Taking SUCK out of Volunteerism


How many of you have heard (or said) this, "No one wants to volunteer for anything around here!" Or what about this one, "There's only a handful of people doing all the work!" I have heard and said both of these countless times over the years as a pastor; but what I've discovered is that low volunteerism was usually a lack of my own leadership. 

Most of the time volunteerism issues really begin surfacing around the 150-250 mark. This is because churches of 100 people or less are usually very well connected with each other, so everyone jumps in and gets the job done. However, once you pass that threshold, things will change in your church, simply because everyone is no longer able to be connected to each other (which is why small groups are so important). Here's three SUCK factors that could be killing your volunteerism.  

1. Sign-up Sheets Suck...stop it: In a small church, sign-up rosters worked well; in a larger church, this just isn't the case. There are a couple of reasons for this. In a larger church, people feel less motivated to go "sign up" because they think since there's so many people, there's plenty of help; they have no idea what the volunteer rate is or what it should be. Secondly, it's proven that sign up sheets are very ineffective unless each person is contacted within 24 hours after signing up for something...and that just don't happen. 

  • Remedy: Replace sign up sheets with flesh and blood. Instead of asking the church to sign a sheet, find five committed people and ask each one of them to find three people they personally know who aren't serving and get them plugged in. That's an instant twenty volunteers! Remember, in large churches, personal recruiting always trumps sign-up sheets. Relationships create committed volunteers, not sign-up sheets. That's why you want to stress they find people they personally know. 


2. Shotgun- Approaches Suck...stop it: Some leaders will use the shotgun affect; they will stand up and announce (to the church) they need 25 volunteers for kid's ministry and then lay on the "Jesus gave his life for you and you can't give one hour?" guilt trip for those who are squirming in their seat. Here's the problem with this; first of all, you're taking three minutes to teach the entire church what's expected of them, which, they don't get. Secondly, even if 25 people showed up to volunteer, how do you know they're the right 25 people? The last thing you need is a train wreck in kid's ministry. 

  • Remedy: Stop using guilt trips to push people into serving. Instead, use your small groups. Talk to your small group leaders about areas that need manning, and then have him to set up a time where you and the people can sit and talk about the vision and mission of what you're asking them to do...over a cup of coffee. Remember, people need to understand the bottom-line reason you're wanting them to serve, and that is, to engage people with the gospel. Example: When you ask someone to serve in the nursery, tell them their volunteerism means that a mom and dad will be able to hear the gospel undistracted...which could result in their salvation. Volunteerism should always end with the gospel as the reason. Christ-centered people will sign up for that all day. 


3. So-Desperate Attitudes Suck...stop it: One of the most dangerous attitudes you can develop in volunteerism is desperation. When churches struggle with volunteerism, many times they will resort to almost begging people to serve. If you do that, you will create a culture that serves out of obligation, minus opportunity. Remember, no one wants to sign up ministries driven by desperation. 


  • Remedy: Serving Christ should always be presented as an opportunity instead of an obligation. When a church seems desperate for volunteers, it creates an unhealthy environment of rebellion, disputing, and lack of excellence. Recruiting people to volunteer should done with excitement, passion, and most importantly, the opportunity be a small part of God's amazing work. 

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