When a first-time guest pulls into your church parking lot, who is the first person they see? Most likely, it is a volunteer. When a new family checks in their children for the first time, to whom are they entrusting their precious babies? Again, it is probably a volunteer.
Church volunteers are more than people who simply complete tasks. Church volunteers are the hands and feet of Christ; teaching children, making sure people feel welcome, leading Bible studies, and much more. Part of leading a congregation involves equipping the saints for the work of ministry. In this way, we are all active participants in the church body.
Leading a team of church volunteers involves inspiring and motivating individuals, providing clear instructions and training, managing the schedule, and more. As your congregation grows, you will need (and hopefully will have) more volunteers. To coordinate all of the efforts that go into leading church volunteers, you’ll either need more church staff or more efficient systems. The proper use of technology can help you get new volunteers up-to-speed quickly and keep your teams on-track along the way.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-12
Here are a few ways to use technology as you build and lead a church volunteer team:
#1 – Enable People to Sign Up Online
While volunteer ‘asks’ from the stage can work well, a personal invitation to join a volunteer team has a higher success rate. Announcements from the stage certainly work, but a simple “Hey, I think you’d be a great fit for our Bookstore team. Would you be interested in serving there once a month?” is more personal and is likely to yield a positive response.
Once someone mentions they are interested in joining a team, provide them with a link to sign up on the church website. Include a simple form for new volunteers to complete based on which team they are interested in (you might also require background checks for some roles and not others, etc.). This keeps you from having to gather that information at that time, plus it ensures that the data is secured within your church management system.
For individuals who may not have access to a computer, make sure you have a paper form they can fill out. Once you have their information, you can complete the form online on their behalf so those details are in your church management system.
#2 – Schedule and Conduct Training Online (and Offline Too)
Once you have received a completed volunteer signup form, you can get that new church volunteer slated for training. Some volunteer roles are well-suited for online training while others will require an in-person session. Providing training for certain roles online makes it easier for parents to complete training in the evenings after their children are in bed or for the working professional who can watch a training video during her lunch hour. This reduces potential barriers so people can receive the training necessary to be successful in their new role.
If your church does not have the capacity to create your own training videos at this time, you might consider using a pre-made option. LifeWay developed a site called MinistryGrid.com that provides online training for new volunteers. Life.Church’s Open Network also has online training videos for volunteers. Depending on the role, you may want to use these along with some in-person training as well.
For in-person training sessions, provide a link for new volunteers to sign up for the next available session. Aim to host at least one session per month for each volunteer role.
#3 – Use a Central Online Tool to Log Volunteer Requests
Making sure you have enough volunteers for a big event or even Sunday services tends to be an all-hands-on-deck assignment. As a volunteer, I have had multiple staff members contact me to ask if I could serve at the same event (at the same time but in different roles). The staff members meant well, but they had not coordinated amongst themselves to make sure they were not asking the same people to serve at that event.
To avoid those awkward situations, consider using a tool like Google Sheets or your church’s ChMS to note which volunteers you plan to contact about serving on a particular day. Most church management software comes with functionality to schedule volunteers and includes notes in searchable fields within an individual’s record.
Regardless of how this information is coordinated, check that system before talking with volunteers to make sure they are not receiving a duplicative request. Once a volunteer is confirmed to serve at an event, update the system so other staff members know they are already committed for the day.
#4 – Leverage Technology to Connect Volunteers With Special Projects
Chances are there are people in your congregation with specialized skillsets that can come in handy for a variety of situations. You may have doctors, plumbers, firefighters, carpenters, bankers, project managers, photographers, and more. Why not gather this information when they become members of the church or when they sign up to serve? Enter their profession and specific skills into a searchable field in your ChMS. When you need to gather people who can help after a natural disaster, you can quickly search the ChMS for the carpenters, project managers, and handymen in the congregation. Send a mass text message or email to these individuals, asking if they can mobilize to serve the community.
Other instances where this can be helpful include:
- Making costumes for the children’s Christmas play – search for those who can sew and see if they can pull together an army of sewing machines
- Church renovation projects – search for architects, general contractors, and landscapers in your congregation and see if they might be willing to serve on the building committee or provide their professional opinion on various aspects of the project
#5 – Enable Volunteers to Serve Remotely
Your church may have a volunteer who is great at graphic design. This volunteer likely has a day job, and may only be available to do design work for the church in the evenings. However, you would rather not require a staff member to have to be at the church to access network files from the church office. Instead, grant this volunteer access to files in the cloud or via a VPN login so they can design and provide you with the work when they are available. Making volunteer work convenient for the volunteer usually saves time and shows volunteers gratitude for their contribution.
Graphic design certainly is n0t the only way a volunteer could serve remotely. Volunteers could write blog posts, taking excerpts from last week’s sermon and turning them into social media posts, providing administrative support to the pastors, helping organize various events, and more. Take the time to brainstorm what tasks people could do away from the church building and open up possibilities for people to use their time and talents for the Kingdom – regardless of where they are located at the time.
Church volunteer management is part of making and equipping disciples. It is easy to become overwhelmed with all the details involved in onboarding, training, and scheduling volunteers. Afterall, getting wrapped up in the minutiae can keep you from investing time in developing a strong, vibrant volunteer team. Avoid that scenario by leveraging technology as you coordinate and lead volunteer teams.