Every church needs more volunteers! Servants are the lifeblood behind the ministry of the church as the church seeks to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. They serve as greeters, nursery workers, Sunday School teachers, run the sound board, fold worship programs and everything else under the sun. And, there is never enough volunteers.
Much can be written about effective ways to recruit volunteers and the myriad of ways the church is often ineffective at recruiting volunteers.
One key to recruiting volunteers is casting a compelling vision for why a particular opportunity to serve God is important, will make a difference in the lives of those being served, and help the church live out its mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ. This might be called sharing the “why behind the what” when it comes to volunteer needs.
In addition to sharing the need connect the service that will be offered to an outcome. For example,
Children are an important part of the life of First UMC. They are our present! Statistics show many persons will have the foundation of faith laid when they are children in Sunday School. These faith foundations will last a lifetime and serve our children, their future families, and the community. Would you like to make a difference in the life of a child that will continue to bear fruit for years to come? Consider signing up for Sunday School teacher training…
Such an announcement would then go on to list details, time requirements, and appropriate contact for more information.
Contrast this to a simple announcement in a worship program that says,
Sunday School teachers are needed for the second grade class. Please call the church office.
Sharing the why behind the what and casting a compelling vision for the service needs of the church will help to improve the chances of receiving much needed help.
There are a thousand and one different things the church tries to get people to sign up for: new Bible studies, help with the nursery, the senior high youth trip, the mission team to Haiti and many, many more. Does your church make it easy for people to sign up?
Here is how it happens in most churches.
- An announcement will be made from the pulpit about an event, ministry or program and to sign up one is told to see Mary Jones. The problem with this is not everyone knows Mary Jones and even if you have Mary Jones stand will a person be able to find Mary after the service?
- Or an announcement is made from the pulpit or printed in the bulletin directing people to sign up for something using the sign up sheet located on the table by the men’s room down the children’s wing. The problem with this is obvious, one has to go through the trouble to go and find this table that is hidden like a needle in a hay stack.
- Then there is the always ubiquitous “call the church office to sign up.” Again, even if one remembers to call the church office they have to go through the extra step of picking up the phone to call after googling the church number.
The problem with all these ways to get people to sign up is that they require too much effort. In the church, we use these ways and then we wonder why no one signs up.
There is a better solution. Have a sign up sheet that is part of your weekly bulletin/ worship program. I have used this with great success in the past. We called our the “Mother of All Sign Up Sheets.” It was printed on an 8 1/2″ by 11″ sheet and cut into three strips with a front and back making three sign up sheets per one piece of paper. On the front were events, ministries and programs that changed on a regular basis. On the back were entry level serving positions that stayed the same. These were put in the worship program/ bulletin every Sunday and when announcements were made asking people to sign up or items were printed asking people to sign up persons were directed to and learned to use the Mother of All Sign Up Sheets. Here were the advantages.
- There was no delay between a person hearing an appeal and then responding. The sign up sheet allowed for a top of mind response. Someone would decide to participate, mark the activity and put their name, and put it in the offering plate. There was no doing it later and thus no opportunity to forget.
- It was easy. No phone call. No email. No going to a website to sign up. Right there, right then.
- Often times persons would sign up to serve within or outside the church. It was appropriate then to put these sign up sheets in the offering plate as a sign of service.
- The sign up sheet was a one stop place to sign up for all activities. No more going to different places.
- It was adaptable.
- It was an easy way for new people to get connected to an entry level ministry. No one had to call or approach someone to express an interest in serving.
Of course it is necessary to ensure follow up contact with persons who sign up. These sign up sheets will need to be compiled and results sent to various organizer or ministry team leaders.
What have you seen work well to make it easy people to sign up for events, programs and ministries?
My mother always taught me the importance of saying thank you. As your church develops its volunteer system one of the components of that system will be properly thanking your volunteers. Many volunteers in your church will say “I do not do what I do to receive a thank you.” That is great, but everyone likes to be thanked now and again. Here are at least five ways you can thank volunteers in your church.
- Verbally. Simply affirming a person’s service whether they be greeting or working in the church nursery should be done often and by more than just the pastor. A simple “thanks so much for serving today” goes a long way. Remember too it is good to tie your thank you to a “so that” statement. Thank you for serving in the nursery this morning “so that parents can attend worship and experience God.”
- From the pulpit or stage. Volunteers can be thanked from the pulpit. It is best to thank groups of volunteers in this way as opposed to singling persons out lest you forget someone or set a precedent and then have to individually thank volunteers all the time in this way. You might say “a huge thank you to the youth who helped bag potatoes for the food bank.”
- In a handwritten note. Handwritten notes are a lost art especially in our day of texting and 140 character messages. If a pastor or ministry leader writes a handwritten note saying “I noticed you serving in our hospitality ministry and I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your ministry” it will be huge.
- In the newsletter. If you have a written or electronic newsletter consider having a portion of it devoted to thanking volunteers.
- In a formal and significant way. Once or twice a year have a formal lunch or dinner to honor and thank your volunteers. Cater it. Yes, stop being cheap and pay for it. Let no one from the church serve that day except for the staff. Some churches have combined this with an awards ceremony of sorts like the Oscar awards. Be creative.
Anybody in the church knows that volunteers are crucial and the lifeblood of the church and for advancing the mission of the church. Finding ways to thank them for all they do should be a top priority for every church, pastor and ministry team leader.
What are some other ways you have seen volunteers thanked?