Recruiting Church Volunteers that Last

Recruiting church volunteers can be a daunting task.  Finding the right mix of qualified, capable and available people who correspond with the needs and opportunities in your church can sometimes feel like an impossible ask.  Sometimes it might feel as if just doing the work ourselves might be easier. There is no doubt that recruiting volunteers can be challenging. There are, however, three things you can do to help the process.  

1. Be clear what you are asking of volunteers.

Communicate with recruits in a way that they understand what you need and can determine if they are able to do what is required.  For example, be clear if you are asking them to take leadership for planning and executing an event or just asking them to show up and help someone else who is leading it.  Be specific in terms of the skills they need to be able to succeed. This might include technical skills or “people” skills. Be clear on the time commitment required including the actual time of service and also prep time for gathering and preparing materials, as well as perhaps travel time to and from the service opportunity.  Plus, be clear on the longevity of what you are asking of them. Is this a one-off event? An event recurring weekly, monthly, or quarterly?

Your ability to communicate clearly what you are asking of them shows you have thought through as many aspects of the need as possible and have considered what is needed to accomplish it successfully. It also shows you respect the recruits enough to have invested the time and effort to plan a volunteer opportunity at which you believe they can succeed.  Both of those will increase the chances of a positive experience for the volunteer as well as the recruiter.

2. Be clear what you are offering volunteers

In many cases, volunteers need to know they will get something out of the volunteer opportunity.  Be clear and specific on what you are offering them in exchange for their efforts. We’re not talking about monetary compensation!  In this case, they might become part of a team or culture of a specific organization or subset of your church. They might receive the good feeling of being a part of something larger than themselves or of making a difference in the community.  You might be offering them a chance to learn a new skill or further develop a skill they already have. You might also be able to offer them an investment in their growth and development as a person through a mentoring/coaching process as part of the volunteer opportunity.  The key to success here is to be realistic and specific in what you are offering in return for their service when you’re recruiting church volunteers.  

3. Be clear about what you hope to accomplish through this effort.   

This step goes beyond what the individual gets out of the service opportunity and speaks to the larger outcomes from the overall program or plan.  This step is part vision casting, but it is also important to be clear on expected outcomes. Some opportunities have direct, tangible outcomes such as painting a certain number of rooms, packing a certain number of meals, or teaching a certain number of classes.  Others have less tangible outcomes such as building relationships with people from a new community or helping to improve the quality of programming offered that may not see results right away. When the expected outcomes are clear and specific (even if they are likely to take some time), people are more motivated than when they are given vague “we are going to change the world” kinds of expectations.  Put the time and effort into really thinking through not only what you plan to accomplish and how you plan to accomplish it but also why that is important. Be ready to communicate your goals and outcomes to those you ask to join you in the effort.  

When well-executed, these three steps can significantly improve your results when it comes to recruiting church volunteers.  Having a well-thought-out plan of what you are asking, what you are offering, and what outcomes you are expecting is a strong head start toward success.   Be open with people along the way and engage them in the process. Learn from their experiences. You both will be better for it. 

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