5 Steps to Recruiting and Retaining Church Volunteers

5 Steps to Recruiting and Retaining Church Volunteers

August 12, 2015 by

A few weeks ago, the #cmschat participants talked about managing church volunteers and how to do it effectively. Probably the most difficult part of this job, most agreed, is finding good volunteers and retaining them. You need a strategy:

1. Organize

Yup, the first step to creating a brilliant team is to brilliantly create the parameters for the team’s operations. Most people working in a church are stretched thin, and volunteers can seem like a blissful way to take some work off their hands. That’s not entirely untrue, but remember, volunteers aren’t in your seat—they don’t understand the inner workings of what you need done, so you can’t expect them to understand and complete a task perfectly the first time.

Start by creating a list of things you need done, then organize them into categories. Are these tasks time sensitive? Do they take specific training? Since volunteers are unpaid, they sometimes are not always the easiest to track down. Make sure volunteers do tasks that are important but won’t collapse an entire program if they’re not finished.

Here are some of the tasks our participants recommended placing volunteers in:

  •      Content extraction
  •      Data entry
  •      Proofreading bulletins and newsletters
  •      Web maintenance
  •      Digital marketing
  •      Photography

The number one task people recommended avoiding? Design.

2. Advertise

OK, so you’ve organized a list of tasks, it’s time to actually find your volunteers. Some of our #cmschat participants recommended writing out “job” descriptions whereas others actually created ministry fairs for people to check out different volunteer positions. You could also do the standard announcement at the beginning of the service, advertise on social media or the church website, or have signups in the lobby. Or you can be a little more unconventional:

There is no right or wrong channel to use when finding volunteers—rather, what works the best is being as upfront as possible about what this volunteer position entails. You don’t like taking on jobs with  “mushy” job descriptions—neither do your volunteers. Plus, they aren’t paid. Motivation lags when most of your compensation comes in sporadic “warm fuzzies.” Be respectful of the time they’re giving you.

No matter how small the role seems, both you and the volunteer should be asking the Lord for his guidance.

3. Interview

You may think at this point that you can just sit back and wait until the volunteers show up. Not true. While some volunteers may be a show-up-and-get-out kind of deal, more and more churches need regular volunteers for specific communication tasks such as proofreading or content mining. In that case, you want to make sure you’re bringing people on your team who are going to be reliable. Just as you wouldn’t hire someone without an interview, you shouldn’t bring in new volunteers without checking them out first.

This does not have to be a stressful or intimidating process. It’s only meant as an opportunity to get to know your volunteers and make sure this is a good fit for you as well as for them. This means that yes, you can ask your volunteer blogger to bring in her portfolio or have your sound guy candidate talk about his experiences. (Seriously, it’s OK.)

This also doesn’t mean your volunteers have to be experts at what you’re asking them to do. Rather, you’re looking for whether or not you can train them to do the task you need done and whether they’ll actually do it.

Finally, pray. No matter how small the role seems, both you and the volunteer should be asking the Lord for his guidance on your decision.

4. Training

So, you talked to the volunteer, and both of you think this is a good fit. Great! Now you can start training. Not all volunteer positions will require heavy training of course, but many need some help, and this is another great opportunity for you to get to know the volunteers working under you. This training can be very informal—just an introduction to the tasks at hand. This also builds trust, making your volunteers feel more comfortable working and asking questions.

5. Encourage

Now you’ve gotten yourself some good volunteers by advertising and carefully selecting people. But the stigma about volunteers is that they’re flaky—how do you prevent this? In this arena, feedback is king. Too often, volunteers feel as though their work is menial, or they’re not sure if they’re doing it right. When you encourage their work and give them constructive feedback, their confidence will grow. Tip: frequent meetings help.

This is also where your leadership as well as others’ comes in handy. Build your team up by fostering a good volunteer to lead them.

Continuing On

Managing a group of volunteers isn’t always easy. But when you have a personal relationship with them, it’s easier to for both of you to support one another. Pray with and for other each other, and continue to recognize their impact in your ministry.

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Post By:

Celine Murray


Celine is recent graduate who is still getting used to sitting for eight hours at a time. She blogs regularly at Latchkey Writing & Editing.
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