Volunteers are a precious commodity for most non-profit organizations, including churches. Anyone who has spent significant time volunteering knows the stats: roughly 20% volunteer (do all the work) while the other 80% do not. We begin to feel like Martha, complaining about our work load while Mary gets to enjoy listening to the message.
How do we find the balance between Martha and Mary? How do we encourage more people to volunteer beyond big annual events like Christmas and Easter? Here’s an idea: make the Easter volunteer experience so well-managed and enjoyable that volunteers are excited to continue lending a hand throughout the year.
1. Encourage and thank your existing volunteers.
The fastest way to lose the 20% who faithfully volunteer is to make them feel underappreciated. Send a hand-written thank you note. Host a volunteer appreciation breakfast, lunch or brunch. Express thanks with a gift certificate for above and beyond service or hold a monthly drawing to select a winner for the month. It is important to do something to make your volunteers feel appreciated. After Easter Sunday, make sure each and every volunteer feels valued and knows how they can be helpful in the future. Encourage them by taking the time to recognize their contributions.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for volunteers
How often do you ask for volunteers? Do you ask everyone at once during worship or do you assign lead volunteers to create a more personal invitation? Do you encourage small groups to sign up to volunteer? Sometimes getting more volunteers is simply a matter of asking. Those of us with a Martha complex know deep down that often we take on too much by choice. To encourage discipleship we must be willing to share the responsibility. This Easter, be sure to plan things out in advance and make sure your members know you need volunteers. Use this guide to help manage your volunteers.
3. Communicate volunteer needs effectively with church management software
How often do you keep your membership up-to-date on volunteer needs? Are you updating your website, mobile app or self-service kiosk regularly with a list of current volunteer requests? Let your members and visitors know how they can access this information and make it readily available to them.
This Easter, use a powerful feature, Volunteer Scheduling, to connect and engage volunteers. The easier it is to communicate needs, and the easier it is for those interested to respond, the more help you’ll have when you need it.
4. Provide the right opportunity
Volunteers enjoy using their unique gifts to serve. Whether it is a work skill (e.g. management/organization), a recreational talent they enjoy (e.g., photography), or something they simply have an aptitude for (e.g., carpentry), provide volunteers with opportunities best suited to their gifts and their personalities.
Some people like serving out front and have the perfect personality for greeting people and making them feel welcome. Others prefer to work behind the scenes and prefer to be assigned specific tasks. Whether you need to tap into someone’s artistic ability to design a new worship set or simply need people to set up tables and chairs, provide a variety of opportunities that volunteers can choose from and enjoy. Check out these great ways to match volunteers with opportunities.
5. Provide ways for volunteers to grow beyond Easter
Give volunteers an opportunity to try something new and learn from others. Maybe someone has always wanted to help build a worship set but was too afraid to try. If this is their first time helping, ease them into it by assigning a partner or mentor who can guide them or help them develop their talents.
6. Make sure the Easter volunteer experience is meaningful with a mentor program
A Barna Group study found that “the most positive church experiences among Millennials are relational.” Of Millennials who remain active in church, 59% had a close adult friend at church and 28% had an adult mentor at church who was not a pastor or staff member. Through these relationships, 46% learned that Christians can have a positive outcome on society.
Millennials also want to contribute. The same study found that 33% of Millennials who are active in church found a cause or issue at church that motivated them.
Developing a volunteer mentor program can have a positive outcome on deepening faith for the next generation. Learn more about the benefits of intergenerational ministry.
7. Give volunteers an opportunity to provide feedback after Easter
What do members and visitors feel most passionate about? Perhaps they’ve identified a need you haven’t. Give them an opportunity to provide feedback. There are numerous ways to do this: via social media, a comment form on your website, through small group leaders, or during worship (have fun asking people to text their thoughts and share as part of a sermon message on the topic).
Harness the excitement of Easter and get responses. Volunteers often have great ideas and giving them a chance to play a role in planning their next volunteer experience will both ensure you’re offering opportunities they enjoy and continually improving the volunteer experience.
8. Track volunteer participation
Intentions and reality are two different things. Do you know which volunteer opportunities resulted in the most participation? Did the time of year make a difference? Which age groups participated? Did some events attract entire groups – e.g., families, small groups, boy/girl scouts, etc. – to participate? Track and evaluate participation then adapt your volunteer opportunities accordingly.
9. Plan your volunteer schedule out way ahead of needs
Yes, too many of us are overscheduled and overcommitted. Accept it and work with it. Plan ahead.
Ministry leaders need to work together to plan volunteer opportunities tied to their mission. They need to coordinate calendars to understand church-wide needs for the year. Avoid scheduling major events close together. Both staff and volunteers suffer from burnout when asked to do too much in too short of a period. Be considerate of their time and give them sufficient time to coordinate and balance their work schedule, family time and volunteer service.
10. Give volunteers a much needed break
We all deserve time off. A shallow volunteer pool is not sufficient reason to exhaust your most faithful and dedicated helpers. Reward them by insisting that they schedule time off from their regular volunteer schedule. Resist the temptation to ask them to participate in every big event at the church. Encourage them to each enlist one new person to serve.
Developing discipleship through volunteers is critical to church growth. A tool like Elexio’s Volunteer Scheduling can streamline volunteer management and support the way you do ministry. Curious how it works? Try it and the other amazing features Elexio offers for free for 60 days (no credit card required).
And don’t forget to download your free 2020 Easter Essentials Resource Pack which includes an Easter Volunteer Management Guide with a week-by-week countdown to Easter Sunday, plus FREE GRAPHICS and other amazing resources. Click to download!
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April 2019 and has been completely updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.