by Ben Crawshaw
Most of us know that the people who serve the church often sustain the life of it. It’s no shock that volunteers are the lifeblood of any church. Yet when it comes to recruiting volunteers, it’s often one of the hardest things. We feel overwhelmed so we just stop asking or we ask people to serve who have no business serving. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve encountered the woman serving in the baby room who absolutely detest changing diapers. Crying babies make her cranky. But someone needed to serve in that room. Encountering these types of situations reminds us that recruiting volunteers is difficult but so important.
So if volunteers are the lifeblood of the church, how do you find the right ones? What traits can you look for when recruiting volunteers?
I knew I could count on Mister Buddy every Sunday. He had led groups of four year olds for more than 10 years. By most accounts, people would say he wasn’t relevant…he was nearly 70 years old. But there was something about him that kids loved. My daughter was no exception. She had the privilege of being in his small group as a preschooler. And most people don’t think serving preschoolers is more than babysitting, but I’m thankful that Mister Buddy didn’t see his position that way.
And when I thought about Mister Buddy, a few traits come to mind that made him a great volunteer: committed, collaborative mindset and cheerful.
1. Committed. Every week, rain or shine, Mister Buddy arrived at the church on time—which meant early. My daughter knew she could bank on him being there. She knew that he would be waiting for her to arrive. He knew her name and what was happening in her life. He knew she was shy and nervous about change. Because he was committed to being there each week, he was able to learn all of those things about my daughter. And as a parent, that comforted me in dropping her off. I knew who to expect to see at the door. Knowing he was committed to being there each week, spoke volunteers to me not only as the preschool director but also as a parent.
When you are recruiting volunteers, look for people who aren’t afraid to commit. If someone is willing to commit to serve weekly—whether that is a children’s ministry small group leader, door greeter, or parking team—then you know that they care more about the people they serve than their own comfort. You are asking a lot out of a volunteer. There’s no sugar coating it. But to create the best experience for people in your church, you will need volunteers who are committed.
2. Collaborative mindset. Most churches need a tribe of people to come together in order to make it all happen week after week. And no one wants to do life alone—and that includes volunteering. So when you combine the fact that the church needs a tribe of people and the fact that people don’t want to be alone, then you are realize that you need people to serve who have a collaborative mindset. You want to find someone who can work together with other people on a team. You want people who aren’t just looking at for just themselves. I watched Mister Buddy work well with the whole team. If a volunteer was sick, he stepped up and offered to help with their group. If an unforeseen accident happened, he adjusted easily. He saw his role as part of a tribe of people working together towards a common goal.
Life is more enjoyable when you do it together. And volunteering is no different. Look for people who enjoy being around others, who are quick to lend a hand, and who don’t see their role as the most important role.
3. Cheerful. Some days as a volunteer are amazing. If you are a small group leader it might look like this: all the kids show up. They actually engage in conversation rather than continually glancing at their phone. They offer up real prayer requests rather than, “My 2nd cousin’s friend’s dad’s coworker’s dog is having surgery.” On those days, it’s easy to be cheerful. But more times than not, some days are hard. Maybe three kids showed up and no one wants to answer any of the questions. Maybe it’s raining ice and you park cars. Or maybe you encountered the third angry parent at check in. It’s tough to be cheerful in stressful, less than perfect scenarios. But a good volunteer is someone who is cheerful on the good days and the bad days. Someone who doesn’t take their frustrations to the entire team.
Because of Mister Buddy’s commitment, collaborative mindset and cheerful attitude, my daughter had a great experience every week. Yes, mishaps happened. And yes, some days were more stressful than others, but what my daughter remembers is simply Mister Buddy. She remembers him showing up and asking her about life as a four year old.
Tell me about one of your volunteers. Do these three traits show up in their lives? What other traits make them a great volunteer?
And while we’re talking about Volunteer Ministry, did you know that Rocket has an awesome 12-module program designed to transform your church’s ability to gain, train, and retain good volunteers? It’s called Volunteer Rocket. And just for reading this article, I’m giving you 30% off the normal price when you jump in today. See this for more information.