Our staff leadership team had the privilege of learning from Daniel Floyd, Pastor of Lifepoint Church, a few years 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. Ultimately, it’s about church volunteerism and how church volunteers help you reach more people.
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 to Grade Church Volunteerism
The process of the volunteer equation is simple. You take your average total church attendance and divide it by the total number of individual church volunteers you have. So, if your church averages 500 in attendance and you have 100 individual volunteers (people on specific ministry teams):
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 every 5 people. Unless something has drastically changed in your church recently- with the way you do church, it takes about 1 volunteer to serve 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 Church Volunteers Help 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, as you see here, but the idea is that it mostly stays constant. So, when you add 50 volunteers, you know what changes?
It looks like this:
150 (volunteers) x 5 (original reach ratio) = 750 average attendance
Does it happen right away? No.
Is it guaranteed? Absolutely not.
However, we experienced the fruit of this in our church 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. If you look at 10 years of our church’s attendance growth history, you can easily spot the 3 years we added the most volunteers.
Why? Because the 3 years we added the most volunteers are the 3 years we had the highest percentage growth in that 10-year span. Healthy church volunteerism led to healthy church attendance growth.
Three Things Volunteers Do More
In talking with Tony Morgan about this, he commented on how it makes perfect sense because church volunteers do 3 things more:
- They attend more frequently
- They invite more
- They give more
Two of those directly impact attendance. It makes complete sense, as I’m sure it did to you when you read the title, but seeing it so clearly laid out and proven in our history was eye-opening for me.
But, what do we do with that?
5 Practical Ways to Recruit More Volunteers
If you believe that church volunteerism and recruiting more church volunteers help you reach more people, the question then becomes, how do we recruit more volunteers in order to leverage that truth? Here are 5 ideas, most of which we have actually done that helped us recruit more volunteers. If you try some of these out, I’d love to hear how it works.
Start a Weekly or Bi-Weekly Accountability Meeting
One idea we picked up from Lifepoint Church (along with the Volunteer Equation), was to have a regular meeting where all staff who lead volunteers are present. The purpose of the meeting is to talk about where each person is in terms of how many volunteers they have, how many they need, who stepped off the team and who is in the process of coming on board. The real purpose of the meeting is simple: accountability.
A regular meeting where you have to share how you personally have recruited volunteers (or not) is very powerful. We should regularly talk about church volunteerism, how healthy it is, and what we can do to get more people plugged into serving roles. You’ll take more opportunities to connect with people you don’t know. You’ll put more focused time into recruiting. Once you all get your volunteer numbers together, you may even realize that you have too many ministries fighting for an impossible number of volunteers.
Create a Recruiting Challenge
One year, we challenged our preschool volunteers to recruit new leaders to join the team. Rather than it solely depending on staff, we cast a vision for the importance of everyone recruiting. From there, we introduced a challenge. We told them they would work as a team (based on their room) and the challenge was to see who could recruit the most volunteers. More important than that, however, was how we challenged them to each recruit at least one new volunteer per room. This took some pressure off them individually but set a goal for them to meet as a team.
Make a Simple Video to Share
Video can be hard sometimes, particularly if your church goes all out in terms of quality. Instead of setting up a professional video shoot with scripted lines and a great story, all of which is good, plan on a simpler video that’s funny and pointed. We create a Summer Team of volunteers each year and one year (a while ago now) we created a simple video to help recruit to that team. You can see it here. We had parents record their kids (using their smartphones) saying lines we scripted and provided. Putting them together to complete the video was simple. You can do the same and share it in service and on all your social media channels, preferably multiple times.
Hold a Church-Wide Vision Night
This one obviously involves a lot more than just your ministry, but it can be very helpful to hold a vision night (or something similar) in your church. Invite everyone who calls your church home and cast a great vision for what your church is all about and what’s on the horizon. During that time, you can challenge people to be “all in” at your church. Define what “all in” means and lead them to respond in some way that you can track. We had people fill out a card and then followed up with anyone who indicated they wanted to serve but wasn’t currently serving. Few things have boosted church volunteerism for us like Vision Nights.
Launch and Promote a Volunteer Orientation
Often times what people need before they commit to volunteer is a safe place to ask questions. By starting a Volunteer Orientation and promoting it to your church, you can let people know there is a place where they can learn more about serving and get answers to any questions they might have. As you talk about the Volunteer Orientation, be sure to emphasize that it’s for anyone who is interested. They’re not committing to serve by attending the orientation, they’re just committing to consider it. Be sure to maximize your time with them at the orientation by focusing on vision and stories to help them understand why they should serve.
What’s your reach ratio and overall church volunteerism like?
Share it in the comments below.