Recruiting and retaining volunteers has to be one of the most difficult aspects of church operations. Every church relies on volunteers to keep their ministries fully staffed and effective, yet it’s often hard to plan for ministry because the volunteer aspect can be a big question mark.
Who will agree to help? Will they show up? Will they come back? Can I count on the same volunteers next year? Have I tapped out the volunteer pool, risking their burn-out?
All of these are legitimate concerns for church leaders. One of the best ways to both attract and keep quality volunteers lies within the volunteer experience itself. As the leader in charge, you should take great care to make volunteering an enjoyable opportunity to serve in ministry.
Give attention to the following aspects of volunteering and watch your volunteers—and your ministry—thrive.
1) Make Volunteering EASY
Have you ever volunteered to help a friend move, only to show up and find boxes that still needed to be packed? You thought it would be an easy task of taking boxes and furniture to the moving truck; instead, you soon discovered you’d be spending the next few hours sorting cookware and wrapping delicate china. The work is tedious and difficult because you’re not sure which cookware your friend wants to pack and which she wants to trash.
When the next friend who needs help moving asks you for a few hours in lieu of pizza, you think, “Yeah…right. I’m not signing up for that again.”
When volunteering is hard, confusing, or is something more difficult than the job that’s “advertised,” volunteers are likely to become resentful and won’t return.
Be straightforward about your needs; don’t “sugar-coat” the task just to get more warm bodies in the room.
2) Make teaching easy for your volunteers
When it comes to teaching on Sunday mornings, volunteers make a huge commitment of time. You can even make teachers’ jobs easier. Using a core curriculum makes all the class activities uniform, which helps with planning.
Designate one person to gather all the supplies for every student in every class for every lesson. For example, if the lesson calls for everyone to have three popsicle sticks and two cotton balls, your designee would shop for the popsicle sticks and cotton balls, then count them out for every class, place them in a bag or box, and give to the teachers on Sunday morning.
The lessons are distributed to the teachers (either print books or photocopied pages in a binder) and can also be emailed as downloadable PDFs mid-week for the following Sunday (according to copyright permissions of the curriculum you use).
The volunteer teachers basically just need to read through the lesson and show up ready to teach on Sunday.
Now that’s making teaching easy on your volunteers!
3) Make Volunteering HASSLE-FREE
No volunteer wants to feel like they’re in the dark because they don’t know what to do or where to go.
Volunteering in church should be fun and edifying, not a dreaded chore. Be prepared to have your volunteers get to work as soon as they arrive. Do all the necessary legwork before volunteers come to the project. If you’re not quite ready for help, then reschedule the volunteers. There’s nothing more counter-productive than having a bunch of willing volunteers standing around because “there’s nothing to do yet.”
Make sure your expectations are well communicated: what do you want them to accomplish during the volunteer time period? Is this an ongoing commitment or a one-time assignment? Will you have helpers on-site to assist or is this only a one- or two-person job?
As much as you can, have everything laid out, spelled out, and thought-through. The more you do, the more likely the task is to be accomplished satisfactorily, AND your volunteers will be happy and eager to work in that same role again.
4) Make Volunteering a VALUED Role
The children’s ministry director at my church never misses an opportunity to thank me for helping out as a substitute teacher. She stands at the children’s welcome desk every Sunday morning, greeting every child, parent, and volunteer upon arrival. “Appreciate you!” she calls to teachers as they go to their classes.
On top of verbal recognition, she and her team also express their gratitude with small tokens of appreciation at Christmas and the school year’s end. They give handwritten notes of thanks along with a small gift card to Starbucks or Chick-fil-A.
More than that, she is invested in children’s ministry, her passion is contagious, and she deeply loves and appreciates all the volunteers who help to make it a success. She seeks out potential volunteers, genuinely gets to know them, and strives to find a suitable position for them to serve.
Volunteers don’t just feel like a cog in the wheel of children’s ministry. They feel like valuable members who are part of a bigger purpose. They know their involvement matters and their absence will be felt.
When volunteers have authentic “buy-in” to the role they’re working, they’re more likely to do a great job, enjoy their work, and return to that role in the future. Church leaders’ own attitudes can profoundly affect their efficacy in recruiting and retaining volunteers. If you’re excited, your volunteers will be, too.
Realm®: an Indispensable Tool for Volunteer Management
One of the most effective and robust tools for helping you manage volunteers is Realm. Realm’s capabilities will help you prepare and work effectively with your volunteers. Whatever your goal, Realm has the answer for equipping your volunteers for ministry.
If your volunteer efforts have been limping along, Realm can help:
- Use Pathways for training.
Pathways on Realm helps you manage all the steps of training volunteers. Make sure everything is covered and everyone moves through each step: safety procedures, classroom management, covering materials—whatever your volunteers need to be equipped for the task.
- Use Serving Groups to match volunteers with needs.
In Realm, you can also create Serving Groups based on individuals’ gifts and talents or into areas where they serve. Realm is a great tool for organizing your many volunteers into structured groups and sub-groups.
- Communicate through Realm with all volunteers.
Communicate directly with all volunteer groups using Realm’s email system. No more sifting through the large database to cherry-pick names. Inside Realm, you can send general info, important files, and post new service opportunities for people to consider. Your messages land in the appropriate inboxes where action will be taken.
- Stay updated with all volunteers.
Using Realm’s Profile tool, you’ve got a central location to store info about volunteers. This is a critical tool for the staff member who is recruiting new volunteers and who wants to invest in their lives.
With Profiles, you can track all the usual contact info on volunteers, but you can also track up to 75 different fields of information, including things as important—but varied—like allergies and faith background. You can make notes onto a Profile, track attendance, and see what groups a member is a part of.
Get Realm for Your Church Today
If you’ve been looking for the right software to help you with volunteer recruitment and management, look no further than Realm, where everything you need to create, operate, and sustain your group of volunteers is at your fingertips. Get it today and find out how valuable it is for ministry in your church.
Find out more about Realm and how it can work for your church!
- Attend a Demo: Register for an Overview Webinar, watch a Recorded Demo, or take a Self-Guided Tour.
- Call us at 1 800-736-7425 or send us a message from our Contact Page.