Churches are dependent on volunteer labor and wouldn’t be able to open their doors without an army of dedicated people who are committed to its mission.
Volunteers are what make the church and a church volunteer program ensures a great experience for this free labor force.
A volunteer program that is designed to manage volunteers helps to ensure that the people who give of their time will experience an efficient and customer friendly process.
To create a great volunteer program you need to have an understanding of volunteers and what they expect in exchange for their help.
Once you have that understanding you can begin to put the pieces of the management structure in place.
10 Functions of a Volunteer Program
1. Identify Volunteer Needs
Churches have countless needs for help and the first step in developing a volunteer program is to identify all of the areas that need volunteer support. The most common roles are ushers, greeters, children’s ministry, musicians, parking – but often there are unmet needs that also need to be identified and volunteer jobs created.
For example, churches that have multiple services may create a volunteer role that attends to the restrooms to help keep the facility clean, tidy and stocked for the volume of people who pass through it in a morning.
Gather a group of church leaders, members and volunteers and brainstorm areas in your church that could use help and create volunteer roles to support that need.
2. Write Job Descriptions
Volunteers need to understand what is expected of them in their role.
A job description can help them know what job responsibilities they have, who they report to, how they are to dress, scheduled shift times and expected behaviors while serving.
Creating volunteer job descriptions requires some thought and upfront planning, but once these documents have been written it is simply a matter of keeping them updated.
There are some basic questions to ask when creating a job description that can help you clarify its intent and job responsibilities.
Take the time to think through these questions to ensure your volunteers have a clear understanding of their role.
Recruiting people to help meet the volunteer needs of a church requires making the congregation aware of the needs and providing a process to fill those needs.
Recruitment can be done through advertising in the church bulletin, pulpit announcements, video or person-to-person recruitment.
The best way to recruit new volunteers is simply walking up to someone who is not involved and asking them to help in an area of need.
Regardless of the method, it is important to make people aware of the needs and get them involved.
4. Efficient Application Process
Church volunteers should be required to go through a formal application process. The process involves collecting basic demographic information, job skills and volunteer interests.
This information is then entered into a database that stores all volunteer information including hours worked, areas served, job interests, skills, etc.
Make the process simple so volunteers can get involved as quickly as possible.
5. Efficient Screening Process
It is important to be aware of any issues volunteers may have had in their past, particularly when they have access to the offering or serve in a position of authority.
Volunteers should go through a thorough screening that involves a criminal background check and personal references.
As Christians, we know that a rebirth can change sinful patterns but it is only wise to be aware of someone’s past before placing them in sensitive areas.
For example, someone who has had issues with theft probably shouldn’t be given a job to help count the offering.
A personal interview is also an added layer of protection and is a great way to get to know the volunteer, understand their interests and get a feel for the best position for that person.
This personal conversation can also be beneficial as it sends a message to the volunteer that the organization has an interest in them and cares about those people who represent the ministry.
6. Job Assignment
Volunteers should be placed in a job that best fits their personality and skill-set.
All volunteer roles should have a well-defined role description to ensure the volunteer has a good understanding of what is expected of them and detail of job tasks.
For example, a volunteer who helps usher should know what time they need to be there, who they need to report to, where to find needed supplies and how to respond in an emergency.
The more detail you can provide the better equipped the volunteer will be to fulfill their role.
It can be awkward to be placed in a role and not know what to do or who to go to with questions.
Provide thorough training and provide an opportunity for new volunteers to ask questions about their job responsibilities.
Volunteers are like employees in that they need to be supervised and managed. And like employees, issues arise that need to be dealt with.
Communicate a clear chain-of-command and who is responsible for dealing with issues that arise.
For example, if a children’s ministry volunteer was observed being rude to a parent or inappropriate with a child, a supervisor should kindly pull the volunteer aside and address the issue, explain why their action was inappropriate and correct the behavior.
Dealing with issues quickly, kindly and directly is the best way to nip them in the bud and keep them from becoming bigger than they need to be.
Good communication is one of the most important aspects of managing any organization.
People who are involved with, and support a church or ministry, have a vested interest in what is going on and crave communication.
When volunteers are kept informed they feel valued and are more engaged with the organization.
So whether it is communicating upcoming events, introducing the newest members to the team or other church endeavors, a good communication process needs to be established.
There is lots of technology that can make this process quick and easy.
Email, Facebook, Twitter, and text are all great ways to get the word out at minimal costs. Find the best technology for your culture and keep communicating with those that support the mission.
10. Reward and Recognition
Volunteers often invest hundreds of hours every year to support the local church and should be recognized for doing so.
A volunteer program should have a structured reward and recognition program to thank the volunteers for their countless hours of support.
National volunteer week is in April every year so this is a great time to hold festivities to show appreciation to those who serve the church.
Managing the volunteer labor is an important function of church leaders. And, while large churches often have the resources to pay someone to do this role, many successful programs are built with volunteer labor.
All it requires is great organization, clear communication, and some basic people skills. Managing those who give freely of their time is no small responsibility and should be done with structure, excellence, and grace.
Does your church have a formal program to manage volunteers?
SCM members can access volunteer forms and job descriptions here.