Have you ever hit a wall in your volunteer numbers? You grew the amount of people engaged through serving and then eventually you hit a wall and could not grow it further with your current structure in place.
There are seasons you go through where your volunteer engagement is much higher than other seasons. It is just the nature of church life.
Oftentimes, our strategy of growing the volunteer number is based on opportunity. This is a nice strategy but it should not be your end game.
For example, when we moved from one service to two services, we had tons of volunteer opportunities so our engagement was well above average. Then, when you staff your two services, you then lose that momentum of volunteer engagement.
So, how do you expand your volunteer engagement consistently without big opportunities or changes in weekly services? Here are a few things that we are learning:
1. Expand Your Leadership Structure
We found that the reason we hit a lid on engaging more volunteers was because we did not have enough leaders. We had one leader managing teams that were maxed out based on their capacity.
To be perfectly honest, we had an unpaid leader managing teams of 50+. For the record, that is way too many.
We are working at expanding our leadership structure by adding levels of leadership.
Here is our new structure (org chart):
- Director – serves ministries
- Coordinator – serves teams
- Leader – serves people
- Volunteer – fills positional roles
We essentially had directors and nothing else. Sure that simple-minded structure got us to 40% of our average worship attendance serving, but it could not grow without some leadership structural shifts.
2. Create A Culture Of Recruitment
It is so easy for us to use opportunities as a means to grow our volunteer teams.
Opportunities are good and are a part of the strategy but as I mentioned above, you cannot entirely base your recruiting strategy on opportunities such as adding a service or a campus. You have to create a culture of recruitment around your church.
You should expect your members (owners) to serve.
You should expect your teams to expand.
You should call for people to join the team nearly every weekend.
You should have clear on ramps for volunteers all year-long.
You should have your leaders recruiting as well. In other words you all need to be calling for people to serve.
My point is make it a part of your culture. Adding volunteers cannot only be a one weekend push a year thing, it has to be a regular part of your weekly church culture.
3. Deepen Community Within Your Teams
People join small groups to find community. One thing I am finding though is that people are joining volunteer teams to find the same thing.
People want to join a team so that they can find friends and connect deeper.
We need to deepen the community and care within our teams if we intend to grow our volunteer engagement.
4. Strengthen Your Systems
Here are some of the systems we have in place that we are working on strengthening:
- Checking In Volunteers – I bet if your church is like ours, not all volunteers are checking in as consistently as they should be. I regularly talk to volunteers and have to remind them about checking in. Remind your team leaders to remind their volunteers to check in. Make it easy and accessible for them every week when they arrive.
- Recording Off Site Volunteer Opportunities – We are in a portable facility, and I oftentimes forget to record the number of set up volunteers who served because the check in kiosks are not turned on yet when we set up. When we do community events on the weekends, we oftentimes forget to record the volunteers. So your volunteer numbers may be skewed because you are not working the systems as good as you can.
- Student Volunteers – We use our teenagers a lot. We call for them to serve. We expect them to serve, and we create opportunities for teenagers. Sometimes setting them as volunteers is harder to do and we let them to slip through the cracks. Don’t 🙂 Figure out the best system for your 6th through 12th graders to check in and make it happen. Your volunteer engagement may be higher than you think.
My point is we all have systems that can improve. My guess is you have systems in place, and I am here to tell you that over time systems lose momentum and energy.
So, listen, you can improve your volunteer engagement. You can, but the answer is not always putting more people on your team. Sometimes, the answer is fix the internal issues you may have such as systems, leadership structure, community and culture.
If those things are in place and working correctly, I have little doubt that your volunteer numbers will be growing from year to year.