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

Empowering Your Volunteer Team

Featured on Orange Leaders

Ants. Everywhere. I looked around the classroom and could feel the sting of tears forming. It was going to be a hectic morning.

I had known for weeks today would be challenging and had done everything in my power to set up my teams for success. It was a long holiday weekend, which meant many volunteers were at the beach or in the mountains with their families. (But we were covered; I had called in reinforcements in the form of staff spouses.) Our church building, which was often rented out by other well-meaning organizations, had been filled with tiny ballerinas and tappers less than 24 hours prior, and they had definitely left their mark. Glitter was everywhere. (But again, no big deal. I had hired a cleaning service and brought my own vacuum from home for a final touch-up.)

However, when I unlocked that room (the one room that hadn’t been touched by sparkles and tutus) and saw the trails of hardworking fire ants streaming across every flat surface, my heart sank. “Oh no!” I whispered. The volunteer standing at my back gasped and mumbled quietly, “I noticed them last week just outside the door. I mentioned it to another staff member. I guess they forgot.”

The Problem You Don’t See Coming

Have you ever been so flustered, so angry that you could feel your face heating? That’s exactly what I experienced in the moment. We could have remedied the problem anytime in the last seven days. There was nontoxic ant spray beneath the sink in that very room. How did we find ourselves in this situation? The volunteer’s next words effectively deflated my frustration. “I’m sorry. You’re just so particular and I was afraid I’d step on someone’s toes if I took matters into my own hands. Would you have wanted me to spray or tell you so you could spray?”

Immediately, I realized my failure. We would fall short of the expectations of the families we served because I had neglected to empower team members to identify viable solutions and make critical decisions. I had micromanaged my ministry to the point of malfunction. I had built a shifting foundation. My need for control had robbed my team members of their confidence and limited their capacity. The irony in the situation was how much I trusted my team. I had recruited incredible people with a varied set of skills and aptitude. They were fully capable of executing with excellence, but my fear of making mistakes and being labeled inadequate was stifling our success. Click here to read more.