One of the most common questions I was asked when on staff at a church was "how do you get volunteers?" People were exhausted from shouldering the load of the ministry and frustrated knowing quality volunteers were sitting in the seats of their sanctuary. We had a large number of volunteers, many of whom were very skilled in their craft and dedicated hours each week to serve the church. So I wanted to share some thoughts about on-ramping. I think there should be multiple on-ramps and each one may look a little different. I'll present a few here that were successful at my last church.
1. Cultivate a Culture of Serving. Developing a culture of volunteering will certainly help and it's never too late to begin.
2. Create a Weekend Experience that Centers around Serving. One of the things we did at Shoreline Church in Austin, was dedicate two weekends a year to serving in the house. The entire service including the message centered around volunteering. We provided ways for people to get connected right away. It was a party environment where serving was celebrated. These serving weekends were scheduled strategically during the beginning of the new year and back-to-school time when there is a natural enthusiasm for starting new things and getting involved.
3. Incorporate Volunteer On-Ramps in Your Welcome Class. Perhaps your church has membership classes, newcomers events, or simply a way for others to learn more about your church. This presents another opportunity to communicate the vision for serving, getting planted and rooted in the house of God (Psalm 92:13). People need to know that one of the ways to flourish is serving and they might not know that unless you inform them. This is fundamental to the health of your church. Volunteers become owners and owners are invested.
4. Watch for Curiosity. Be on the lookout for people that linger around the control booth, looking at all the cool lights and buttons. They might be a good candidate for serving. Invite them to join you next week, so they can "kick the tires" and see if it might be something they would want to do.
5. Simply Ask. Sometimes, all a prospective volunteer needs is an invitation. We can be intimidated by "the ask". We can be good at making excuses for people. Putting words in their mouth explaining why they likely can't or wouldn't want to serve. Just ask! One of the traits of a great leader is the willingness to surround yourself with people that know more than you do. This is not always comfortable and certainly humbling. If you don't invite people who are smarter than you to join the team you become the lid on the growth, maturity and knowledge level of the ministry.
If you would like to have a conversation regarding on-ramping volunteers or how to develop a great team, give me a call or drop me a note. With more than 20 years of successful experience, I can help you with this often frustrating assignment.
Coming up: Qualifying volunteers, leading volunteers, why we don't call volunteers - volunteers, when to hire, and more