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Volunteers – How to Find Them, Train Them, and Keep Them

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.”
– Ephesians 4:11
Certain gifts have been given to equip others for the work of ministry. The load of “doing ministry” does not, and should not, fall on the vocational pastor. Their job is to equip others for the work of ministry.

One way people can do the work of ministry is by volunteering on the local church level. They can identify their gifts, and then serve in order to bless others. It’s a terrific model that just makes sense. Allow the pastor to focus on his role as equipper, while the vast majority of saints take the lead in ministering to the church and the community.

I think we can all agree, however, that this is not what it always looks like. When I look at churches, I see the equippers doing most of the ministering, and I see the saints doing a lot of the receiving. Can you think of any ministries where it seems downright impossible to get regular, consistent, faithful volunteers? Nursery duty, anyone? This is not exactly the model set up for us in the New Testament. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely equippers who don’t like to let go of tasks or projects; they hold on tight and want to take care of everything themselves. Wouldn’t you agree that they would have a greater impact if they were to let go, equip others, and focus on their calling?

Why does it look this way? Well, I’m not 100% sure, but I do know there are strategies that we can all consider on how to raise up volunteers who love to operate within their gifts and bless others. Here are a few strategies for us to consider:

1. Find Them

Volunteers are out there. They are everywhere. But something is keeping them from serving. What are the barriers that are keeping people from stepping up to serve? Here are a couple to consider:

– Fear

This barrier can take so many different shapes. One is a feeling of inadequacy. Take someone who has a great heart for Jesus, a sound theology, and an amazing voice. They think they could use their gifts on the worship team, but they may compare themselves to the people on stage thinking they could never do that. Another could be a fear of rejection. They want to step up, but are afraid that they will be turned down. This barrier can be dealt with from the pulpit. A specific message could be preached on this topic, but I think an overall tone from the lead pastor can truly help nullify this fear.

– Apathy

Some people just don’t see why this is important. They may think that someone else can take care of the needs of the church. It’s not that they necessarily have a bad attitude, it may just be that they do not fully understand why God created them. Helping people recognize the truth behind these verses goes a long way.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
– Ephesians 2:10
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
Ephesians 4:11-12
A solid understanding of these verses will help people overcome the barrier of apathy.

2. Train Them

Once you knock those barriers out of the way, it’s time for leaders to step aside and build opportunities for people to serve. It may be time for you to give up control of a certain area and allow others to step up and serve. Examples include a larger welcome team (always a good idea to have people dedicated to seeking out new people to welcome them and combat any cliques that may form within a church), a parking team, or a “have a great day team” that tells everyone goodbye as they leave. You name it; create opportunities for people to serve.

– Job Description

When you do create these opportunities, you also need to create job descriptions. Yes, even for volunteers. Especially for volunteers. Each job description will serve as a set of guidelines and expectations for the new people. This will help hold everyone to a certain standard, and it will allow you to evaluate their various gifts and talents.

– Train

Once the opportunity is created, and the job description is in place, call people to step up, then train them. Don’t just hand over the reigns to a qualified person and say, “You got this”. No way. Take the time to train these new volunteers. Let them see how you want things done at a level of excellence and commitment. This is a prime opportunity to disciple and replicate your “ministry DNA” into someone else.
The 4 stages of training are:

1. I do, you watch
This allows them to see exactly what it is you are looking for
2. We do together
Teamwork
3. You do, I watch
We don’t just want to drop them in the deep end without us being there
4. You do, I coach
Now, we don’t have to be together. You’ve entrusted the ministry to them and now you can meet on a regular basis to talk about successes and opportunities for growth

3. Keep Them

This is an important part of this process. Celebrate your volunteers. Don’t let them go unnoticed. Recognize them. It’s okay to publicly thank those who are giving their time and energy to serve the local church. Don’t be afraid to have a big dinner one night for all the volunteers in your church. Showing your appreciation will go a long way in maintaining volunteers and enticing new ones to step up to the plate.

Hopefully by implementing these strategies, you will see people step up and serve your church in ways you could only imagine.

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