ChMS Forum: Volunteering for the 21st Century

ChMS_2No one wants to volunteer in your church.

Scary thought, isn’t it?

By Michael Jordan

It might be because they don’t have time, don’t feel appreciated or don’t feel qualified. Or, maybe you don’t have a good enough way of letting people know you need help. Whatever the reason, a recent study by the Barna Group backs it up: “Volunteering at a church during a typical week fell by eight percentage points since 1991, from 26 percent down to 18 percent.”*This lends truth to the old saying, “90 percent of church work is done by 10 percent of its members.”

The ability to recruit and retain church volunteers is critical to your ministry’s success.  At ACS Technologies, we serve more than 50,000 churches and fully understand the needs church leaders have when it comes to tools to help with finding, retaining and optimizing volunteers. Here are five of the top areas of which to focus:

1) Getting your members connected

church donations centerYou know the members of your church possess a vast variety of knowledge and skills that can help. But, how do you find out just what those skills are and connect with them?

The first step when finding potential volunteers is to gather information about them. There are many ways to do this, but the easiest and fastest way is to meet them where they are spending most of their time. Today, that’s online. Mainly through social networking tools, like The City. A private, online community, The City is web-based, allowing churches and congregants to communicate, build relationships, give online and find new ways to connect and do ministry together from anywhere.

It is also imperative the information you can gather through the social networking tool of your choice syncs with your church management software. There are many church management software solutions which allow you to add these users (and their skills) into a database, but also to give the ability to pull specific reports on this information. Just make sure the two you chose work well together.

2) Understanding your volunteers

Before going headlong into a new situation, one should always take the proper precautions. This absolutely includes the screening and qualification process of new volunteers.

If the proper precautions are not taken, the results could range from frustrating to disastrous. When placing members in positions, churches must do all they can to make sure the environment will be safe and the people involved are qualified to serve. So, this means it’s very important to screen them, ensuring they have the proper training and track the status of their qualifications.

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3) Training is power

Finding volunteers is only half the battle; you have to make sure they’re properly trained for the task at hand and prepared for any situation (emergency or otherwise) which might occur.

Training needed can be provided internally — think lighting / sound / working check-in kiosks. There can also be times when outside training is a must. Whichever the case, these volunteers can then be re-evaluated periodically to ensure they are continually competent to serve in their role.


4) Strengthen commitment through strong relationships

Relationships are the lifeblood of a strong volunteer ministry. If friendships and encouragement between leaders and volunteers are strong, your ministry will prosper. On the other hand, if volunteers feel disconnected or unappreciated by leaders, your ministry will suffer.

The key is finding ways to help ministry leaders stay relationally connected to your volunteers throughout the week. However, staying in touch with your volunteers on a regular basis can be one of the greatest challenges for your ministry. Everyone has busy lives, and it can be increasingly difficult to find available time to communicate with volunteers. Without a doubt, though, volunteers will be more committed when they feel valued and appreciated.

5) Developing the ownership mentality 

The ownership mentality is a way of thinking in which volunteers value ministry on a very personal level.

When this happens, volunteers not only feel like they’re contributing, but are also able to help your church move in a positive direction.

In short, when you focus on the right things consistently — and use the proper tools to support you —  your church can greatly increase volunteer recruitment and retention, all the while making the work of staff and volunteers easier and more enjoyable.

Michael Jordan is a marketing strategist for ACS Technologies headquartered in Florence, SC, with offices in Phoenix and Seattle.

* The Barna Group, State of the Church Series, 2011. “Major Faith Shifts Evident Among Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics Since 1991.”



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