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!
Developing a program to manage volunteers helps to ensure that the people who give of their time will experience an efficient and customer friendly process.
10 Functions of a Volunteer Program
1. Identification of Volunteer Needs
Churches have countless needs for help and the first step in developing a volunteer program is to identity 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 need to also 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 in a volunteer role.
Creating volunteer job descriptions requires some thought and upfront planning, but once they have been written it is simply a matter of keeping them updated and current.
Recruiting people to help meet the volunteer needs of a church requires letting the congregation know what the needs are and providing a process to fill those needs.
This can be done through advertising in the church bulletin, pulpit announcements, video or person-to-person recruitment. 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. This process involves collecting basic demographic information, job skills and volunteer interests. This information is then entered into a database which stores all volunteer information including hours worked, areas served, job interests, skills, etc.
5. Efficient Screening Process
Volunteers should go through a thorough screening that involves a criminal background check and personal references. It is important to be aware of any issues volunteers may have had in their past, particularly when they serve in a position of authority.
As Christians we know that a rebirth can change sinful patterns but it is only wisdom 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 right position.
This personal conversation can also be beneficial as it sends a message to the volunteer that the organization has an interest in them.
6. Job Assignment
Volunteers should be placed in the 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 situation.
It can be an awkward to be placed in a role and not know what to do or who to go to with questions. This makes it important to provide thorough training and an opportunity for new volunteers to ask questions about their job responsibilities.
A structured volunteer orientation and training helps provide much needed information and a smooth transition for new volunteers
Volunteers are like employees in that they need to be supervised and managed. And like employees, issues arise that need to be dealt with. This makes it important to have a clear chain-of-command and a good understanding of 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.
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?
You can access volunteer forms and job descriptions here.