Finding Church Volunteers
The number one question Sherry and and I hear from church leaders all over the world is, “How can we find enough church volunteers?” The primary reason most church struggle attracting enough volunteers is they recruit to need. A good appeal to need will impact 20 percent of the people, a great appeal will impact 25 percent. The key to having an abundance of volunteers isn’t better appeals, the key is creating a healthy volunteer culture.
Let’s look at the three elements present in any healthy volunteer culture.
Sherry tells a story she heard several years ago that continues to impact her view of working with volunteers. A mom told of attending a mandatory meeting for parents of players on a youth baseball team. When the coach began talking about this year’s fundraising drive you could feel the air go out of the room. The coach, however, surprised the parents. He didn’t talk about the amount of money they needed to raise, nor did he show them samples of wrapping paper or candy catalogues and explain the fundraiser. He talked instead about baseball changing the trajectory of his life as a young man, and what an impact he believed this team would have on their sons’ lives. By the time he finished painting a picture of the potential future, the mom said she, along with most of the families in the room, we’re eager to participate in the fundraiser. The coach began with vision rather than need.
It’s interesting, when Jesus looked for volunteers at the beginning of his ministry he issued a challenge rather than an appeal. One day while he was on a walk beside the Sea of Galilee Jesus came across Peter and Andrew casting a fishing net. After watching them work for a few minutes he walked over and said, “Come, follow me, and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” He didn’t mention the needs of the ministry, describe the tasks that had to be accomplished or assure them the volunteer position wouldn’t take up too much time. Jesus invited them into something that would change their lives.
What would happen if, rather than focusing on how many volunteers you need, you focused instead on the potential life change that will happen through the ministry you lead?
Ministry leaders who lead healthy volunteer cultures effectively connect the dots between the task at hand and a transformed future.
As part of a small group campaign at our church in South Carolina, every group was challenged to take an outreach project in our community. After much discussion our group decided to adopt a nursing home in the poorest part of the city. We began visiting the nursing home doing regular things like yard maintenance, giving Christmas presents and repeatedly cleaning urine off an outside wall (don’t ask). This was not my idea of a good time. I prefer spending my Saturday mornings, well, doing anything but visiting a nursing home in the ‘hood. I went, however, because my tribe was going. Relationship, much more than need, was the driving factor.
We consistently miss the power of tribe in church.
We focus on the ministry that needs to be accomplished rather than the relationships on the team. Volunteers who feel like a part of a tribe that is changing the world rather than an unpaid employee accomplishing a task will do almost anything the team needs done. Rather than recruiting to need we need to recruit to relationship, and then follow through on that promise.
If people never find a place of selfless service they will never find their true purpose in life. Every reputable mental health expert understands this fundamental law of the universe; the only path to wholeness is through serving. As long as we focus on ourselves and our needs we will never truly be happy; materialism, greed and selfishness rot the soul. We were created with a deep-seated need to serve each other.
As ministry leaders we have to remind people often that Jesus’ example of service is the path to peace and wholeness we are all looking for. We demonstrate it in our own lives and share stories of others who find purpose through serving.
What about your church?
A ministry that connects the dots to a preferred future, connects team members in deep relationships, and helps people find their true purpose through serving will discover an abundance of volunteers. As you evaluate the ministry you lead, how are you doing at casting vision? Are you creating an environment for healthy team relationships? Are you demonstrating a life of purpose through service?
This article originally appeared here.