30 Ideas for Calling, Keeping, and Celebrating Volunteers

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Calling

  1. Look for volunteers in new places. Think outside the box when coming up with potential volunteers: seniors for the church nursery, teens for the church library . . .
  2. Ask current volunteers what motivates them to volunteer. Use the information to develop a recruiting plan for other volunteers.
  3. Ask current volunteers how they were recruited and whether they have any suggestions for how to improve that process.
  4. Present your needs in an unusual way. Have children develop an appeal for volunteers for their own program, for instance, telling what they like about it and how much they want it to continue.
  5. Set up a volunteer opportunity notice board next to your church’s coffee table. Make it attractive and appealing by adding pictures of programs in action as well as an honor roll listing volunteers.
  6. Whenever possible, encourage diversity in age, gender, and ethnic background in volunteers; the more diversity you have, the more ideas there will be. People will learn from each other and appreciate each other’s gifts.
  7. Offer families opportunities to volunteer together. Rather than looking for four volunteers for one task, ask a family to adopt it as their project.
  8. If a public request has been made for volunteers, use the same avenue to inform the public that the request has been filled, thanking God for the gift of volunteers.
  9. Never accept an answer—either yes or no—right away. Present the opportunity, then ask the volunteer to pray about it and discuss it with significant others in his or her family. Contact the potential volunteer a week later for an answer.
  10. Print an interview with a current volunteer in your church’s bulletin or newsletter to encourage interest in your ministry.
  11. Phrase every communication regarding your needs in positive language. An appeal that produces guilt feelings or makes threats may bring out volunteers, but they may not be the right ones for your program.
  12. Evaluate the needs and purposes of your program periodically to make sure that it is still an important ministry. Some programs may need to die a natural death to make room for others.
  13. Don’t do anything without prayer. If you are committed to the need for this program, if you are being responsible in recruiting the right people, and if God wants this program to continue, he will bring the people to staff it!

Keeping

  1. Greet new volunteers with a warm welcome: greet them by name, make sure you have their names spelled correctly if they’ll be wearing name tags, and escort them until they feel comfortable in their new surroundings.
  2. Pair new volunteers with experienced volunteers who will be responsible for orienting them and keeping in touch with them for the first month of service.
  3. Encourage questions. Answer every question honestly and as completely as possible; don’t minimize the drawbacks of the position.
  4. Brainstorm with volunteers about the possible tasks they could perform in your ministry. Ask them about their interests, hobbies, and abilities, and then use these in your programs.
  5. Offer specialized training such as conferences, workshops, and classes that will enhance volunteers’ skills. Pay the fees whenever possible.
  6. Allow volunteers to grow and stretch by offering them new challenges. Know your volunteers—some like the security of familiar tasks, others are motivated by achievement and welcome challenges.
  7. Provide each volunteer with a prayer support partner.
  8. Worship together. Devote a significant portion of your volunteer meetings to praise and prayer to nurture your volunteers’ faith. They’ll appreciate it more than you know.
  9. Be positive in all your communications—your attitude is catching. Volunteers look to leaders to set the tone for ministry.

Celebrating

  1. Inform your local newspaper, radio, and TV station about newsworthy stories: exceptional volunteer efforts that have yielded unusual results; a volunteer who gives above and beyond the call of duty; volunteer-run church programs that enrich the community.
  2. Volunteers make a gift of their time; don’t abuse that gift by wasting it. Make sure your program is purposeful and well-planned.
  3. Communicate your respect for volunteers by inviting them to be part of the decision-making process. Active volunteers know most about the strengths and weaknesses of the ministries they serve.
  4. Celebrate your volunteers by having occasions that feature food, fun, and fellowship, and no agenda.
  5. Have a bulletin board just for volunteers. Update it regularly with appropriate cartoons, stories, tributes, thank-you notes, and information about conferences, speakers, and workshops.
  6. Feature volunteers of the month/week in your church newsletter or bulletin, describing what makes these people special.
  7. Personal notes and letters, sometimes accompanied by a token gift, make an impact. Consider a note of thanks, a birthday card, an invitation to a recognition dinner, a coupon for a sundae at the local ice-cream shop, a certificate of appreciation, an imprinted pencil or pen.
  8. Host a Celebrate Your Gifts Sunday complete with corsages or boutonnieres for people involved in ministry.
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