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church volunteers - getting the most from them

Getting the Most Out of Your Church Volunteers

This article originally appeared at ChurchTechToday. The response to it was so significant I wanted to share it with my readers. As you build your communications team, consider how you can encourage and motivate them using these principles.


Without rocking your world too much I’d like to state the obvious…

Volunteers are the life blood of your church.

While we all would acknowledge that fact. It’s easy to forget about in the day to day of ministry.

They dutifully arrive every week, with a smile on their face (real or painted on) and serve. Because it’s the right thing to do.

For the extroverts its an invigorating experience that is its own reward.

For the introverts its a duty to be fulfilled.

Regardless of their motivation, our effectiveness long-term depends on them.

We could never hire the volume of people needed to run our church and we shouldn’t have to.

The challenge comes down to expectations.

Our expectations of them…

Expect too little and they don’t see their contribution as important and flake out.

Expect too much and risk losing the very people you desperately need.

Their expectations of us…

Doing something important

Being valued and respected

So how do we find some balance?

Each person is different, but there are some foundational things that will help you get the most out of your volunteers.

Here’s a list of 10 things you can’t expect church volunteers to do…

1) Invest time without understanding the goals

Every one of us want our lives to count for something. To know we are making a difference. When we ask volunteers to invest time and resources without explaining the project goals we lose buy-in.

2) Accomplish tasks without understanding the “why” of the request

Volunteers want to know how the task you’ve requested helps accomplish the goals you’ve shared.

Tell them why the two-hour project is important to reach your goals and they will see it with different eyes.

3) Articulate a vision they aren’t seeing modeled

A vision on the walls means nothing if its not lived in the halls. Your volunteers will model what they see long before what they read.

Give them opportunities to see the two work together and they will be your biggest supporters

4) Function without encouragement

Every one of us needs an “atta boy” every once and a while. Show your volunteers how much you value them by encouraging them publicly and personally, both verbally and in writing.

5) Work for free

The definition of volunteer is “a person who works for an organization without being paid.”

While you can’t financially compensate them, it doesn’t mean you can’t bless them for their help.

Donuts, granola bars, snacks, coffee, tea and water all go a long way towards showing volunteers you value them. You couldn’t hire the number of people you need each week for $20. But for that amount you could bless them for being part of the team.

6) Have your back if you don’t have theirs

Teamwork is about publicaly defending and privately confronting issues. When your team knows they can trust you to support them they will do the same for you.

7) Produce last minute miracles on a consistent basis

Every church has last minute projects and changes that come along. People rise to the occasion and scramble to get things done.

When last minute isn’t the exception, but the rule, is when you have problems.

8) Drop everything because you failed to plan ahead

A lack of planning on the staff’s part is not a spiritual badge of honor, it’s a ministry handicap.

When you work ahead several weeks you have time to seek and listen to the Spirit’s leading and plan accordingly.

When you don’t work ahead and expect people to “be available” when you need them you’re not functioning in grace.

9) Be creative without direction, support and preparation

Creativity isn’t a faucet you turn on and off. It is something that comes at the oddest times and situations. Give your volunteers direction on what needs doing, support to do it and time to prepare. You may just find that their visions and plans exceed yours for what God can do in your midst.

10) Be motivated long term by guilt

No one likes guilt. When we use it in the church to get people to do our bidding we’ve moved beyond our role as a leader to a user.

Instead, find ways to direct and draw the best out in people. The long term response, retention rate and happiness of your volunteers will improve dramatically.


What are you doing to maintain and grow your volunteers? How are you seeing it impact your ministry?

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