Volunteers are the key to any thriving ministry. The most important thing I have ever done was to define a process for adding volunteers. By clearly defining what it takes to move a person from a potential volunteer to a fully committed team member, you will have a plan to incrementally work to build a team of equipped and trained volunteers.
Below are 9 steps that I take all volunteers through.
- I ask for basic contact information.
- How long they have attended my church.
- The area they are interested in serving.
This card is the entry point to my ministry. If you are interested in serving, it all starts with this card. I have learned for every three cards I pass out, I get one back. So if I want to recruit one new volunteer a week, I need to pass out three cards per week. If I want one volunteer per day I need to pass out three cards a day. You get the picture.
2. Orientation: The next step, once we receive a completed interest card is to schedule an orientation meeting. I hold a standing appointment on my calendar for every Wednesday evening for these meetings. My goal is to meet with at least one person per week. This is the first opportunity for a potential volunteer to qualify or disqualify themselves for ministry. I learn a lot before the meeting ever starts.
- Did they show up on time or were they late?
- Did they remember to come or did I have to call and reschedule?
- Were they engaged during the meeting?
- Did they get excited about the things I shared or did I get the deer in the headlights look?
If you pay attention, you will learn a lot. How they respond to this meeting is a window into how they will act as a volunteer. Here’s what I cover…
- I get the to know the potential volunteer.
- I tell them about myself and my family.
- I share vision, values, and passion for the children’s department.
- We go over the volunteer ministry application. (Step 3 below)
- We go over the job description for potential ministry. (Step 4 below)
- I schedule a time for them to observe the ministry they are interested in. (Step 6 below)
- I verify primary communication methods. How to communicate with the children’s department and the best way we can communicate with them.
- I manage expectations about serving and answer any questions.
3. Run background check / Process application: As soon as someone turns in an application we run the background check. We don’t allow ANYONE to serve with minors unless they have qualified themselves by clearing the background check. We use First Advantage for all our background checks.
4. Schedule the volunteer to observe ministry: The sooner I can get a potential volunteer into a class to observe the better. I always communicate before they ever sit in an environment that it might take a few weeks to know if a position is a good fit or not. I explain that volunteering is a process and together we will find the right fit. If for some reason they don’t feel like the first position is a fit, we ask them to let us know and we will try another position. Not every position is for every person. But every person should serve in a volunteer position.
5. Ongoing training: We implement three methods of training. All three happen at the same time.
- On the job training: Every new volunteer gets partnered up with an all-star volunteer. Someone who is doing it right and has a proven track record. They are trained on what we want them to do and how we want them to do it.
- Quarterly meetings: We hold quarterly meetings with each department to train on duty specific tasks.
- Online training: We utilize technology in an effort to continue training. Links to audio, video, and articles that help our volunteers continue to grow and develop.
6. Add your new volunteer to the rotation as an assistant master teacher: Every new volunteer joins the team as an assistant master teacher. They are paired with a master teacher and their duties are to assist the lead teacher. We developed this method from Jim Wideman. This method allows new volunteers to see a master teacher model how to lead a class. Once a month and every fifth Sunday, the assistant master teacher is able to lead the class with the master teacher serving as a support and mentor.
7. Communicate, communicate, communicate: We always work to keep short accounts. Check in and see how things are going. Establish an acceptable communication method with every new volunteer. Don’t fall into the trap of treating potential volunteers like rock stars, but once they join the team, you drop them like there hot.
8. Look for opportunities to promote: Once a volunteer is trained and has my heart, I look for opportunities to promote them to a position with more responsibility. This makes room for new volunteers and allows volunteers to continue to grow, stretch, and keep from getting bored.
9. Teach your team to recruit and duplicate: My new volunteers are my best recruiters. I teach them to pass out our volunteer interest cards to their family and friends. I leverage the new volunteers relationships and encourage every volunteer to help bring potential volunteers into our process.
Final Thought: Always look for areas where the process is bottle-necking. Evaluate which step people get hung up on, and take steps to correct it. Make the process as simple and streamlined as possible. If someone has shown interest in serving, you need to make it a priority to clear them for ministry. Watch out for reasons a person should be disqualified for ministry every step of the way. People never perform beyond the level they are recruited; that is why a well thought out process, implemented with excellence, will serve you well.