How Church of the Highlands Gets 33% of their Attenders to Volunteer

In the process of creating Volunteer Rocket, we talked to seven churches who were doing a great job gaining, training and retaining volunteers.  Here’s a profile of Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama.

Church of the Highlands began in 2001 with pastor Chris Hodges and a small group of people committed to launching a new church.  Today, more than 20,000 people attend, and even more are involved in small groups.

Volunteers at Highlands aren’t called volunteers. Instead, they are a part of the “Dream Team.”   Pastor Chris instituted that language when the church first started, and the term has become a part of their culture.

The original dream team had 34 members.  Today, one of every three people at Highlands serves on the Dream team, and the team has grown by 200% since 2008. 

With 33% of their adult attendance serving in volunteer roles, Highlands can allocate fewer budget dollars to staff expenses.    This allowed them to save a ton of money over the years, and they paid cash for a new building.

Dream Team language permeates the culture at Highlands.  But they aren’t just committed to the term; they are committed to the idea.

How Does Church of the Highlands recruit volunteers?

The idea of the “Dream Team” is powerful, but there is also something underneath the surface that makes it work.  They depend on a SYSTEM to bring volunteers into the process.

Church of the Highlands 401They don’t beg for volunteers, because this simple and clear system works.  It’s called the Growth Track – a series of four classes.  The 4th class in this series happens on the fourth Sunday of every month.  This class happens each and every month, so staff members and church attenders always have an opportunity to step in and serve.

The Growth Track is the system Highlands uses to attract volunteers to serve.  It’s this consistent system, not reactive pleas from the pulpit, which make the volunteer ministry at Church of the Highlands work so well. 

Behind the Scenes at Church of the Highlands

Amy Leigh Bamberg is the Dream Team Coordinator at Church of the Highlands.  Her role is to equip believers to do the work of the ministry.

 Amy Leigh Bambert at Church of the Highlands

In a recent conversation, Amy Leigh shared a little more about what makes the Volunteer Ministry at Highlands work so well.

  • Highlands is systems driven.  They rely on their Growth Track to introduce people to the church as well as to serving.  Because those classes happen on a regular basis, there are always new volunteers joining the Dream Team.
  • Each specific volunteer team utilizes the strength of five distinct leaders.  “One person probably isn’t gifted to do everything.  One of the reasons our teams work well is because there are leaders, ” Amy Leigh said.  Leadership roles within each team include a recruiter, trainer, pastor, administrator and visionary.    Not only do they have a clear system for getting volunteers into ministry, there’s a leadership system that addresses the health of every team.
  • “The biggest mistakes churches make is doing need-based ministry rather than gifts-based ministry,” she said.  Putting people into a ministry that doesn’t suit them isn’t good for the person OR good for the ministry.
  • Pastor Chris talks about the Dream Team constantly from the stage.  Once a year, the church throws a big, church-wide, Dream Team appreciation event.  Last year, they literally rolled out the red carpet.
  • Church of the Highlands uses a “work one/serve one” strategy to nurture the spiritual health of volunteers.  When starting new campuses, they start with multiple services so volunteers can attend a service.

Church of the Highlands is just one of the churches we profiled for Volunteer Rocket.  The core coaching program is a simple, step-by-step process your church can implement to gain, train and retain volunteers.  It’s a how-to and done-for-you system.  If you’d like to be a beta tester or want more information, fill out the form below.