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 of 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. The 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 about 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. You can also read more about church volunteer recruitment here.
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.
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.
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.
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)?
Great to hear some of those general numbers from other churches. Thanks for that.
While our kids/teens attendance in our main weekend worship services only averages 70, the program attendance is much higher:
Sunday Kids Groups – 150-160 kids
Midweek Student Groups – 40-50/group (Jr and HS), so 80-100 total.
The percentage of our kids and teens moving from their designated programming into our main worship service has felt like a growth area for us. Would this be common in other churches as well?
Oh, I see. You meant kids/students actually in the same service as adults? That’s a ratio that’s hard to find benchmarks for.
I would think most churches don’t necessarily view kids/students moving into service as a growth area, mostly because they’re already counting them in their own programming as part of the total Sunday morning number.
Is that what you mean?
We’re only really concerned about that trend with older teens, as we work hard at integrating them into the larger church prior to graduation.
With younger kids, not seeing them in our service is an indicator that many of our young parent volunteers are also not moving into the main service, but simply showing up on the weekend to volunteer in children’s ministry. Does that make sense?
Thanks for taking the time on these comments. It would be great to connect at OC18 if possible. Bummed I’m not at NEXT right now!