It’s Christmas! One of the best and busiest times of the year for any church, where your calendar is brimming with events and your workload is trebled. It’s great that so many people engage with the church over this period, but you’ll need to make sure you have a clear and effective volunteer strategy to make the most of this.
So how do you make sure your church is as volunteer-friendly as possible? Here are 5 points we think are crucial.
Let your congregation know your needs
Getting people open to the idea of volunteering isn’t hard. More than a quarter of the population take part in some form of volunteering at least once a month, and nearly half of us do so at least once a year. So why is it you often struggle to find enough people to help out at the Christmas service?
Probably because your congregation don’t even know you need help! A key reason people fail to get involved with the ministry is because they aren’t aware of the opportunities to do so. You really have to preach about it. Then preach some more - and once people begin to feel that every member can make a difference? Preach some more. The idea of service through volunteering should be an ongoing campaign. Teach it in classes, mention it in printed newsletters, put it on social media - any way you can to spread the word.
Not only do you need to get the word out, you need to be specific. For instance, rather than talking about how you need help next Sunday, say “We require a greeter for the children on Sunday, from 1pm to 3pm”.
It is also important to make the task look so appealing that people are really keen to get involved. Remind them that volunteering helps them become part of a bigger picture, and is a great way to socialise with others in the church. Another benefit to volunteer service is that it can develop many skills; a very valuable asset that may be adapted in other settings, such as in a career.
It is imperative that you get the contact information for those who are thinking about volunteering. This way you can send them a follow up SMS, or a reminder email when the event is approaching. It helps you keep a record of the communication, as a verbal confirmation is often forgotten.
ChurchDesk’s Church Management Software can help make this communication pain-free. You can add all the contact details for your volunteers to your People module, and then create a segment. This allows you to send information to all your volunteers at once (perhaps asking them if they are available, or giving them an update on the schedule).
It’s also important, however, that you gather information about what each of your volunteers is qualified in, and what they’re skills are. It’s great if you have an accountant who is willing to help out, or a social media whiz who has a few spare hours to dedicate to promoting your event. Don’t waste this! Make a record of anything which might be useful and keep it on their file, so you know who to turn to when.
Make a plan
To make your event, or day-to-day church functions, as successful as possible you have to have a plan. Make sure you have a list of things which need to be done for each event, and then match this up with the amount of volunteer you think you’ll need. Be realistic! It’s always better to plan on a few extra volunteers, in case of illness or unexpected emergencies, than be caught short.
Again, Church Management Software is key here. Via Planning ChurchDesk gives you the ability to add tasks to each event, which you can then assign to a specific user (who you know is available and has the right experience) or leave them unassigned for potential volunteers to sign themselves up to.
Make sure volunteers are comfortable, and inspired
When you assign your volunteers to a specific task, it is vital that they are well equipped to do them. Remember, if they feel confident in the work they are doing, they will likely come back next time. This might just mean putting them in contact with someone who has done it before, but could even mean that you need to arrange specific training. Recruiting church volunteers is only part one. The healthiest churches are also developing their church volunteers.
For those unassigned tasks, encourage volunteers to choose best-suited positions for their skills. If a given position is already filled, suggest that they sign up for something anyway. They may discover something else they like to do. It is important to give people the opportunity to try and fail.
Understand your volunteer’s needs. People tend to volunteer for one of five reasons; values, community concern, esteem enhancement, understanding and personal development.
Older volunteers tend to care more about their values and community, whereas younger volunteers are trying to gain skills to enter the working world. Understanding why your volunteers donate their time helps you assign them to the best jobs for their motivations and skills. This will help you inspire your volunteers, and retain them for the future.
Be grateful and give thanks
Always, always say thank you. Whether this is just a verbal thanks, or a small gift of appreciation, the important thing is that you show acknowledgement that they are giving up their time to help the church’s mission. By respecting your volunteers, you'll increase the likelihood of retaining them.
This is particularly important at Christmas. Volunteers are very busy with their family commitments, so they’re already being stretched!
Have a successful Christmas period!
We hope these small points help you make the most of this Christmas period, and that you continue to have plentiful and satisfied volunteers long into 2017!