The Ministry Leader’s Guide to Elevating Your Volunteer Strategy
It’s no secret that next-gen ministry can’t happen without volunteers.
We need people to . . .
Prepare snacks and meals,
Check-in kids and students,
Run sound and slides,
And lead small groups.
And, truthfully, even if your ministry doesn’t involve all of those elements or you could do all of those things yourself, you shouldn’t. However, that doesn’t mean finding and keeping volunteers is easy.
In fact, as a ministry leader, it may be one of the most difficult things you do.
So, how do we recruit and retain the right volunteers?
Elevate Your Volunteer Recruitment Strategy
When you hear the words “recruiting volunteers” chances are a few things come to mind. Maybe you think about a pitch on a Sunday morning, an event, or sheer panic because you know you have a lot of recruiting to do.
But what if when you think of recruiting volunteers, you actually begin to think about it as inviting?
After all, when it comes to ministry, we aren’t just looking for warm bodies to fill roles so we can get a to-do list done. We are actually inviting people to influence the faith of the next generation. We are inviting people to develop disciple kids and teenagers.
So, how do we invite the best leaders to be a part of our ministry?
Personal Invitation > Public Announcement
Making an announcement during a Sunday service is one way to recruit volunteers. You can even program a whole Sunday service or another event to recruit volunteers. While that can be a good start, relying only on an event is not a good idea. Instead, leaders are looking for a personal invitation to make an impact.
Year-long Process > One-Time Event
Just like a one-time event won’t recruit your best leaders, chances are, a one-time event also won’t recruit enough leaders. That’s why you should be inviting leaders to be a part of your ministry all year long.
Leverage Your Leaders (And Network)
Here’s what’s true: your best leaders will recruit your best leaders. So, ask your volunteers for recommendations on who they think should be on your team and make it easy for them to help you recruit leaders. However, your volunteers aren’t the only ones in your network you should leverage. Ask your executive leaders, friends, and coworkers if they know of anyone who would be a great person to add to your team.
And, here’s a bonus tip: Ask the people who say no to volunteering two questions:
“Can I ask you again in the future?”
“Is there someone you know who I should ask?”
This way, you not only know if they would potentially volunteer in the future, but you also now have more names of people you could ask.
Expect More, Not Less
Now, it also matters how you invite people to be a part of your ministry. Often, when you feel desperate for leaders, it can be tempting to downplay what they do so the ask doesn’t feel as big, and they will say less. Resist that temptation because leaders will want to know that when they are giving time and energy to something, what they are doing matters. Not to mention, both you and your new volunteer will be disappointed in the long run if you aren’t honest about your expectations upfront.
How Orange Can Help
Clearly, the recruitment (and onboarding) process for volunteers is a lot, but the good news is that we have resources that can help:
- Volunteer Job Descriptions – Help clarify roles so volunteers know what you are recruiting them to do.
- Recruitment Sunday Event Kit – Everything you need to cast vision to your whole church for the importance of engaging the next generation.
- Small Group Leader Onboarding Kit – This kit makes it easier to onboard small group leaders into your ministry and includes an application, background check options, a welcome letter, and more.
Practical tips for recruiting and onboarding volunteers:
- Use a Google Sheet to track where volunteers are at in the onboarding process.
- Use a Google Form for the application so it is easy to share no matter where you are.
- Always run background checks. Always.
Elevate Your Volunteer Training Strategy
So, now that you have your dream team–or have at least onboarded some great volunteers–what’s next? Now it’s time to actually do ministry together and that means you need to train and equip leaders so they can win.
Now, all of your volunteers will need training. Whether they are a host, cook, greeter, small group leader, or lighting technician, they will need to know your ministry’s policies and practices to do their jobs well. More importantly, they will need to know how their role connects with the greater vision and strategy of your ministry so they know showing up to serve is worth it.
That being said, your most important leaders are those who are discipling kids and students every week–small group leaders. So, you will need to be extra intentional in how you train them.
What Small Group Leaders Do – Lead Small
Small group leaders are kind of like a coach, mentor, friend, pastor, and teacher all in one. They invest in the lives of a few kids or teenagers over time to make a big difference. Essentially they lead small.
Here are five practices of small group leaders:
- Be present by showing up predictably, mentally, and randomly.
- Create a safe place by leading the group, respecting the process, and guarding the heart.
- Partner with parents by cueing parents, honoring the parents, and reinforcing the family.
- Make it personal by living in community, setting priorities, and being real.
- Move them out by moving your few to someone else, moving your few to be the Church, and moving your few to what’s next.
These five principles are not the only things small group leaders need to know. They will need to learn about the things like the phase their kids or students are in, how to respond to kids or teens in crisis, and your ministry policies to keep them and their few safe. That’s why it’s important to train your leaders annually and equip both small group leaders and all of your volunteers to win in their roles. That’s why we think hosting a volunteer kickoff event can be helpful. This allows you to cast vision for your ministry, everyone’s roles, and give any helpful information leaders will need for the year.
Chances are leaders won’t remember what you said at the kickoff for the whole year. At the same time, if you tried to fit in everything leaders need to know in one event, no one would want to come. That’s why it’s important to train volunteers seasonally. When you are intentional about training all year long, leaders will be better equipped to win in their roles, and leaders who feel like they are winning will want to keep volunteering.
Okay, even with training yearly and seasonally, volunteers will still need to know what to do every week. They will need to know how to navigate difficult conversations or how to do the craft for that week. That’s why you will need to train leaders weekly and equip them so they show up to your ministry prepared.
How Orange Can Help
Emails, events, content, oh my. Creating everything you need to train volunteers would be a full-time job in itself. The good news is that you don’t have to, because we create everything you need to train and equip leaders.
One of the best gifts you can give volunteers is a plan every week so they aren’t having to make it up on their own. (This is a gift to kids and students, too.) Orange Curriculum provides you not just with everything you need to engage kids and teenagers every Sunday, but also gives you a plan and strategy for the year. That way, volunteers know what they are doing this week and next month and how that connects to the vision of your ministry.
Orange Curriculum also helps you train volunteers because it provides the practical assets you need to equip volunteers every week. Every life-stage curriculum provides you with volunteer emails, small group leader guides, large group guides, monthly volunteer training videos, and more to make equipping your volunteers easy.
Another great way to train volunteers is by attending Orange Tour or Orange Conference as a team. At both events, you can align leaders around a common vision and strategy, and they can go to practical training to help them develop as leaders.
Finally, Orange Resources has you covered with all of the practical resources you need to train your volunteers.
Here are just a few that we think are essential:
- Volunteer Handbook – Provide volunteers with all of the essential information they need to lead such as policies and procedures, job descriptions, and essential information about every phase.
- Seasonal Volunteer Goals – Challenge your small group leaders to be intentional about how they show up for their few and give them practical ideas of what that could look like.
- Volunteer Kickoff Event – Kickoff your ministry year by casting vision for your ministry and training leaders.
- Seasonal Social Media Kit – Engage volunteers where they are already spending their time-social media.
- Orange Strategy Presentation and Slide Deck – Cast vision for Orange Strategy and help your volunteers understand who Orange is and what we create.
- Lead Small Training Kit – Train your small group leaders on the principles of Lead Small.
Practical tips for training volunteers:
- Set aside one day or half-day every week to focus on training volunteers.
- Utilize a group messaging platform to streamline communication.
- Recruit a volunteer to be in charge of coaching volunteers.
Retain Your Best Volunteers
How do you spend less time recruiting? Spend more time retaining volunteers. When we provide a great experience to our volunteers and create a culture where they want to be, we will have higher retention, and they will be more inclined to invited their friends to volunteer too.
So, how do we do that?
Celebrate Your Volunteers
Everyone wants to know they are appreciated. The same is true for our volunteers. That’s why it’s important to celebrate how they are winning and the difference they are making in your ministry.
Celebrate them publicly by sharing on social media or in a Sunday service.
Celebrate them privately by giving them small gifts or notes.
Celebrate them randomly by not just celebrating how they contribute to the ministry, but what is happening in their personal lives like promotions, birthdays and other achievements.
Now more than ever, people are looking for and often struggling to find community. What if your ministry didn’t just provide kids and teenagers with community, but your volunteers with community as well. Consider doing things like volunteer outings and building ice-breakers into your training so that volunteers can become friends with each other and experience deep community through serving together.
Lead Human Volunteers
It’s no secret that volunteers are super-heroes, but sometimes we need to remember that they are humans–humans with families, debt, goals, jobs, hobbies, and responsibilities outside of your ministry. Consider this as you create your ministry calendar, schedule your trainings and ask for help. It may mean you need to recruit even more volunteers but do whatever is necessary to make sure you create systems to protect volunteers from burnout.
Ask Good Questions
One of the best ways to create a culture volunteers love to be a part of is to ask them questions about their experiences as volunteers and how it can be improved.
Ask questions like,
“How can I help you win?”
“What is it like to be a volunteer here?”
“What resources do you need?”
“What could be improved in our ministry?”
When you ask good questions, you not only help them feel valued, but you also learn how to lead them better.
How Orange Can Help
Here are a few resources that can help you create a volunteer culture volunteers love to be a part of:
- First Look Preschool Ministry Curriculum and 252 Kids and Preteen Curriculum provides seasonal volunteer appreciation gifts to help you honor volunteers.
- Creating a Small Group Culture Masterclass – Learn how to create a ministry structure and empower leaders so your ministry is a place where kids and teenagers belong.
- Volunteer Celebration Event Kit – Everything you need to create a fun event to celebrate your volunteers.
If this all seems like a lot, it is. Recruiting, training and equipping volunteers is one of the most important things you can do, and you can’t do ministry without a great team. But, when you invest in elevating your volunteer strategy, you will elevate your whole ministry, and the next generation is worth it.