Raising the Value of Volunteers

One of the things I’ve chosen to work on as part of the staff at my church is raising the profile of volunteers and developing ways for people to find on-ramps to serving in our church.  Any person doing this will tell you that it’s not an easy task.  Still it’s one I relish in tackling because I love seeing people discover their “fit” and living in it.

Some time ago I came across an interview Tony Morgan conducted with Ritchie Miller, the senior pastor of Avalon Church in McDonough, Georgia.  Tony writes that,

Of all the churches I’ve worked with in the last number of months, Avalon has the highest percentage of people serving in volunteer roles.

A little bit later, Ritchie gave the stats that show this:  Their weekly attendance average for 2009 is 1,419 and of that attendance they have 602 active adult volunteers (which does not include the middle and high school volunteers). So of course, I wanted to read what Ritchie had to say about volunteers.  Here’s some takeaways from this interview as Ritchie discussed what he believes are the reasons for such a high volunteer rate (Ritchie’s points are italic – the rest are my thought’s):

  • It’s a part of their discipleship strategy:  They “simply expect people to serve as a volunteer in ministry”.  In other words, being a disciple isn’t just about sitting and learning facts about the Bible.  I agree here.  Making disciples has to have a big emphasis on the growth that comes from doing ministry (not just participating).  One way I hope to implement this is by providing opportunities for people to be matched up with a “coach” who will work with them in discovering areas that they could serve and then trying it out. The coach would solicit feedback on the experience and help people discover a better fit if the first didn’t work out.
  • We talk about it a lot – If it’s not communicated (and frequently at that) then people aren’t going to get that you volunteers are valued.  One of the ways I hope to ramp up communication about volunteers at my church is by highlighting stories of volunteers who are in ministry.  These stories will be told via web, via print and video –  but more importantly from the pulpit as well.
  • We keep it simple – That’s a challenge in a established and bigger church. However, one of the activities our staff are currently engaged in is evaluating the effectiveness and necessity of our existing ministries.  This is because we want to focus our energies on the things that we know God has called us to do as a church and are proving effective in fulfilling His vision for us.  Ultimately,  we want to offer opportunities to volunteer with things that matter.
  • We try to keep easy entry points into ministries – This year we made the effort to have a clear job description for every ministry position in the church highlighting all the kinds of things that would help people better match to a position (spiritual gifts, talents, abilities that would make a good fit etc.).  All these ministry descriptions will be made accessible to those looking for a place to serve using a online matching tool as well as by coaches that will be trained to help people find an area to serve.  I also want to develop a “open opportunities” page of some sort on our website that people can see some of the available ministries they can volunteer in.
  • We emphasize the recruitment process  -  Everyone needs to be involved in the recruitment of volunteers.  In my opinion, some of the best recruitment potential can come from among the volunteers themselves.  If volunteers love what they are doing and have opportunity to share their story, others will want to be involved.
  • We try to keep it fun – Every year we hold a volunteer appreciation dinner where we celebrate the volunteers at our church.  Another thing that makes volunteering fun is making sure to celebrate the AWESOME things God does through the volunteers.  This is something I hope to do more of.

Finally, it’s worth repeating what Ritchie says will motivate people to give their time:

  1. …when it is clear how they can get involved
  2. …when it is clear what the value is.
  3. …when they feel like they are making a difference.
  4. …when you celebrate with them.

I learned some great things about valuing volunteers from this interview.  Go ahead and read the whole thing -> and let me know what you think here.

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