Sep 25, 2012

What NOT to Do When You Are Desperate for Volunteers

I know.  You need more volunteers.  So do I.  And we always will.  Building a volunteer team is a never-ending process.  Especially if you are growing.

Do things ever to the point where you are desperate for volunteers?  You wonder if you'll be able to open all the classrooms when the weekend rolls around?  You're not alone....we've all been there.

When you are desperate the natural bent is to resort to desperate measures.  But when you take desperate measures, you only make things worse.

Here are 5 things NOT to do when you are desperate for volunteers.  They may seem like quick fixes, but they will only hurt your team building efforts in the long run.

Don't use the words "need" or "help."  You may be desperate...but don't appear desperate.  People are not drawn to desperation.  They are drawn to vision.

Do not rely on bulletin ads.  Bulletin ads rarely bring the people you need and again make you appear desperate.

Do not ask the Pastor to make a tearful plea from the pulpit.  It's your job to build your volunteer team.  Do not put your Pastor in this awkward position.

Do not require parents to serve.  People should serve because they are called not because they are required.

Do not place people where they are not gifted.  Do not throw people into rooms just because you need a warm body in the room.  If you don't take the time to place people in their sweet spot, they will burn out and quit.

Bottom line.  The proven way to build a volunteer team is 1-1 asks.  I know you were hoping for a quick miracle fix...but there isn't one.  It takes hard work.  Personally asking people week in and week out to join your team.

In the last 4 years, we have added over 1,200 volunteers to our team.  They didn't come through desperate measures...though we have sometimes been desperate.  They came through 1-1 asks.  Try it.  It works.


I do believe strongly casting vision and in the personal ask but I must say that I am really having a problem with the several of the points that you posted. There is a serious problem in our culture in which people do not want to make commitments. We must be creative in how we approach getting people to volunteer but as the church we must be able to strongly address the congregation about their roll in serving within the body. There is a time for honest words to be spoken to the people and needs have to be expressed somehow.

I would encourage you to post creative ways in asking for volunteers, casting vision, and promoting the needs. I have had the privilege of mentoring several churches CM improvement and the first thing they always ask is how do you get volunteers. I find that I need to help with with solutions and not just provide the do-not-do's.

I think that when we show that we are having a blast teaching the kids about Jesus, it shows. I had so many people just want to stop and talk to Rufus...I'll bring him on Saturday evening. But it is true, we don't want people who are not gifted in this area.

I think this is a tricky area to deal with because (1) we always need volunteers, so we always need to be in a recruiting mindset and (2)we want to get the message out there that we are in need of volunteers. I agree that a personal ask is preferable but I think that doing away with bulletin ads and addresses from the Pastor prevents us from getting the word out to the entire church body (especially in larger churches).

I think there should be awareness brought to the attention of the entire church body about serving overall, not just in one particular ministry. As a part of the body, they have a responisiblity to serve.

We need to be creative in recruiting and not stick to one method over another.

Great thoughts from everyone. Thanks for sharing.

To clarify, I didn't say to not use bulletin ads. I said not to RELY on them. If you do use a bulletin ad, don't use the words "need" or "help." I would say the proof is in the pudding. In 23 years of ministry, I have not seen bulletin ads work. But I have seen building relationships and personal asks be used of God to build a dynamic team. If you look at Scripture, that's the way Jesus recruited. Personal, 1-1 asks.

And of course, the Pastor and the entire church must preach and teach that everyone should be serving. Serving has to be a part of the church's DNA. But not to the point where you ask the Pastor to "beg" for volunteers from the pulpit. If you get to that point, it is a reflection of things being unhealthy. The church should have clear steps in place that move people from the pew to purposeful serving.

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