Church volunteer recruitment is one of the most critical and most challenging tasks for every church leader. Volunteers are the lifeblood of any church and most church health metrics show a strong correlation between volunteer team growth and the health and growth of the church (see the Unstuck Church Growth reports).
Step 1: Use a System to Recruit Volunteers
First, make a list of prospects who could serve in your ministry. Search your church management system for people who aren't serving, asking current volunteers for names, ask staff for names, look for people in groups/classes but aren't serving, etc.
Second, contact them with an email inviting them to talk briefly on a weekend before or after the service they attend. Indicate you would like to get to know them (if you don't) and hear how they found their way to your church. If you know them, indicate you want to hear how things are going and help them take a step if they're interested.
Third, meet with people and hear their stories. If serving with you seems like a fit, invite them to observe. If not, point them to their best next step.
Fourth, follow up with people you didn't hear back from with an email or maybe even a text. Keep it loose, and don't bug them after this second contact. But, make it clear you expected to hear back from them and didn't.
That system for church volunteer recruitment is expounded on much more in the Volunteer Boost 28-Day Challenge, but you get the idea.
Step 2: Set Aside Two Time Blocks for Recruiting Volunteers
The biggest barrier to recruiting volunteers is that we don't put the time into it. This step will help, as will Step 4. Set aside 2 hours early in the week and another 2 hours late in the week to work on this. Your schedule might look like this:
- Monday – 10am – Contact prospects and people taking steps through onboarding
- Monday – 11am – Work on ideas for Steps 5 & 6
- Thursday 10am – Contact prospects and people taking steps
- Thursday 11am – Firm up conversations for Sunday and add more prospects to contact next week
Turn off email, social media, and maybe even hide somewhere to minimize distractions. Also, block the time out early in the day so it doesn't get pushed out.
Step 3: Onboard Volunteers Intentionally
This is where the Volunteer Pipeline course is helpful because you learn all about how to do this well and you get documents to go along with it. Without the course, you can still make a plan from scratch. Just write out your onboarding process (each step) and use something to track people as they go through it. Your church management system is my top recommendation, but a spreadsheet or Trello can be helpful as well. Make sure you check this system each week to help people take the next step. An awesome strategy for church volunteer recruitment can be waisted if over half of the prospects don't make it through your volunteer onboarding process.
Step 4: Measure Your Volunteer Recruitment and Get Accountability
Ask your boss or someone who can hold you accountable to check in on you at least every other week to update your progress. Talk about who your prospects are, who you have contacted, who is onboarding, and who has been placed. Show them the tracking system. Also, talk about who has stepped off the team (if anyone does). This accountability might be the thing that makes the biggest difference after you get the volunteer recruiting system in place.
Step 5: Use An On-Ramp to Recruit Volunteers Weekly
On-Ramps are natural opportunities for people to volunteer that they experience as part of getting involved in your church. In the course, I share a bunch of them, but if you don't take the course, try this one. Look at the next big event or special weekend you have coming up and recruit volunteers specifically for that event. Invite people who don't currently serve and make the request really clear. Give them a great experience, and after the event, invite them to serve in a regular role.
Step 6 – Recruit Volunteers Through a Boost
Boosts are another thing I teach in the course and they are once-in-a-while recruiting efforts that are bigger. This is probably what people think of when looking for volunteer recruitment ideas. Try this one, a Team Recruiting Competition. Group your volunteers into teams that make sense (3-5 in size) and invite them to recruit at least 1 new volunteer per team. However, make it a fun contest and give away prizes to the teams that recruit the most. Give them 1 month and help them as much as you can (with ideas of who to recruit, reminders of when, deadlines, etc.)
There you go! If you take those 6 steps, I think you'll see results. Check out the Volunteer Boost 28-Day Challenge if you want to go all-in on recruitment.
The more leaders and volunteers you can recruit, the more people your church can reach, as I outline here. As leaders in churches, we all want to recruit the best people possible, because we have the greatest mission to carry out. But, how do you recruit church leaders that are high-capacity? Here are things I have found to be critical.
Creating an attractive environment
I know this is difficult, like the whole chicken and the egg deal. How do you create an attractive environment without already having high-quality leaders? It's a challenge for sure, and the way to start is to make sure you're not doing too much. Cut the things you only do well so you can do the remaining things really well. Maybe you could replace live teaching with video for a season or put a hold on a specific event or program? Use that time and those resources to create the environment you want; the environment you know will be something great people will want to be part of. Recruiting church leaders to poor environments means they won't stick long.
One of the last things a high-quality leader wants to do is use up their time doing something they are not good at doing. Separate the roles of teaching, leading a small group, editing curriculum, preparing resources and more. In a recent volunteer meeting we had, multiple small group leaders expressed gratitude for being able to show up on Sunday with resources already prepared for them. We want all their best efforts directed to kids and their parents. We want the best teachers teaching, the best worship leaders leading music, etc., and that kind of focus is attractive to a potential leader.
Cast a clear, compelling vision
I've heard vision described as a solution to a problem, with urgency. What problem is your ministry seeking to solve? What problem does that volunteer role help solve? Why is it urgent? Talk about all 3 components whenever you cast a vision for what should be because of your ministry. Sometimes we think of vision as a statement, or something general, but the best way to share vision with potential leaders might be to tell the real story of a child or family whose lives have been impacted by your ministry. There are thousands more families just like them, and you need more leaders on board to help reach them. You can recruit volunteers without a lot of vision, but if recruiting church leaders is your goal, your vision must be clear and compelling.
Nothing beats a personal ask when it comes to recruiting volunteers. The previous 3 steps mostly set the stage for this one. Get to know as many new people as you can on Sundays and don't be afraid to ask them to serve. Challenge your best leaders to ask people as well. Make a competition out of it and challenge a group or room of leaders to recruit a certain number of new volunteers. With your staff or your key volunteers, hold a monthly meeting where you share the detailed numbers of your volunteer teams and hold each other accountable for the growth you want to see.