Ministry Leaders: Need More VOLUNTEERS?

Part of Multisite Monday


While on staff at Elevation, one of my responsibilities was to field and respond to church inquiries regarding family ministry. The question asked most frequently? “How do I recruit more volunteers?” It doesn’t come as a surprise. Even at Elevation, where we had more than 2,500 volunteers in children’s ministry across sixteen locations, we always needed an extra pair of hands.

As much as you fantasize about a full volunteer roster, you need more than warm bodies that help you meet a state recommended ratio. But where do you start? How do you begin to staff your ministry with people who are as committed and passionate as you?

Your impact will be determined by the health of your volunteers, the attractiveness of your ministry and the vision cast by you and your leaders. In a multisite model, the effectiveness of your volunteer care and recruitment strategy will either stimulate or restrict church growth.

Last week I had the opportunity to speak on this very topic on the Kids Ministry Collective podcast. I hope you’ll take the time to check it out. Click HERE to listen to the podcast now.

For additional FamilyMinistry.Church articles on volunteerism, click HERE.

Jess Bealer

Think Differently About Appreciating Volunteers

Part of Multisite Monday

 

A few years back I wrote an article entitled, Death To Volunteer Banquets. A little blunt? For sure. Truthful? Absolutely. The point of the article was to explain how a once a year dinner designed to cast vision and give direction but branded as volunteer appreciation does little to propel your ministry forward.

Volunteer care and appreciation can only be accomplished through strategic means. It can’t be reactive. It must be proactive. In a multisite model, it’s even easier for volunteers to fall through the cracks. Reduce burnout, isolation, and dissatisfaction by systematically creating routines that enable you to personally appreciate each and every one of your team members. Let’s take a closer look at how to do just that.

 

VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION must be PERSONAL.

Volunteer banquets treat everyone the same. They equalize the volunteer who puts in ten hours at the church office in addition to his or her full time job, with the volunteer who rarely shows up even when you call and offer reminders. Not everyone enjoys getting dressed up or eating in front of other people, and not everyone has another night to give you. What was meant to honor their sacrifice becomes another burden they must bear. Instead, I would encourage you to try a different approach. Think back to some of your all-time favorite presents. I can almost guarantee what set those gifts apart from the rest was how special and unique they were to you. Someone noticed something about you, a problem you dealt with, a preference you had, or an experience that made you feel cherished and loved. I’m not advocating for everyone on your team to get a surprise trip to his or her preferred vacation destination, but I’m sure you see the point. If you truly desire to honor those you lead, you must KNOW enough about them to appreciate them in a way that is special and unique. It must be personal.

Example: A fellow children’s director I know honors graduating seniors with a collegiate mug or water bottle filled with their favorite snack or candy. She matches the mugs to the college or university each will attend in the fall. By recognizing the season he or she is entering the director shows appreciation and support.

Tip: When volunteers sign up to serve in your ministry, have them fill out a favorites form. Ask them to list everything from their favorite restaurant and Starbucks drink to their favorite dessert or hobby. When the time comes to show appreciation, you’ll have ideas of how to uniquely honor them as individuals.

 

VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION must be ROUTINE.

Saying thank you and offering words of encouragement should come as natural to you as breathing. When you witness someone act in a big picture kind of way or notice a volunteer sacrifice time and energy to move your ministry forward offer in-the-moment praise and IMMEDIATELY make a note in your phone or planner to follow up with a word or gift of appreciation at a later time. I once heard a pastor say, “Gratitude is never silent.” Your words and actions should scream gratefulness.

Example: Before the hustle and bustle of child check-in begins, I set aside 15 minutes to walk around and say hello to each member of my team. I offer compliments on everything from a perfectly set up room to a fresh haircut. Knowing my volunteers and making them feel valued and loved is as much my responsibility as ensuring we have enough veggie straws in the cabinets.

Tip: Have a secret stash of spontaneous gifts you can grab to show on-the-spot appreciation to volunteers when you notice them acting in a way that deserves immediate recognition. Keep a variety of candy, gift cards, lotions, albums, books, or even church t-shirts on hand.

 

VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION must be SYSTEMIZED

A life in ministry is busy. The work is never done, and for many of us, we indulge in procrastination far too often. I’ve come to realize if something matters to me, I must carve out a new pattern in my life to help establish habits that are healthy and productive. Volunteer appreciation should be no different. Create systems that force the behavior. Schedule time on your calendar to send thank you notes each week. Make it a habit to swing by Starbucks or Krispy Kreme every Sunday morning and pick up sweet treats for different teams of volunteers. Divide your volunteer appreciation budget into a monthly amount and set reminders to spend that money regularly. If you don’t have money set aside in your church budget to honor volunteers, advocate for it. When you systemize your volunteer appreciation it won’t be long before the practice becomes a pattern.

Example: During the holiday season, Elevation honors volunteers by honoring their children. Each year they create a Christmas clubhouse promising seasonal treats and activities to help kids enjoy the long hours spent at church each Christmas.

Tip: Create a card writing station and encourage leaders to utilize it to show appreciation to their teams. Provide beautiful stationary, colorful gel pins, stickers, confetti, and $5 gift cards. Then ask every leader to write two cards to volunteers they caught going above and beyond. Make it easy by only requiring them to write the volunteers’ names on the envelope. You can always go back and add the stamp and address later.

 

Let’s be honest, all volunteers are not created equal. Some are incredible. They move your ministry forward and you wonder what you would do without them. Others show up and get the job done and while you’re thankful for their service, they may not shine like those showstopper vols you cling to so tightly. Then there are those who you may or may not see during their scheduled service time. They arrive late, rarely smile, and occasionally spout something that has everyone around them rolling their eyes. Their contribution is little more than a ratio met. These types of volunteers are few and far between. They exist, but are definitely in the minority. Over the years, I’ve discovered that almost everyone serving in ministry signed up with altruistic intentions. No matter their “type,” at some point they just wanted to make a difference in the life of a child or student. They wanted families to feel welcome and empowered, and they wanted the personal fulfillment that comes with serving. But ministry is messy. Toddlers throw tantrums. Parents get offended. Supplies go missing. Systems change and then change again. Before you know it, a volunteer is throwing his or her hands in the air and walking out the door, or in most cases, disappearing to never be heard from again.

There are a million different reasons why a volunteer vanishes, but I’ve found more often than not, it’s because they’ve fallen off our radar. For too long in ministry, we’ve relied on a slap on the back or a kind word to keep volunteers energized and moving forward. That’s a great start, but ultimately it’s not enough. Your volunteer base may be the key to execution for your ministry, but it’s crucial to remember these are individuals with interests, concerns, and needs, and one of their greatest needs is to be valued by you, their leader.

In a multisite model, systemizing your volunteer appreciation is essential if you want to build team camaraderie and increase longevity. Whatever system you create must be transferable from one location to another. Systemizing volunteer appreciation doesn’t have to be complex to be complete. Effectiveness is most often found in personal touches and meaningful relationships.

Join me again next Multisite Monday as I talk about First Time Guest follow-up and care.

 

Jess Bealer

Volunteers That Lead Like Staff w/ Nick Blevins

NickBlevinsPodcast

 

In the newest podcast by Nick Blevins, we talk about how to help volunteers lead like staff. At Elevation Church, volunteers are empowered to lead in big ways in every ministry. We talk about what those roles look like, how to recruit to them, what Elevation does to help volunteers get their culture and how they ensure volunteers are cared for and heard from.

Check it out here.

 

Frank Bealer

#OC15 Session Notes: Not Normal – 7 Quirks of Incredible Volunteers

I really enjoyed this breakout which highlighted the content of the new book by Sue Miller and Adam Duckworth. Here are some notes and a fun video.

Quirk #1: Start Somewhere. 

  • 80% of people just don’t know where to start.
  • Most people are so overwhelmed with the need that they never start.
  • As leaders encourage them to start somewhere!
  • Encourage people to try something they LIKE and to start over if they’ve been BURNED!

Quirk #2: Small is Big

  • The smallest things we do have the biggest results.
  • Small things bring about not normal results.
  • Speaking encouraging words, sending birthday cards, etc.

Quirk #3: Own Don’t Rent

  • “If you want to be a not normal volunteer you need to be an owner not a renter.”
  • Owners invest more for a bigger return.

Quirk #4: You, Me & We

  • This is not about ME. This is not about YOU. It’s about how WE do this together!
  • It is about looking side to side to see what is going on around you – rather than focusing on yourself.

Quirk #5: Honor The Leader 

  • Embrace Your Leaders Vision – It will drain volunteers to be part of a vision that they do not support.
  • Sometimes the best thing a volunteer can do is to amicably move on if they are in conflict with their leaders over vision.
  • “Your leader needs a cheerleader, not a drama queen.”

Quirk #6: Replace Yourself

  • Let go of what you want. Let go of your current role. And, let go of controlling your future.

Quirk #7: You Can’t Always See It

  • Volunteers can’t always see the impact they are making.
  • Remind your volunteers often that even if they can’t always see it – they are making a difference.

Attracting & Retaining Volunteers (#CPC15 Conference Notes / Resources)

Attracting and Retaining Volunteers : If there is one universal truth in children’s ministry, it’s that there are never enough volunteers. This breakout will show you how to attract great volunteers, develop leaders, and increase retention.

Volunteers are seeds; not manna from heaven. I’ve yet to see volunteers come from the sky but I’ve seen plenty come from sowing.

4 Steps to Attracting Volunteers:

  • Get your staff on board
  • Create raving fans among your current volunteers
  • Help people see themselves volunteering in your children’s ministry
  • Walk with confidence in your calling

3 Keys to Retaining Volunteers:

  • Care for your volunteers (previous session)
  • Remind volunteers about the big picture
  • Give your volunteers ownership

 

Ways to know if you are raising up / recruiting great volunteers in your ministry:

  1. people are getting recruited to other areas
  2. their names are being brought up all of the time (in a good way)
  3. your leaders are identifying other leaders

 

Resources / Related Posts

eKidz in A Flash

Staff Kids = Exceptions

15 FRESH Volunteer Appreciation Ideas

Part of Multisite Monday

My new book, Don’t Quit, releases on September 8th. Coauthored with Gina McClain, it is written in such a way to offer insight on a variety of ministry topics, as well as inspire leaders to never raise the white flag of surrender. In our original pitch to the publisher, we shared our passion and commitment to see ministry leaders equipped, empowered, and strengthened to run the marathon race that is ministry. In several chapters we directly address volunteer systems and strategies. Volunteers are the lifeblood of ministry. The stronger your teams, the greater the impact.

If you plan to be in ministry for any length of time, you need support. While healthy familial relationships are important, that’s not what I’m referring to. You need passionate, dedicated individuals who are committed to seeing God move in and through your ministry.  In one of the chapters I share a formula to help volunteers last longer:

Clarity + Empowerment + Appreciation = Longevity.

Today I want to focus on the appreciation variable of that equation. Effective appreciation is shown on an individual basis. It celebrates, encourages, and publicly acknowledges excellence. Below you will find 15 volunteer appreciation ideas to help you care for the teams of volunteers and leaders who’ve been placed in your charge.

PRACTICALLY FREE

  • Use Siri to make the most of your drive time. Record voice messages and send to unsuspecting volunteers. Don’t ask anything of them. Check in, say a quick prayer and thank them for what they do. Be as specific as possible with your gratitude.
  • Mark off thirty minutes in your calendar each week to write cards, send emails and make calls. Don’t allow this small amount of time to be eaten up with administrative meetings or unscheduled standing conversations.
  • During your volunteer meeting or rally choose one person to honor each week. Tell his or her story, how he or she connected with the church and how he or she is making a difference in the lives of kids and families. Remember to choose only deserving volunteers to honor. Never point to someone who is lacking drive or commitment and say, “Be like them.”
  • Every other Saturday evening plan to bake a batch of cookies, brownies or muffins. Wrap them up, attach a note and bring to one or two volunteers for no other reason than you were thinking of them.
  • In your weekly curriculum email or volunteer newsletter, choose one volunteer to highlight each week. Tell about his or her family, hobbies, career, and passions. Provide a picture or two so volunteers from other teams can identify him or her and say hello.

ON THE CHEAP

  • Want to draw attention to a select few volunteers. Rent or purchase a small helium tank. Write notes of thanks and place them inside balloons. Use helium to inflate the balloons and tie them onto cars in the parking lot. Not only will it draw the intrigue and attention of attenders, but your volunteers’ last interaction with your ministry for the day will be one of gratitude and appreciation.
  • Create a ‘favorites form’ in which volunteers can share their preferred candy, restaurant, coffee order, color, hobby, etc. Keep these forms on file to use as needed. Not only will you be ready to show appreciation when the time is right, but you’ll also know exactly what to purchase to make a lasting impression. Appreciating your volunteers begins with knowing your volunteers. This is a great step in the right direction.
  • Set up a card-making center where volunteers can write thank-you notes to one another when they want to express gratitude. Provide $5 gift cards, candy, glitter pens and stickers. Ask area leaders to write two cards and team managers to write one card every week. Have these leaders write the first and last name of the person they are appreciating on the front. You can add the mailing address on Monday or Tuesday and drop them off at the post office. The number of appreciation cards you send each week will quadruple with very little added work for you. In addition, your volunteers will treasure the opportunity to highlight the efforts of their peers.
  • Have a variety of gifts purchased, wrapped and waiting to be given out at just the right moment. The best time to show appreciation is as soon as possible. When you notice a volunteer patiently comforting a crying child or scrubbing down a bathroom sink, grab a previously wrapped gift and attach a note. Don’t wait to say, “Thank you!” (Examples include a nice lotion set, a book on leadership, a pair of earrings, a car wash gift certificate, a travel coffee mug, a journal, or a gift card to a local eatery.)
  • Honor your team members by gifting them a special t-shirt on their one or two year volunteer anniversary. Consistency and commitment should be celebrated and publicly recognized.

FEELING GENEROUS

  • Have a particular team that consistently hits a home run? Schedule for their cars to be washed and detailed while they serve. Have them lined up, sparkling and ready to go when they head home.
  • Want to splurge on volunteers who have selflessly signed up to serve during Easter or Christmas experiences? Create a mobile coffee or hot chocolate cart and hire a barista to serve custom made hot drinks between experiences.
  • Have college students serving for the summer and want to thank them for stepping up when rosters are thin and regularly scheduled volunteers are traveling? Order travel mugs from the schools or colleges they will be returning to in the fall and fill them with their favorite candy or snack food. This will show your gratitude and reinforce the behavior for summers to come.
  • Want to welcome new sign-ups and help build community among teams? Book an ice-cream truck for the day and encourage leaders to bring their teams to share an icee and get to know their new teammates.
  • Want to show gratitude and increase relational equity with those special few leaders who go above and beyond to help your ministry make a greater impact? Schedule a cooking class and enjoy a hands on approach to dinner. Have fun, enjoy the process but don’t talk about ministry issues. Relational equity is rooted in friendship.

In a multisite model, volunteer appreciation must be systemized. Let me be clear…it has to be BUDGETED! A multisite model is complex and multilayered. If your church doesn’t set aside money to honor, encourage, and show gratitude for those who invest time and energy into your ministry, those individuals will be neglected. Neglect leads to dissatisfaction, which leads to disengagement and resignation. If you want to keep your ministry healthy, adjust your schedule and budget to accommodate for the care and encouragement of those who help you succeed each and every week.

(Tip: When deciding how much money to set aside in your budget for volunteer appreciation, first decide on the initiatives you want to pursue. Estimate the total cost of those initiatives and then divide that amount on a per capita basis in accordance with the number of volunteers you have at each campus. This will give you a per volunteer amount and allow you to estimate how much a single campus or location will need to adequately care for its volunteer base.)

I hope you find these ideas helpful and I hope you’ll consider purchasing Don’t Quit on September 8th.

For additional multisite articles, click HERE.

Jess Bealer