The fall season is upon us and you’ve got big plans. Your calendar is booked with parent connection events, baby dedications, baptism celebrations, and holiday parties. The last quarter of the year is commonly referred to as a strategic growth season, and while you’re excited and ready to implement your growth initiatives, in the back of your mind one question plays on repeat, “Do you have enough volunteers to make it all happen?”
Building a robust team that can move your ministry forward is key to success in the upcoming season. With that in mind, here are four strategies to help you fill empty rosters and set you up for a win this fall.
KEEP THE VOLUNTEERS YOU CURRENTLY HAVE
I know what you’re thinking, I love my team, but there’s just not enough of them. Isn’t this article supposed to help me find and recruit new people? Yes, but unless you plan to single-handedly identify and enlist new individuals for each and every position within your ministry, you’re going to need assistance.
The longer people serve in your ministry, the more personal it feels to them. They no longer think in terms of “them” or “they”; they think “we” and “us.” The moment this shift occurs, ownership begins to develop. A volunteer who owns his or her ministry will be more motivated and consistent. They will strive for excellence and begin to problem-solve. They’ll also boast regularly about the ministry that has come to hold a special place in his or her heart. An appreciated volunteer who understands the vision and feels empowered to play his or her part will not only stick with you for the long haul, but they’ll recruit others to as well.
MAKE YOUR MINISTRY ATTRACTIVE
Recruiting can be difficult. Recruiting to a ministry that feels inefficient, ineffective, or unsightly is impossible. Before you launch into a five-part plan to fill those understaffed small groups (that are beginning to look more like a large group), you need to stop and ask yourself, “Would I want to volunteer in my ministry?” As leaders it’s often difficult for us to see past the urgency of our need to the underlying cause of our shortage.
When parents pick up their children, do they see stressed and outnumbered volunteers or inspired individuals who are joyfully living out their calling? Are first-time guests impressed with the aesthetics of your space or are they distracted by dirty handprints on the walls and the lack of security?
If you want people to sign up to serve, they need to see your effectiveness on display. No one wants to go down with a sinking ship.
KNOW WHAT AND WHO YOU NEED
The most common question I am asked is: “How do I get more volunteers?” To which I will usually respond, “Well, how many volunteers do you need exactly and in what areas do you need them?” There is usually a significant silence that follows. Why is it significant? Because recruiting is tough, and if you’re unaware of your specific needs, you may complicate the matter further. When you clearly communicate your needs to both your fellow staff members and the team you lead it’s easier to recognize the right volunteer and get them in the right position.
“I need two male small group leaders for the elementary room and three guest services volunteers for kids check-in.”
A tangible deficit is more easily overcome than an elusive one. Identify what and who you need and clearly communicate that need with those who are willing to help you see it met. Most often, these people are fellow staff members, high-level leaders, and motivated volunteers.
CREATE UNITY THROUGH A COMMON LANGUAGE
The members of your team have a unique set of circumstances that brought them to where they are today. Their upbringing has molded them. Their relationships have influenced them. Their career choice, in many ways, may define them.
With such diversity, it may seem impossible to find shared commonality. However, each of them has a starring role in God’s grand story. Each of them exists to make the name of Jesus famous, and while they may not realize it, each of them yearns to realize a greater purpose in Christ. They wouldn’t have signed up to volunteer if they didn’t.
Use this knowledge to build camaraderie. Think of your language as a secret handshake to the greatest club ever created. When you get this right, it will deepen commitment and support unity among your team. When your team has a common language it is easier for them to stay motivated and aligned. The words or phrases you introduce to your volunteers should be memorable, clarify your vision, and bring inspiration.
A united team is a motivated team. A motivated team with a common language will both intentionally and unintentionally market your ministry to friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors. The best recruiter is a well-versed volunteer who loves your ministry to the point of remarking on it consistently.
In most instances a bare or severely understaffed roster is an indicator of an unhealthy ministry. People crave community. They want to be a part of a strong team. They desire to experience excellence and play a part in God’s story. A healthy ministry with high standards of excellence run by enthusiastic and committed volunteers who understand the mission and are united by a common language will by nature attract new volunteers.
If you have a shortage of volunteers, that may actually be pointing to a deeper problem and it may be time to stop talking about your ministry and get busy working on your ministry. Evaluate your volunteer experience. Observe the inner workings of your systems. Ask your teams if they feel appreciated and empowered. Identify your specific needs and create a common language that will bring clarity and build unity.
Your strategy for recruiting this fall should be nothing more and nothing less than an effective and impactful experience for kids, parents, and volunteers.
For more insight on how you can build a healthy volunteer culture, check out Don’t Quit: The Best Things in Ministry Come Over Time. Visit Don’tQuitBook.com.