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How to Reach More People by Leveraging the Volunteer Equation

Our staff leadership team had the privilege of learning from Daniel Floyd, Pastor of Lifepoint Church, a little over a year ago. One of the things we learned from him is something he picked up from Sam Chand, a great leader, and a great author. I call it The Volunteer Equation. I’ve written about it before, but I want to expand on it in this post.

I should mention a couple assumptions out the gate. One, I’m assuming you want your church to grow because you want to reach people who are far from God. Two, I’m assuming you track attendance, not because you care about numbers, but because of the first assumption. You may not track volunteers, but I would encourage you to and it’s necessary to leverage this equation.

The Volunteer Equation

The process of the volunteer equation is simple. You take your average total church attendance and divide it by the total number of individual volunteers you have. So, if your church averages 500 in attendance and you have 100 volunteers:

500 (attendance) / 100 (volunteers) = 5.0

5.0 = Reach Ratio

I call the resulting number the Reach Ratio. Reason being, that’s how many people you can reach for every volunteer you have. In that example, you have 1 volunteer for have 5 people. Unless something has drastically changed in your church recently, the way you do church takes about 1 volunteer for every 5 people in attendance.

Another way to think about is that you need 1 new volunteer to reach 5 new people. So, if you want to reach more people you should focus on adding more volunteers.

How It Helps You Reach More People

It’s probably obvious that the equation itself doesn’t help you reach more people. It’s the shift in your mindset as a result of this equation that can help you reach more people. The point of the equation is, don’t just obsess over attendance. You want to reach people who aren’t a part of any church, so attendance matters because people matter. Instead of obsessing over the attendance, obsess over the volunteer numbers. To understand why, let’s go back to the equation:

500 (attendance) / 100 (volunteers) = 5

What if you decided to obsess over growing the volunteer number? In fact, what if it was a huge focus in your church for the next month and, as a result, you added 50 volunteers? For the moment, let’s pretend attendance stayed the same, making your new equation:

500 (attendance) / 150 (volunteers) = 3.33

Now your reach ratio has changed and it’s 1 volunteer for every 3.33 people. But, that’s not the point. Your original reach ratio (5.0) is your number. Sure, it will fluctuate from time to time like you see here, but the idea is that it mostly stays constant. So, when you add 50 volunteers, you know what changes?

Attendance

It looks like this:

150 (volunteers) x 5 (original reach ratio) = 750

Does it happen right away? No.
Is it guaranteed? Absolutely not.

However, we experienced the fruit of this last year when we grew our volunteer base by almost 25% and saw the highest attendance growth in years. Don’t miss it. By adding volunteers you have expanded the capacity you have to reach more people. Plus, volunteers attend more frequently and invite more, which helps you reach more people.

What’s your reach ratio? Share in the comments.

In the next post, I’ll share some practical ways you can focus on growing your volunteer base to leverage this concept.

  • Dan Doerksen

    Ours is 1.4. Seems low. This could be a good sign of engagement levels or a sign that we’re too heavy on our programming, placing too high a burden on our church. Thoughts?

    • 1.4 is very low. Now, lower is generally better, meaning you have A LOT of volunteers as a percentage of your average attendance. What are your actual numbers?

      Average attendance = ?

      Total individual volunteers = ?

      You are right that at some point having so many volunteers probably means you’re too heavy on programming or you have rotations that are getting a lot of people to serve but not at a high commitment level. Neither of those would be a good thing.

      I’m interested to hear more.

      • Dan Doerksen

        Thanks for the reply. Real numbers are:

        Average attendance: 550
        Total volunteers: 373
        Context: Rural. 12k population. Heavily saturated with churches (think: a rural, Canadian version of Atlanta). 130 year old church

        I think the issue is a combination of both of the things you’ve mentioned. We’re moving towards being more of a “simple church” and trying to cut programs that aren’t strategic, but we also have a fair number of these volunteers that are rotational or “special occasion-only” (e.g. funeral serving, Christmas events, etc.).
        The goal would be to try and lean out a bit while maintaining high levels of meaningful engagement

        • That is quite extreme. How much of that 550 is kids? If it’s 125, then you have 373 volunteers out of an average of 88% of your adult/student attendance serving (373/425), which is crazy high.

          • Dan Doerksen

            Yes, it is! Our attendance in our weekly kids and teens programming is right around 250, but the amount of kids in our actual Sunday morning service is only 70 (that’s a ratio as well that I’d be interested in hearing where other churches are at). 30, out of the 70, are teens.
            So, our adult/student attendance, rather than 550, is 510.
            These have been eye-opening numbers to work through and have caused us to re-evaluate our volunteer positions, as well as the amount of programs we offer. Thanks for starting the conversation for us!

          • Interesting. There are always exceptions, but most churches have 18-25% of their attendance from kids and a healthy student ministry is usually around 10% of the size of the church.

            So, a church averaging 500 would have:
            90-125 Kids on a typical Sunday
            375-410 Adults on a typical Sunday
            50 Students/Youth at their primary student gathering

            Again, there are always outliers. A church that’s really young wouldn’t have a lot of students and a church that’s older may have very few kids. A church in an urban area wouldn’t have much of either, etc.

            So, you have 373 volunteers out of 510 adults/students, or 73%. That’s really high, but I have seen it before. Too many programs is probably the biggest factor.

            I would wonder about the low % of kids (40/550 = 7%) and students (30/550 = 5.5%).

            What is your weekly kids and teens programming (not in the service)?