in which members can be involved are many and varied. Some things are ongoing over a number of months or years (serving on a board or committee, teaching a class, running the livestream), while others are shorter-term or one-time events (Vacation Bible School, spring clean-up day, coordinating a church-wide picnic). Though we frequently use the term volunteer in the church, involvement in the life of the church goes beyond a secular understanding of the topic. Rather, it’s about the body of Christ working and functioning together, using the unique gifts and qualifications God has given to each of his beloved children. Keeping this in mind, we don’t simply look to fill our programmatic needs, but to engage members in ways that consider how God has gifted them.
Let’s take a look at some practical things to consider as we endeavor to serve and support those serving in our congregations.
Use Job Descriptions
It’s been said that “clarity is kindness” and such words ring true when it comes to expectations for serving in a specific role. For both those recruiting and those being recruited, job descriptions help clearly communicate desired skills or qualifications, time commitment, and other pertinent factors. Many program or curriculum materials include pre-written job descriptions for needed roles and some congregations include job descriptions for board and other elected leadership roles in their church constitution. Many sample templates are a quick online search away when you need to write your own.
Streamline the Sign-Up Process
Sometimes volunteers are eager to be involved, but the way in which they sign up or indicate interest gets in the way. Making things as frictionless as possible is key. If opportunities are shared electronically, provide a clear, clickable call to action: “Sign up here!” If a physical sign-up sheet is your church’s style, be sure to put it in an obvious and accessible place. For times when contacting a particular leader is preferred, be clear about the communication avenue to be used (email, text, phone call). In the long run, consider a unified approach for all sign-ups in the congregation so folks know where to go when they’d like to be involved in a ministry or event.
Personally Invite Members to be Involved
Social media posts, newsletter blurbs, and verbal announcements are great ways to cast a wide net of awareness, but the best recruitment strategy will always be a personal invitation. A veteran church worker taught me the phrase “I see in you . . . ” as an opening to such conversations, emphasizing why you think an individual would be a good fit for a role or ministry area.
Provide Training and Ongoing Support
Whether individually or part of a group, onboarding processes and training equip volunteers in their given roles, enabling them to serve effectively. While in-person, on-the-job training is necessary in some instances. Consider how technology might be used to support your goals through video courses or online forums.
Keep Communication Lines Open
Both in the recruitment and retention processes, being responsive to questions and sharing helpful, well-paced (not like water from a firehose) information can make or break a volunteer’s experience. Tools like the Church360° Members Communication Module are helpful in sending mass texts and emails with reminders, weather cancellations, or notes of appreciation and encouragement.
Make Adjustments Based on Individual Gifts and Skills
As you get to know people, it’s often the case that you see how their unique set of gifts and talents can enrich the life of the congregation, sometimes in existing areas and other times in new, exciting ways. Work with other leaders to engage people creatively.
Consider Remote Opportunities
In a world of remote work, there are many functions of church life that can be carried out in flexible ways, allowing for involvement from more people. Website updates, social media content scheduling, bulletin proofreading, some (non-confidential) data input, follow-up calls, and a plethora of other key tasks can be done from home. While many of these opportunities involve technology, things like cutting out quilt squares or pieces for Sunday school projects and stuffing envelopes can be packaged for pick-up and returned by a specified date.
Those who serve within the body of Christ don’t do it to be noticed, but showing appreciation is, well, appreciated! There are many ways to say “thanks!”, from a handwritten note to a catered event celebrating a year of dedicated service. The spectrum in between is quite vast, both acknowledging individuals and groups of volunteers. You can even check with local businesses or restaurant chains about community give-back programs. Often you’ll find they offer discounted or donated tokens or vouchers for things like ice cream, burgers, or whatever their specialty, to show gratitude to those who serve.
In all of the organizing, training, communicating, and thanking, we remember the work of the church is about Jesus and it is in His hands. We remember that it is his life and finished work on the cross motivating members of his body, the church, to serve. Each individual’s gifts and skills come together to carry out the Great Commission in our given time and place. Encouraging, supporting, and coordinating such involvement is some of the best work there is.
Learn how to utilize technology in your church by downloading the free ebook below.