Remember life before COVID when you had lots of volunteers serving in your church? Those were the days! Now, if you’re like most churches, you don’t have enough volunteers to open all your children’s ministry classrooms. How do you rebuild your volunteer core?
When I first started at my current church, my job was to build a volunteer culture in our high school ministry. Essentially, our middle school ministry was incredibly strong, and our high school ministry was lagging.
Over time, I was able to build a fantastic volunteering culture in our high school ministry. How did I do it? Well, I copied everything the middle school pastor was doing! That’s actually not a joke. The guy is brilliant.
The good news is that rebuilding your volunteer core isn’t rocket science. In fact, it’s very simple. It just requires attention and focus.
So, let me share with you what I did to build a volunteering culture. It might help you rebuild your volunteering core. And feel free to steal these ideas…I did.
Here are six principles for rebuilding your volunteer core.
1. You Matter
Far and away the most important aspect to rebuilding a volunteering culture is vision. Why should I serve? Why does this matter and why does what I do as a volunteer matter?
If you can demonstrate that volunteering really matters, then I’m much more likely to get onboard.
As you recruit volunteers for the various ministries in your church, stop and clearly define in a compelling statement why this volunteering position really matters. Tell the stories of ministry impact so that potential volunteers can feel the significance of volunteering.
Volunteers who believe they, and what they do, matters are likely to serve well and for a longer tenure.
2. You Belong
Everyone is longing for community. In fact, people often sign up to volunteer so that they can feel more connected. Volunteering teams have incredible potential for community.
One of the best ways to rebuild your volunteering core is to make your volunteer experience very relational. Help volunteers connect with each other and be sure to personally invest in them relationally—coach them along the way.
One of my mantras in building a student ministry volunteer was, “Give them a community they’ll never want to leave.” When people feel like they belong, they will usually serve well and invite other people into the volunteer community.
3. You have Backup
One of the most challenging things about building a strong volunteer culture in our high school ministry was, well…the high schoolers.
Turns out when you are a small group leader of high school students, you will bump into issues and some will be challenging. What do you do when a student confesses an eating disorder, doubts about faith, or an abusive home life?
The key here is that the volunteer never feels alone. They need to feel like you have their back—that you will be there for them when they don’t know what to do and feel they are in over their head.
Challenges will arise. When they do, if your volunteers feel supported, they will become even more loyal to the ministry.
If you want to rebuild a strong volunteering core, be sure to support your volunteers well. Ensure that they know what to do and who to reach out to when they run into challenges.
4. You are Winning
Let’s be honest. Nobody likes to lose. Whether it’s sports, card games or business, we want to be winning. Do your volunteers know what winning looks like? I mean, in their role, are they doing well or not?
Too often, volunteers are left to wonder, “Am I doing a good job?” Most people, when given no feedback, feel like they aren’t doing a good job.
There’s a solution for this. Clearly articulate what winning looks like for each volunteer.
- If you led a discussion about the Bible teaching in your small group, you won.
- If the bathrooms were clean before each weekend service, you won.
- If you smiled and said hello to each person walking through the door, you won.
If your volunteers feel like they are winning, they are much more likely to continue bringing their best week after week. Give them clear expectations and helpful feedback.
5. You are Believed in
Volunteers who feel trusted are volunteers who invest deeply. The question here is this, “Do you believe in me?” Are your volunteers empowered? Volunteers who feel empowered often make great leaders.
Do you tell your volunteers exactly what to do and how to do it? Or, do you give them the goals and grant them the freedom to reach the goals how they see fit? Obviously, vision and values alignment are crucial here but, far too often, we are too controlling with volunteers.
If you want to rebuild a strong volunteer culture, empower your volunteers to creatively reach your goals using their individual giftings and strengths.
6. You are Appreciated
Lastly, if you want to rebuild a strong volunteerism in your church, make sure your volunteers feel seen and appreciated. Take the time to personally thank every volunteer. Write appreciation notes. Take them out for coffee or lunch and remind them that what they’re doing is important and that they’re doing a great job.
Most churches are rebuilding their volunteer core right now. It’s important work as we build toward the future. I hope these ideas are helpful.