How to Ask for Volunteers by Larry Davies
As a pastor, when our church needs volunteers, I usually do one of two things. Send an email describing the need and hope someone will respond or I make an announcement from the pulpit.
Let’s be honest… this approach seldom works.
Here is why: Sue Brage with Volunteer Central offered the following five assumptions that go through the mind of everyone when asked to volunteer at a church.
- The church doesn’t need my help.
- I have nothing of value to offer.
- There are other people more qualified to serve.
- Serving will require time or skills I don’t possess.
- I will be asked to serve in an area I don’t enjoy.
If you give me half a chance, I could easily answer every one of those questions
- Of course the church needs your help. Most churches are desperately seeking the expertise and gifts you bring. God brought you to this church because of who you are. The question is where are your gifts and talents uniquely suited to the needs of the congregation or community?
- You have tremendous value to God and to the church. God gives everyone unique gifts and talents. The question is where those gifts and talents can be utilized?
- Most people are already volunteering in another area. The church needs you and is fortunate to have you.
- Yes, serving the church requires a donation of your time and you may need training but if God is calling you to be in this church, there is a reason. Let’s work together to discover what that reason is.
- What I love about the church is the infinite opportunities available for us to pursue. If you don’t like one area we can help you move to another more suited to your gifts.
Those are pretty good answers: but here is the problem.
If I send an email, or announce from the pulpit, I don’t get the chance to answer any questions. So there must be a better way to ask for volunteers.
There is a better way. Here are some suggested guidelines for asking anyone to volunteer.
- Ask the volunteer personally, whether it is you or another church leader, sit down and talk to the potential volunteer both to answer questions as well as learn about their particular gifts and how much time they are able donate to the ministry.
- Set limits in advance as to how much time you need and for how long they will be asked to serve. Many churches have a reputation for asking for help for a position and then the poor volunteer serves for life. If they should devote one hour or two hours a week and serve for six months or a year, they should know in advance.
- All members are expected to volunteer. The only question should be how and where they serve. This expectation should be stressed to new members as they talk about joining. Setting the expectation makes it easier to ask because you are no longer just asking them to volunteer, you are asking them where and when they volunteer.
- Offer training and follow up. This is a critical part of establishing a volunteer friendly environment. There should be general training for volunteering for the church that emphasizes the vision and the policies of your church as well as procedures for relating to youth, children and adults. In addition there should be specialized training that breaks down the expectations for the job they will be doing.
- Appreciate and celebrate the work of your volunteers. Whether it is a thank you card, a gift, annual appreciation dinners or just a personal chat expressing your appreciation, you should be continually looking for ways to show your appreciation. Successful ministries should be celebrated regularly, partly for the volunteer and partly to show others in the church some of the wonderful ministry that is taking place.
So, now that you’ve read these ideas… what are you going to about it?
Here is my suggestion: Copy this article and share the ideas at your next board meeting, or any other place where leaders gather. Discuss the guidelines and see what you can do to make volunteering one of the most fulfilling experiences anyone can ever ask for.
If you have any other ideas that work for you, send me an email and I’ll pass it on to others. If you have been successful as a volunteer or attracting volunteers, send me a few paragraphs.
God has given each of us a purpose and an opportunity to serve. How can we as the church do our part?