Recruiting Volunteers: What's Your Best Tip?

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As ministry season is approaching quickly, I'm wondering how your church approaches volunteer recruitment. Do you set up a paper signup and hope for the best? Do you target specific individuals? Do you send around a list of volunteer opportunities to each member? Make a plea from the pulpit? 

I'd love to hear about your church's approach. Can you share your best piece of advice?

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Several years ago I inherited a position as chair of church council. I discovered that it seemed that several leaders of various ministries weren't that qualified to lead those ministries or committees.

Since it's virtually impossible to fire a volunteer, I called together those various leaders for a meeting. Before doing that, I spoke to a lot of people about the qualifications of those who lead.  In Canada, we have $1 and $2 coins called Loonies and Toonies. I gave each person a Toonie (a $2 coin) and declared: "You are now considered staff." I then proceeded to move those folks around to head up ministries that better suited their gifts.

And every summer, before the new church season begins, the group meets where they go through the "Toonie exercise", recognizing that they are in essence re-applying for their position as ministry/committee leader. If nothing else, it gives them a sense of accountability, and a deeper sense that they can't count on doing that work until they feel that they've done it long enough.

So, even when you appoint individuals to various voluntary tasks within a church, it's important to point out that their appointment is just for one year. They will need to be accountable for the way they lead, and the way they connect with others on their team.  Going through an annual Toonie (or $1.00) exercise reinforces that sense of accountability.

THE HATS GAME!

1st:  Put up on a big board every single position that the church has, including greeters, lawn mowers, coffee makers, ushers, teachers, students, youth group leaders and youth group, nursery, committee members, elders and deacons, etc. . . .   Some of these positions are filled for a term and are already listed, but most are volunteer positions. 

The congregation will be surprised at how many different things there are to do in the life of the church.  This helps people to see that it is not true that 20% do 80% of the work.   In fact, there are many many people that are doing their part. 

Week ONE:   The First Week of August:  This is the "Keep your hat week".   The pastor or person running the Hat's Game makes a big deal of FIRING EVERYONE.   Thank them for their service.  Talk about what a great job they did and the church could run without them.     But as of Sept. 1, they will no longer hold that position.    However, if this is their joyful place, and they want to wear that hat again for another year, they may sign up that hat.  Only people keeping a hat may sign up on week one.   

What this does:  It sends the strong message that you are not signing up for life.  And it gives you an opportunity to thank people. It also means that no one is kicked out of a position where they enjoy serving.

WEEK TWO:  The second week of August:  This is the "Week of Joy."  The announcement is made to draw attention to all those who signed up last week who are continuing in their position.  But, if there is a position that you would really like to try out!  GO for it.  This is your place of JOY!   Serve where you have passion.  Sign up where ever you want to as many times as you want to. 

WEEK THREE AND FOUR:   These are the "Guilt Weeks".  We have the board 90% filled, but the nursery is still in need, as is the hospitality ministry.   It takes all of us working together.  Everyone should have already picked up at least one hat that you feel called to.  But now is a time to pick up a hat that you do for the sake of service and because you are a part of the family. 

After the HATS game is over, the leader of each ministry or ministry division call those who have signed up and distribute job descriptions and schedules and thank them.  

This has worked for us for many many years.   

Participant

For congregational events like the Fall Kickoff we use sign-up genius. It really works well by listing an individual task, the number of people required, the amount of time required etc. So instead of saying we need help with the kick-off we send an email to everyone and they sign up for a task. Works well.

 

We are a church without paid staff.  Hence a system has been set up so people can volunteer electronically with occasional appeals via email and announcements at church.