Ed.note: Volunteers are often essential if you want to get done the amount of communications needed for all the ministries in a church. The primary ministry assistant usually has more than enough projects in addition to the primary communication work (bulletin, newsletter, website) of the church to keep her very busy. If the various ministries of the church including children's, men's, women's, mission's, singles', etc., are going to get all the needed communications done, the primary ministry assistant will need help. Gayle Hilligoss as usual has some wise and very practical advice on recruiting and working with volunteers.
Want to start a lively dialogue among ministry assistants? Bring up the subject of volunteers. After a candid discussion, those present at a seminar eventually did agree that selecting and training volunteers can:
• multiply your time and productivity
• require an investment of time and energy
• be a blessing—or not!
Applied to the church, the Pareto Principle or 80/20 Rule suggests 80 percent of work is done by 20 percent of the members. A lot of office professionals would like to locate a few people beyond that significant 20 percent and put them to work. In many churches budgets are tight, programs are expanding, and both paid and volunteer workers are overextended. People are busy. Why should they want to handle the office tasks you’d like to give away?
Research suggests people volunteer because they want to:
• share their time and resources
• provide something someone needs
• experience a sense of accomplishment
• feel more a part of the community
• gain experience at a skill
• contribute a skill or knowledge
• heal from a personal loss
• contribute to positive actions
• have influence on how things are done
Understanding motivation helps you build effective volunteer ministries which provide people opportunities to give, to share, and to grow. Everybody wins. Including you.
Those who have successfully recruited and worked with volunteers say a satisfactory experience depends on following proven basics.
We call them volunteers, but recruits is more accurate. Not to stumble over terminology, recruit your volunteers. Instead of putting out a blanket SOS, ask specific people to do specific jobs. Being a successful recruiter takes time and effort, but the results are worthwhile. Not only will you gain the help you need, the enlistees benefit from the experience as well.
Start by making a list of jobs you want to delegate. Be specific about what each job entails.
Make a list of possible helpers whose talents and personality make a good match to the tasks. Think beyond the people who already do everything. Consider those whose talents are not presently being utilized at the church. In every church there are individuals, some who are already busy individuals, who are willing and even eager to pitch in.
Write, call, or visit each prospective helper. Make your request and explain the task.
The key to recruiting these people is to let them know you have worthwhile tasks to do and their expertise is needed. People resent being asked to do simple busy work; likewise, no one enjoys being expected to perform far beyond his or her abilities.
Most recruiters do a good job of explaining what needs to be done. Fewer take the equally important step of identifying standards of performance. People perform better when goals are clear and specific; take time to define the quality of work you require.
For all but the most simple jobs, provide written instructions. Include in this job description the scope of the volunteer’s authority and to whom she is answerable. People need to know up front the criteria for excellence.
Ask for a short term commitment
Proceed cautiously. Start with a request for a single project. Or gain a commitment for a week or two. If the arrangement works well, you can ask for a repeat. If not, neither of you will be put in an awkward position to end it. Many longtime assistants suggest no volunteer, regardless of reputation or experience, should be recruited for more than a year at a time.
Once your recruit has accepted, provide training depending on the complexity of the job. Don’t micro-manage, but do provide adequate instruction on how the job is to be done satisfactorily.
Be prepared to spend some time getting your recruit up to speed. She’s seen the written description, now show her how the job should be done. This is no time to be nonchalant. If you take training time lightly, you send the message this is not so important after all. Once any questions are answered, let the worker take over. Assure her you are available if needed.
Check back in 15 minutes or so to see how things are going. Answer any questions. If there are problems, make course corrections right away.
Don’t overdo, but do check periodically as the project progresses. Observe what has been done since you last touched base. Ask the recruit to show progress made; discuss any changes to be made.
At the end of the task, spend a few minutes with your worker talking about the experience. Ask what she learned about the job, both positive and negative. Find out if there were any surprises and how she handled them.
An effective recruiter can learn a great deal about workers from this kind of feedback: how suited they are for the job, how they respond to suggestions, their ability to give and take directions, their work ethic, and more. Just as important, this is your opportunity to congratulate workers for good decisions, offer optional solutions, and ask for ideas on how the process might be improved. Good ideas often come from people looking at tasks with a fresh view.
Be pleasant, brief, and kind. You want your volunteers to succeed at their tasks.
Appreciation and recognition are vital to a successful volunteer program. Churches use scores of devices to encourage esprit de corps: lunches, banquets, day trips, newsletter honor rolls, even a website devoted to volunteers and their activities.
Be as plain or as fancy as you like, have fun with it, and just be sure you use the magic words, thank you. Show volunteers they are valuable members of your church office team. Let them know the work they do is important to the success of the ministry. Set the example by your caring attitude, your positive spirit, your effectiveness.
Some churches provide attractive shirts for their volunteers; others use badges or baseball hats imprinted with a distinctive logo to identify their volunteer corps. Many honor their workers with certificates. These little extras not only show appreciation, they encourage team spirit.
An effective way to enlist more volunteers is to make heroes of the ones already serving.
Even though you do your best to choose the right person, equip each volunteer to do his or her best, and sincerely show your appreciation—still, this person is not a paid staff member and will likely operate with a different agenda. Be aware that some volunteers take commitment more seriously than others; don’t be dismayed if a volunteer turns out to be less than reliable.
Nevertheless, expect a good experience. Most of the time that is exactly what volunteers deliver!