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7 Steps of Recruiting, Training and Retaining Church Volunteers

A while back I posted a variant of this theme, but with the questions at conferences and from emails that I receive regarding volunteers at church, I’ve added to my 7 Steps of Recruiting, Training and Retaining Volunteers. Feel free to share and comment.

1) Invite someone to learn with you. There’s something powerful about being invited and asked to participate in something bigger than ourselves. Most of the best volunteers I’ve met at hundreds of churches came because someone asked them if they’d like a chance to see what it was like to do what we do! Your pool of current volunteers are the best possible recruiters. Why? Because, chances are, they are friends with people similar to themselves. That means techies know more techies. It also means that your non-techie volunteers (more on that below) know people like them, too. Leveraging the spheres of influence that your volunteers have is the best way to invite new people to your ministry.

Another important recruiting tip is to find college interns, stay-at-home moms and retirees who have the time to give on a Monday thru Friday basis. Unlike your other volunteers with full-time jobs, these folks have more flexible schedules and can help you with a host of necessary, if not technical, areas including volunteer scheduling, administrative support, copywriting, duplication, organizing, documenting and encouraging. I have had men and women help me out during the week so that I was freed up to do the work that only I could do instead of work that anyone could do. One of my best volunteers never touched a piece of gear; she just kept me organized and helped me with the myriad of daily tasks that I didn’t like or have the time to do.

When you use interns, keep a log of what they do and give them the chance to apply their time and effort towards their high school or college credits. It may mean you need to go and visit with their high school counselor or college professor, but those real world on-the-job training hours can result in applicable hours towards their degree.

2) Guide someone through the process, initiate them slowly through the ropes and give them a lot of freedom to watch and observe. There’s a great deal of safety in knowing that an invitation to come into the tech booth has no expectation for them to perform. If possible, have a trained techie with the observer to point out what’s happening and to answer their questions. De-mystifying the tech is a big part of alleviating their fears.

3) Encourage those who have a giftedness at certain tasks or in certain areas. We all love hearing when we’ve “got it” and like to know we’re doing something well (or have the potential to do so). Your best volunteers will ‘own’ their role, taking your ministry to new heights because of their joy, passion and talent! Plus, really happy volunteers are also highly motivated volunteers who show up early and stay late.

4) Develop the people who show the most interest, have the best servant attitudes and are teachable. I’d much rather have a person who is inexperienced and teachable than an “expert” who can’t be taught. If you’ve got a soccer mom who doesn’t know technology but is highly teachable, pour into her and see where she can serve. I’ve quite often found that soccer moms make some of the best presentation software volunteers and excellent camera operators. Truly, you don’t have to have a techie person to keep up with detail work. They don’t have to know the operating system or even how the camera really works. They just operate with confidence and style!

5) Evaluate honestly. Hurting feelings doesn’t have to be a part of the job, so be gentle when you have to redirect people out of areas where they can’t accomplish the job. Keep written records of evaluation and offer tangible steps for people to either improve or find new ways to serve.

6) Participation has to be consistent. There’s not an expert or professional on the planet who simply showed up and started being a genius without any failures or dedication to their role. This is a “team sport” and it takes all of us working together in unison and not flaunting individual talents.

For church tech arts, I’m personally a fan of having a volunteer team serve the entire weekend. This means you will have the same team for all rehearsals and services so that you’re all very consistent and work fluidly as a unit. By building these teams and operating in a one-week-on, two-weeks-off rotation, they’re consistent in their roles while having the time off to recoup from a long weekend.

7) Reproduction should be a natural part of someone becoming seriously qualified and competent in their role. Far too many churches have “the sound guy” (as in ONLY ONE PERSON) or “the worship leader”. While there can (and should) be a leader for decision-making and administration, a team of leaders is the only way to obtain consistency, quality and growth.

One of my roles at Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas as a volunteer was as a volunteer trainer. I had a blast doing my “job”. I called my job “Loving On Volunteers” even though the training was focused on raising up camera operators, shaders and directors for the video team. That’s how I viewed my role of doing technical training! It was just another way to pour into people and equip them to serve successfully. And I did that as a volunteer myself.

These are the staring points or recruiting, training and retaining. There’s a whole lot more to it, but I can’t fit it into a blog post. There’s simply too much to cover. But if you want to learn more, shoot me an email or call me sometime. I’d be glad to chat.

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Anthony has worked in the secular world of A/V, the ministry world of church staff and the para-church ministry of three companies that serve the church space (Auxano, Fellowship Technologies and Worlds of Wow!). Today, his consultancy focuses on helping churches and para-church ministries leverage appropriate systems, processes and technologies for more effective ministry. Anthony leads out of his strengths of effectively caring for people, efficiently managing resources and enabling scalable growth. He has been consulting, teaching, writing and speaking to church and business leaders for nearly 20 years.