Some may find the idea of church volunteering to be an oxymoron. Consider Romans 12:4-5: “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” As blogger Michelle Van Loon noted in an article for Christianity Today in citing this verse, the idea of having a volunteer body part seems somewhat silly.
At the same time, the subsequent passage of Romans, 12:6-8, indicates why volunteers are so essential to your ministry: Your flock has different talents and abilities that, when used properly and justly, can help you succeed in managing events that aren’t regular church services. Still, that requires understanding who your parishioners are and what capabilities they have to help your mission. Using membership management software can help Not everyone can stand up to the call, but those who can will do so with enough guidance and support. Picking the right people to make it happen means understanding your needs as a whole.
Planning the ideal candidate
To search for the right volunteers among your congregation, you have to know what kind of candidates you actually want. When reviewing for specific events, volunteer blog Create The Good suggests asking yourself some of the following questions:
- Why do you need this position? You should try to understand what role this person will play.
- How often should this volunteer be around? Volunteers will want to know how much time they should commit to doing whatever position you grant them.
- What does this position do? There are certain roles you expect these people to fulfill, and you should know instantly what they are.
- What are main qualifications for this position? The position often requires specific talents that someone can bring to the table.
- How long will this volunteer gig last? You may need someone for a long-term mission or just a single fundraising event.
As you answer each of these questions, write them down and begin formulating a description that you can post somewhere. If it seems like you’re creating a job description, that’s because it is. While you may view the volunteer position as a calling, it still functions in many ways as a job. Having a clear outlay of what volunteers should know and expect can help you get the right people.
Searching in the right places
The easiest way to reach out for volunteers is from the pulpit. At the end of services, you can make a quick announcement about needing volunteers for some events. However, that’s not always going to work. You may need specific types of people that you can’t easily summarize in a simple message. Outreach with the community therefore becomes necessary in order to get the right people, even when they do come from your congregation.
“Meeting your parishioners outside the church inspires them to volunteer.”
New Zealand nonprofit Volunteering Waikato suggested going to events and being sociable with parishioners in settings outside the church. That includes going to the library, meeting in places where everybody’s known to visit besides the church, among others. This has two benefits: It allows your congregants to feel more involved, making them more likely to volunteer; and it strengthens your connection to the community, potentially increasing your congregation.
Giving them something to consider
While performing outreach will help you find the right recruits, it won’t necessarily make them interested in becoming involved. That doesn’t make them any less a part of the body. It just means they need encouragement in order to feel the need to fulfill these duties. Talking to your parishioners can help with this. You can learn and identify their passions in this manner, and can tie in volunteer roles for them that suit their needs, according to Christian writer Thom S. Rainer.
Along with passions, you should bring your ministry’s mission into the discussion. Having a clear vision will ensure that parishioners understand is one thing that will inspire them to volunteer. It also helps to take a more fundamental view of the situation and explain how this work ties in your ministry. When congregants can understand the reasons these efforts matter, they’ll feel more compelled to join in. That can only strengthen your church as a whole.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in November 2014. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.