Ed. note: last week I shared some samples of volunteer communications and this week an article I have an article for you that will help you write effective volunteer recruitment materials.
When it comes to recruiting volunteers, many churches operate on what I call the 20/80 fallacy. We’ve all heard that “20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work.” That is true in many churches, but I call it a fallacy because it does not need to be that way. We forget that statement is merely a business observation—it is not scripture.
The Bible tells us that in the church of Jesus Christ, we are to have 100 percent involvement. We may be involved in different ways, but everyone has a job to do.
When we believe the 20/80 fallacy, the result is that the leaders of the church do all the work (and often complain about it) and the congregations sit back, watch, and expect to be cared for and entertained. The biblical models of church growth do not support this situation. In the church the leaders job is to “equip the saints to do the work of the ministry” Eph 4:11-13. Leaders are to equip and encourage. Congregations are to practice their spiritual gifts and do the work of the church.
This process will not happen automatically. We can help turn the biblical model into reality in our churches by creating clear and complete volunteer communications. Your church communications can play a vital role in the success of your volunteer programs. Here are some helpful tips on how to create successful ministry volunteer communications:
Volunteer publication planning
1. Make a list of all the jobs you’d like to have filled by volunteers at the church.
2. Don’t assume anything as you prepare to write this publication! You may know what it means to be an usher because you’ve been one for 10 years, but a new believer who might want to try welcoming people to the church may not have any idea what is involved.
3. Ask those in charge of the jobs to fill out a form that has the following information. It is very important that information be complete and clearly written: Job title, e.g. Sunday School Teacher, Youth Volunteer, etc. Don’t use church jargon titles that potential volunteers might not understand. For example, write something like “Grade School Age Sunday School Teacher”, not “Promiseland servant/helper.”
4. Write out a description of EXACTLY what the job involves. Again, in teaching Sunday school in some churches all the curriculum and craft information is provided, in others volunteers are expected to create their own. This is vitally important, especially in churches that are growing and have many adults who become believers as adults. People who did not grow up in church have no idea what churches do or what the various ministries in the church involve. Constantly remember that what is obvious to you is not to many of your new members and potential volunteers.
5.What are the requirements to be a volunteer? Many churches are becoming very strict on who can work with children and who cannot. In some communities, children’s workers must be fingerprinted. Let people know up front. In some churches you must be a member to volunteer in certain jobs. Let people know. There is nothing worse than an excited new believer wanting to do a certain job and to then be told, “Oh, I’m sorry, that position is only for church members… or men only….or whatever.” Any standards that are important to your particular church are OK, but let people know what they are before you ask them to volunteer.
6. How long is the commitment for? One month? Every other month? A summer? Or is it a life-sentence? Many churches are finding that more people volunteer if they know they are volunteering for a brief, clearly stated time. If the volunteer job is a good fit, they can sign up again.
7. What supervision will the person have and what are the expectations? What do they do if they can’t come one week?
It is difficult to emphasize the importance of each of these areas of information. If you leave them out, you will get fewer volunteer and you will have more problems and confusion with those who do volunteer. There will always be questions, but with a this key information written down, you have something to refer to.
Volunteer communication production
Your communications can take a number of forms. Booklets work out well. To aid in updating your publication, consider making the sections separate word processor files. Then when you need to update one area, it is easier to find and change.
In addition, if you put the information in a booklet that you collate and bind yourself, again, if one section changes significantly (for example, you have new and critical changes in how you screen volunteers), you can pull out and change that section, not the entire booklet.
You can also place the information on your web site and excerpts work out well for your newsletter and bulletin.
When you create the piece, make it lively and upbeat. If possible include pictures of the ministries and testimonies from folks who are doing the ministry currently. Have fun with it. Do these interviews like some of the profiles in magazines. Put in their picture and then have a written interview with these questions:
- What is your name?
- What is the ministry you are part of here at ABC church?
- What made you want to be (for example) a nursery volunteer?
- What makes you laugh as a nursery volunteer?
- What is the hardest thing about being a nursery volunteer?
- What have you learned from being a nursery volunteer?
- Why would you encourage others to join you as a nursery volunteer?
I guarantee that if you create a lively publication like this, you’ll have far more responses to your pleas for nursery volunteers than you would by the often futile listing for volunteers people put into their bulletins each week.
One more note on the project above: You could do something like this up and put it into your church bulletin as an insert. It is a great way to recruit volunteers.
Volunteer retention publications
After folks sign on to be volunteers, you still have publications to create. Some of them may include:
- Clear instructions on how to do their job.
- Guidelines, instruction manuals, tip sheets, continuing education articles and encouragements.
- Follow up postcards on meetings, when to show up, training events.
- Certificates, cards and other folks of affirmation and encouragement.
All of this takes time and effort, but when we look at it as a vital part of obeying the biblical command to “equip the saints to do the work of the ministry,” it helps give us energy to do it.
Creating a successful volunteer program in your church requires much more than a verbal announcement of help needed from the pulpit or in the bulletin. The communications discussed above will make your volunteer recruitment and retention efforts much more successful and, combined with lots of prayer, you’ll have a church of 100 percent involvement.