These Competing Things May Be Hurting Volunteer Recruitment

Volunteer Competition

I have been a part of two churches in my life. My home church I grew up attending and the church I’ve been on staff with since we started it over 10 years ago. As a young adult in my home church, I volunteered in multiple areas. I never knew I would eventually work for a church, but I always intended on volunteering in a big way.

Our church was like many others in that we did too many things. We also fit the commonly known issue where 20% of the people did 80% of the work. Despite knowing those issues, we did not make the hard decision to change things. Because of that, the volunteer shortage continued and everything we did was understaffed.

The Competition

Make no mistake, there are a lot of things competing for the time and attention of potential volunteers. When someone considers volunteering at your church, they have to think about what they will give up in order to give that time to their role. The last thing we want to do is add competition within the church for that time.

Here is a list of things we might have in our churches that will compete for people’s time and negatively impact volunteering. If you are struggling to reach volunteers I would challenge you to consider making the hard decision to remove the competition.

Sunday School

This is a controversial one, but the reality is Sunday School is usually one of the biggest things preventing people from volunteering in our churches. In order for someone to volunteer in children’s classes, they must decide to not attend Sunday School. Children’s ministry, whatever that looks like in your church, is almost always the biggest volunteer need. How do we expect to serve kids well if potential volunteers are being told two different things about what to do with their time?

Mid-week Programming

If you have mid-week programming for kids and students, in addition to programming on Sundays, you have direct competition for your volunteer’s time. Only you can decide how critical mid-week programming is for your ministry, but be sure you factor in the drain it has on your Sunday programming. As you evaluate, determine if the reason you have mid-week programming is simply to function as childcare for programming you have for adults.

One Service

Many churches only have one service, which is completely understandable. This competes for people’s time since serving during the service means they can’t attend. Churches work around this by having volunteers serve every other week or once every four weeks. One idea would be to start a volunteer-only service before your regular service so they can attend and serve each week. The volunteer service can be scaled back and include some vision elements not found in the regular service.

Other Ministries

In a healthy staff culture, everyone understands they are one team and they must work together when it comes to helping people serve. While it’s not easy, they celebrate when one of their volunteers moves on to serve in another ministry.

That’s a great thing.

However, most churches have too many ministries and too many programs to the point where, even with people serving on multiple teams, it’s impossible to have enough volunteers. Removing competition for volunteers may require cutting a good percentage of your programming.

The Hard Part

Once you have identified where you have competition for volunteering, it’s time to take action and remove the competition. That’s the hard part, of course, and it will require courageous leadership. It will also require a clear plan of action with careful attention paid to how you will communicate it. I recommend reading Carey Nieuwhof’s book Leading Change Without Losing It and using that as a guide.

What are other examples of things that compete for potential volunteer’s time?

How Orange Helps Our Church Help Parents

Orange Conference 2017

If you don’t know what Orange is, it’s a non-profit company that helps churches win with families. They help by creating strategies, curriculum, resources, leader training, conferences and more. You can find out more on the What Is Orange website. Registration for the 2017 Orange Conference opens this week, and in this post, I’ll share how Orange has helped our church serve families, along with some new things that are in the works.

How Orange Defines A Win With Parents

There are so many things churches can do to help parents win. In order to help churches focus on what’s most important, Orange has identified two primary ways in which churches can help parents win:

  1. Help parents be more present with their family. Churches should look to help parents connect relationally with their kids and lead them well.
  2. Help parents connect in community. Churches can help parents connect to their church, but even more, connect with other parents in the church.

Ever since Orange began as an organization, even before being called Orange, it has helped churches partner with parents. It has helped by providing resources, content, ideas, training, and more. They continue to grow and develop their offering and Phase is a big part of that.

A Yearly Plan To Help Parents Win

Our team is working towards creating a yearly plan to help parents win and Orange is helping us do that. Here are 5 components Orange believes should be included in a yearly plan, along with how they’re helping with each one.

Establish an Annual Orientation

New parents join our churches all the time and existing parents need an opportunity to re-engage each year. Plus, our kids are a year older and possibly in a different Phase. An annual orientation allows churches to equip parents for the year ahead. Phase is an excellent tool for this orientation and Orange is developing a kit to help churches do this well.

Offer Periodic Small Group Studies

This goes to the second way we can help parents win, by putting them in community with other parents. One of the most dangerous things in parenting is when a parent has nobody to talk to and believes the problems they are facing are completely unique to them. What’s even worse is we (parents) feel guilt and shame about it, thereby lessening the chance of talking to someone. Small groups would help break down those barriers, and Orange continues to create materials for churches to use in small groups of parents.

Develop a Weekly Cueing Strategy

Parents need to know what is important this year, but they also need to know what is important this week. Orange provides content and a plan through their curriculum, resources for parents, and Go Weekly. Resources include a parent blog, a podcast, an app, and more. This is one of the components we already utilize, but there is room to improve here as well.

Celebrate Critical Milestones

A yearly plan to partner with parents should include helping them make the most of the critical milestones in their child’s life. Milestones such as baby dedication, going into kindergarten, baptism, graduation, and more. Orange creates resources churches can use to help parents celebrate these milestones well.

Create Opportunities for Shared Experiences

Few things outweigh the importance of parents spending time with their children. In our churches, we want to create opportunities for parents and kids to experience something together. Orange provides ideas and resources to help churches do just that.

Want to Learn More? Come to the Orange Conference!

This only scratches the surface of how Orange helps our church helps parents, and we didn’t even touch on how Orange helps our church serve kids and students. If you want to learn how to do this better, the best way to start is to head to the 2017 Orange Conference. I’ll be there, and I’d love to see you there as well. Registration opens this week, so don’t miss out on the best price!

Register Here

Key Quotes and Action Steps from the 2016 Orange Tour

Orange Tour 2016

Last week, our family ministry staff, along with about 10 volunteers, attended the Orange Tour stop in Lancaster, PA. We attend the Tour every year and it was a great experience as always. Unlike past years, we went north to Lancaster instead of south to D.C. and the traffic was way better.

Here are some key quotes, along with actions steps I would suggest, coming out of the 2016 Orange Tour.

“This week matters: if it’s repeated.” – Reggie Joiner

Action Step: If you currently don’t have weekly volunteers in your ministry, create a plan to get there. It’s hard to repeat what matters if you have different people with kids/students each week. Don’t expect to do it in one day, but draw up a plan to transition from monthly or bi-weekly to weekly.

“Kids matter: more than adults.” – Reggie Joiner

Action Step: Analyze your budget towards kids and students. I’m completely biased, obviously, but if you divided up your church staff’s hours into 3-5 core segments, with children’s and student ministry being a segment, it should get the most hours. More than worship. More than groups. More than operations. More. It should get more budget as well (okay, minus facilities).

“Prioritize young people everywhere.” – Mike Park (Kara Powell at some stops)

Action Step: By the new book Growing Young from Fuller. Take the assessment and apply the learnings to your church. Fuller offers some additional resources along with the book and the assessment that are also helpful.

“Church should never be boring” – Reggie Joiner

Action Step: Evaluate your environments weekly and ask the question, was it fun? Yes, our ultimate goal is to make disciples. However, there won’t be many kids and students to make disciples of if their experience is boring, dull and irrelevant.

“Every parent will do something more.” – Reggie Joiner

Action Step: Think of something this week you can challenge parents to do that is something more. Not 10 things more. Not a 6-month project. One thing. What is it? How will you communicate it to them? How will you help them?

“The shortest distance between your church and the parent is a small group leader” – Reggie Joiner

Action Step: Equip small group leaders with the contact information for the parents of their few and encourage them to reach out. If it’s the first contact, I think the best option is to write a sample email for the leader, have the leader personalize it and send it to every parent. Every partnership begins with someone reaching out to open a dialogue.

Mastermind Groups for Children’s Ministry, Youth Ministry and NextGen/Family Ministry

Mastermind Groups for Church Ministry

One of the most impactful things that helped me grow as a leader has been coaching networks. I’ve been involved in a couple of them, specifically for pastors, and they have been great. I think every ministry leader should have the opportunity to be in a group like that. However, there are a few problems.

However, there are a few problems.

Coaching Network Challenges

There are challenges when it comes to coaching networks for ministry leaders. Here are a few:

  • There aren’t many. These are very common the business world, but not so much in ministry world. Of the coaching networks that do exist, most are targeted to Lead and Executive Pastors. Both coaching networks I participated in were that way and I was the only family ministry staff person.
  • They’re expensive. The last network I was in was $2000 for 9 months. That’s expensive. Cost is a barrier to most ministry leaders.
  • They’re instructional more than collaborative. I don’t think instructional is wrong. The first network I was in had that format and it was great. However, the last network I was in had a collaborative format used in Mastermind Groups. That was a much better experience, especially for people who have been leading for more than a few years.

MegamindMastermind Groups?

If you’ve heard of them, then it probably doesn’t sound weird.

Otherwise, the name might be misleading. I don’t know about you, but when I first heard of Mastermind groups I couldn’t help but picture this guy.

A Mastermind Group is a collection of people who gather together regularly to learn from each other, encourage each other, and help each other improve. The Mastermind format centers around using 3 key questions that everyone gets to answer:

  • What is going well in your ministry?
  • What challenge are you facing that you would like input from the group on?
  • What resource can you share that would be helpful to the group?

Most groups gather once/month on site or via video call and talk through those questions. In addition to the questions, there is a specific discussion around a book, article, or something the group is learning from together.

Interested in Some Pilot Mastermind Groups?

I’m hoping to pilot some Mastermind groups for family ministry leaders. Picture a group for children’s pastors, a group for youth pastors, and a group for family pastors. If you’re interested, click the link below to sign up for more information.

Click here to sign up for more information on Mastermind Groups for Ministry

Mastermind Group Registration has closed for 2016. If you’re interested in hearing about potential groups in 2017, please fill out the form below.



Episode 016: Jeremy Lee on Parent Ministry and Partnership

Jeremy Lee Parent Ministry

In this episode, I interview Jeremy Lee, founder of Parent Ministry. We talk about the incredibly important topic of partnering with parents and equipping them to lead their children well. Jeremy offers some extremely practical insights and ideas to help us partner with parents better.

Jeremy Lee

Connect with Jeremy on Facebook and Twitter


Jeremy’s CaringBridge page

Links Mentioned in This Episode

Enter to Win a LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP to Parent Ministry (through Sep 9, 2016)

Rites of Passage/Family Experiences – Ministry toolboxes to help you partner with parents

Magic Button Site – Use this generic parent ministry site and adapt and brand it to your ministry

The Blessing (book) – Check out this book by John Trent that teaches parents the power of their blessing

Make a List:

  1. What do you do in your ministry? (Ex: Weekly programming, events, small groups, leaders).
  2. What do you do for parents?
  3. What is one thing you can do or implement to bring parents into your ministry?

Action Items

  1. Make the list.
  2. Talk with your parents about blessing their kids.
  3. Enter to Win a LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP to Parent Ministry
  4. Partner with small group leaders to ask students who gets spiritual leadership at home.

Subscribe | Share | Rate | Comment

To make sure you never miss a post, hit the subscribe button in iTunes, Google PlayStitcher, or Tune In radio. Keep your friends and co-workers up-to-date as well by sharing it with them via email or social media.

Leave a rating and a comment in iTunes to let me know how this podcast is helping you and your ministry. Also, let me know how we can make it better!

Next Episode: Matt McKee

In the next episode, I talk with my friend Matt McKee about his new book Parent Chat. You do not want to miss that conversation as we talk about how parents can lead their children best when it comes to technology. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it!