Volunteers are very important to every local church. As a pastor I frequently was enlisting volunteers: my ministry would have fallen flat had I not had volunteers to accomplish the work and staff the ministries of the church.
I would announce from the pulpit the need for specific volunteers. The bulletin, church newsletter and other communication tools would include a solicitation for help. But this was not the most effective means. What worked best for me was personally asking people to serve. Nothing worked better than a conversation face-to-face in which I would tell potential volunteers how I needed them and how they would help fulfill a particular ministry.
I also became a people observer. As people served as teachers and workers I watched to note where they were most effective. I have used spiritual gifts inventories, but observing people who are using their gifts gave me the best information. Just because someone believes they are gifted in a particular area doesn’t mean that it’s true. And I, like many people, know how to take tests and do inventories so that they say what I want them to.
Additionally, I ask others to find out who does particular jobs well. In the past few years I’ve served as an interim and transitional pastor, and that does not give me the necessary time to have seen people long-term. So I ask others, whom I trust, for suggestions.
Now Covid 19 has added a wrinkle to getting volunteers. My helpers in ministry have many times been weighted with older people who are retired, and some of them have not been physically present during the past year’s time. Church leaders need to plan on how to get them back into service.
First, be sure you’re in contact with them. A phone call will work. Call them and find out how they’re doing, which will also give you an idea of whether they have been vaccinated and a potential return date. In the meantime, if you haven’t done so, look for ways to enlist them to serve from home. Perhaps they can call prospects. You may even enlist them in finding other volunteers.
At present, I’m not serving a congregation. I’ve recently been vaccinated and am thinking about getting back to my home church. Now when I serve I always accept the position on the condition that when I’m called vocationally I can leave the volunteer position. I have served on the welcome team, been a life group teacher and assisted in AWANA. I see both sides since I have been a long term pastor who needs volunteers and have been a willing volunteer. When I’ve been asked to serve and am available, I’ve served and enjoyed every moment of it.
Build and invest in your volunteers. God will use them to make your ministry effective.
Ashton C. Smith, Certified Church Consultant