Creating a Volunteer-Friendly Church

by Lee Stephenson, Converge Executive Director of Church Planting
Converge Church Planting

“Help… we are in need of volunteers!”

If you have attended a church for any length of time, you have heard or said that sentence more times than you can count. Every church I have attended since childhood, has struggled with having enough volunteers.

Here’s the reality: the persistent and chronic lack of volunteers is an indication that leadership/volunteer development isn’t a high priority.

What can we do differently to see this trend change over time in our churches?

1. Grow your own leadership capacity 

Sometimes leaders have difficulty in recruiting, training and mobilizing other leaders because they have never been trained themselves. Investing in your own leadership competencies will help you gain more leaders. This can look different depending where and who you are, but consider going to a conference, hiring a coach or joining a local cohort of leaders. The truth is we all have more capacity than we are unlocking. Have the courage to find people who can help you unlock future potential.

In my circle at Converge, our Transform conference has been helpful to me as a pastor. Transform offers peer-to-peer conversations with pastors of similar sized churches.

2. Let go

Sometimes we don’t have enough volunteers for one simple reason: we are too controlling. It’s easy to strive for excellence to the point that people are never given a chance to lead. This is a surefire way to run off your best leaders. The more you are willing to release and empower others, the more people you will find who want to help. Engaging new volunteers requires a willingness to empower and to let go, but in reality you can never let go of responsibility. As the leader you own the wins and also the failures. When you make responsibility a high priority, it focuses you to care and to train the leaders you have empowered.

3. Alleviate the fear 

I am convinced fear is one of the greatest barriers to people stepping up to volunteer. They are afraid that if they sign up as a volunteer, they could be stuck doing that task/role for the rest of their life with no hope of escape. The fear of not having a graceful way to exit is enough to keep people from volunteering.

What are ways you can communicate your heart for your them to allow people to start serving with “no strings attached?” The more people feel they are using their gifts, experience and passions the more likely they will become long-term volunteers. However, it can take time and multiple attempts to find the right fit.

4. Have the right entry points

Sometimes it is simple math. We don’t have enough volunteers because we have too many needs. Sometimes churches get consumed by programs, tasks and opportunities. This can unknowingly become an abusive environment in which to volunteer. Be strategic about streamlining your ministries and limit the entry points. This helps you maximize the number of contacts and incoming volunteers.

5. Give people a reason

Many churches lack a compelling vision. A strong vision is more than a crafted phrase in the church’s entryway. A strong vision permeates down to through culture of the church. A vision is working when it’s seen in people’s desires. They buy into the church’s future impact. Well-crafted visions are clear about a specific future. Give people a reason to volunteer. Show them they are missing out if they didn’t jump in. Vision is the key to growing a strong volunteer base. Where it is lacking, so are the volunteers.

If you are looking for church planting training that covers building leadership, volunteers and exeuctive boards, check out Church Planting 201

    Point - Summer 2018

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