Right now, you may be stressed and distressed because you haven’t been able to find enough volunteers for your Christmas services. I understand, and I want to assure you that you’re not alone. While discussing this matter earlier this week, a pastor friend of mine told me he hasn’t heard “no” so many times since his dating years!
Here are four likely reasons you’re struggling to get enough volunteers — and what to do about it.
1. You don’t keep the mission and vision at the forefront.
I’m assuming that somewhere in your church’s and your individual ministry’s mission and vision is the idea of reaching people that don’t yet know Jesus. It is completely natural for people (especially Christians) to turn inward and to begin to think only of their own needs and wants, and maybe those of their close friends. It doesn’t require leadership for people to do that. However, it does require leadership and hard work to keep people focused on the mission and vision.
When we don’t keep people focused on the mission and vision, we will always struggle with keeping volunteers engaged and motivated. Until others have understood the vision well enough to say/teach it to someone else, they cannot be expected to pursue it with passion. Until they have a passion for the mission and vision, they aren’t going to sacrifice their own wants and comfort, and they certainly aren’t going to have an outward focus.
Basically, if you allow volunteering to be only about the “what” and you don’t keep the “why” at the forefront, you’re probably not going to be very effective in building winning volunteer teams.
2. You’re just trying to fill positions and get tasks done, rather than developing people.
Treat your volunteers with honor and respect…and do your job! The Bible teaches us that every Christian is a priest (1 Peter 2:5 & 9, Revelation 1:6) and that every Christian is a coworker with us in God’s service.
We also see in the Bible that every Christian is saved for good works (Ephesians 2:10) and has been gifted to do them (1 Corinthians 12:7). As leaders in the church our biblical job description is found in Ephesians 4:11-12. We are to equip (prepare, teach, train, appoint, qualify) the Christians in our church to do the work of ministry.
We are to view each Christian in our church through God’s eyes, to see them as people who are valuable and important, just as important as we are in ministry. People who are gifted, called and responsible to be involved in the work of ministry. Without them, ministry simply won’t happen.
Begin to look at each person in your church as a valuable member of your ministry team, and know that God has placed a special gift in each and every one of them. It’s your job to uncover that gift, develop that person and give them a place to use their gifts.
Of course, it should probably go without saying, we need to thank and show appreciation to our volunteers for all they do. We can build them up and motivate them by telling them stories of how their service is making a difference and people’s lives are changing for eternity.
3. You only work at it when you’re desperate.
In ministry, we tend to be driven by the tyranny of the urgent. Therefore, throughout the year, we only work hard at finding volunteers when we absolutely have to. Once we get just enough volunteers to get the job done, we move on to the next urgent thing on our list.
By doing this we greatly limit our capacity as a leader and we limit the capacity of our ministries. We aren’t at all prepared to capture waves of growth, and we certainly aren’t prepared for the big times of year like Easter, back-to-school, and Christmas.
The added number of Christmas services are not to blame for the lack of volunteers. The problem didn’t just create itself in the last week or two. The problem has been created (by you) over the past 3, 6, 12 months (or longer). It is crucial that every ministry leader see the need to build volunteer recruitment, development, training and appreciation into their weekly schedule.
4. You’re disorganized.
If you’re struggling to keep volunteers, there’s a great chance that your volunteers don’t feel valued and/or they’re frustrated. Often, one of the main reasons for this is that they step into chaos each week.
Volunteers love to be on teams that win and know when they are winning. This is why it’s not just about mission and vision. You also have to have the strategy, systems and structure to ensure that the mission and vision are being accomplished. Your strategy, systems and structures break everything down into small pieces or steps. When all the pieces fit together, things run smoothly, individuals feel like they are contributing and they can enjoy what they are doing because they see it working.
At this very moment, many church staff members are filled with anxiety and frustration because they are experiencing the same thing you are. Did this problem just suddenly arise? I don’t believe it did. You can’t fix it overnight — probably not in time for this Christmas at all. But you can see great progress by Easter and certainly by next Christmas, if you take time to dive into these four problem areas to really evaluate where you need to make a change.
Photo Credit: Dakota Roos via Unsplash CC0