I’m working on putting together a list of key volunteer practices that have led to success in my limited amount of ministry. I have a huge passion to equip other people for the ministry God’s called them to, and volunteer teams play a huge part in that. In this post, I wanted to give five keys I’ve found to be successful. They’re not earth-shattering, original, or revolutionary, but they are successful. These are not in any specific order, and be sure to come back and check out Part 2!
- Be intentional with “courting” them. Invest in their lives, jobs, and families in order to show that you see them as more than just a 7th grade small group leader. Some of the small group leaders on my team are guys and girls I’ve gotten to know over the past 18 months. I knew student ministry would be a good fit for them, but they didn’t! I put that on the back burners, got to know their families, and spent time with them. Eventually, several of them made the initial contact as far as serving in our student ministry! So be intentional with seeing people for more than just “Future 7 Grade Small Group
Victim Leader.” People want to serve with/for friends.
- Make the drive. One of my volunteers was a member of a church years ago, and the pastor was trying to go to different houses and eat with families. A few months into the venture, it was their turn. “Would you two mind coming to my place for dinner? You’re about 45 minutes out of town.” Without knowing this, I hand-delivered his thank-you gift last Christmas to his house, and had no idea the impact and value it communicated to him. Many of my volunteers work in the main city 40 minutes away. It’s not uncommon to schedule a breakfast, lunch, and coffee if I can, to try and hit as many volunteers as I can. Be present where they live.
- Use current volunteers to recruit future ones. It’s common sense, but their words have far greater impact than student pastors’. Often times, quality volunteers can recognize and influence other potential high-value volunteers. Ask each quality volunteer to give you one referral per year, knowing that not all of them will end up serving.
- Don’t require all volunteers to sign away their life. It’s okay if some volunteers to only commit for shorter seasons! I like to ask my small group leaders to serve for at least a year, with the goal being walking their group through graduation. That being said, having a bar set that high from the beginning may deter a lot of volunteers who would serve for the long run and just not know it yet! Allow ones ready to commit to do so, but also make a “lower commitment” tier available. That being said, be careful which volunteers you place in positions that truly need the longer commitment.
- Perks + SWAG. Provide the team with opportunities to bond, like minigolf outings and dinners! Each May, we have our entire volunteer team to our house, cook them an awesome meal (something along the lines of a crawfish boil), and debrief the year. Throughout the year, we have other opportunities only open to volunteers in our ministry. We also give all of our volunteers an awesome volunteer-only t-shirts on a higher quality shirt compared to what our standard student ministry shirts would use, as well as equipping them as best we can. Our retreats and mission trips are typically on the higher-priced end of the spectrum (we don’t nickel and dime families along the way so we can all focus on some of the more major events), so we don’t pay for volunteers to be a part of those. We do, though, heavily subsidize their expenses. However, on smaller trips, like lazer-tag, lake day, or things like that, they don’t have to pay.
That’s Part 1, come back later for the other 5!
Any of those 5 find particular success in your ministry?