I think every church has a problem getting volunteers for different committees, roles, and positions. Once we get a person to volunteer we never let people out of the commitment. The same small group of people do all the work. I have not totally figured out how to solve this problem, but here are 7 things that I have found helpful.
1. Don’t rely on announcements. If you announce it to everybody, you have asked nobody. Announcements can be ignored. If you want people to come and do something then ask them, don’t announce it to them. And, by the way, anything you announce should be important for everybody. If 5 people are on a committee then just tell them when the meeting is, not the entire church.
2. Here is the rule of thumb: Ask one on one, face to face, and for specific things and times. This sounds like common courtesy but for some reason church people don’t want to do it. It is easy to ignore announcements and to say “no” on the phone or email. If you ask for specific things face to face you are much more likely to get a “yes.”
3. Make a habit of asking new people first. The first people that come to mind for particular tasks are probably the ones that always get asked. They are the easy targets because they will probably say yes. Try to make it an essential element of your church culture to ask people who do not normally be asked.
4. Don’t be too picky. Sometimes we have too many criteria for volunteers. Sometimes we need to ignore abilities. Also, don’t be afraid to ask busy people or people who have said “no” in the past. The Biblical paradigms are willingness and the ability to listen to God. Let God take care of the rest.
5. Cultivate specific people. We need to invest ourselves as leaders in developing new leaders and volunteers at the church. Sometimes new people need to mature and to feel the support of good relationships in order to be willing to volunteer. Help them with it.
6. Encourage people who take a number of roles to release some control. They sometimes complain that no one else gets involved but they also do not know how to give up control. New volunteers do not want to do things the way others have done it. They want to create their own projects and committees. Help those who currently volunteer a lot see the value for your church of bringing others on board.
7. Leave rough edges. Sometimes we want everything to be perfect, but it is often the rough edges of our work that get new volunteers. If you do not have enough people to run a particular ministry, shut it down for a few months and see who feels called to see that thing continue. Do you want a drummer? Leave a new drum set up front that begs to be played. Need help decorating? Leave the area undecorated until the right person cannot take it anymore and comes forward to volunteer.
Above all, you want people to be and feel called to the work they do. Give people permission to say “no” but also give more people a chance to say “yes.”
Any other thoughts on how to get more people involved?