Pastors' Forum



What do other churches do to inspire people to become volunteers, to recruit them, to train them, and to appreciate them?


Pastor Dennis Cummins – Puyallup, WA
In this continuous quest to lead a predominately volunteer organization, I wished I would have paid more attention to finding the answer to this question 20 years ago. The only way I am seeing the growth and assimilation of people into our church is by making one huge focus shift. I had to quit looking for people to fill a role or position and look for leaders to lead people. I know this sounds like Maxwell 101 but to actually implement it wasn’t for me. I personally went through 6 staff transitions within a four month period last year. Worship Leader, Media Director, Children’s Pastor, Youth Pastor, (they resigned on the same day for different reasons) Personal Assistant and Book Keeper. Now that I say that, it could sound pretty bad…not really. While they were all great people and transitioned out for different reasons, I found that their primary focus was filling a role or a position that I gave them, not leading teams in accomplishing the vision (By the way—we really didn’t lose anyone or fall back through this huge transition—we leaped ahead). This is due to replacing those positions with leaders to lead leaders of teams. I stressed upon hiring them and every month in training them, “I didn’t hire you to fulfill a position but I hired you to lead leaders, build teams, and invest in people.

This brings me to my second point:
I now understand that I can’t make a withdrawal from anyone until I have made a deposit in them. I can’t expect to earn a return on someone that I have not invested in. This means taking time to build relationships, inviting people to our homes, breaking bread with them, praying with them, laughing with them and being there for them. Once I have made the investment/deposit in them, now I have earned the right to ask them to get involved.

Lastly, I think it’s important that we need to build personal loyalties with people that supersede their loyalty to the vision of the church. We should give, sacrifice, and bleed for the Kingdom, not for our leaders. Yet if our leaders are investing in us with open hands, then they will give to the Kingdom. This way if leaders move on their teams don’t since they were working for the vision and not the person.

Pastor James Hosack – Carlsbad, NM
At Church On The Move, Carlsbad, New Mexico, we attract new volunteers through relationships with others. Our volunteers involve their friends from the church through exemplary behavior. We refer to our volunteer corps. as our dream team.

We focus on team-building. We reward our volunteers with lavish praise and thanks. We express this verbally, and with thank you notes, including gift cards to local restaurants. We also host an annual Dream Team thank you dinner at an upscale restaurant to thank them, express how important their service is to the Lord through our local church, and to cast vision for the upcoming year (as we host this in the late Fall of each year).

We hold quarterly meetings to update our policies, and review what is working well, and where we need to make adjustments and updates to our approach with regards to each area of service in our church.

Pastor Stan Saunders – Chillicothe, MO
Recruiting volunteers is one of the greatest challenges that every pastor and church faces. So, I never stop recruiting. Every pastor on staff is constantly recruiting. We recruit when we have no positions to fill, because the situation is fluid. Someone is on the verge of quitting their position for various reasons. Recruit, recruit, recruit.

We also have created a family-like atmosphere in our church. Every family has chores to do. Our “members” are more like family members. So, we have a close feeling with each other which produces a greater bond and sense of responsibility. We also give many meaningful opportunities to our church family. Volunteers lead our prison outreach to over 200 prisoners weekly. About 1300 people receive a week’s worth of groceries through our Life Center Food Pantry every month. Almost all of this ministry is led by volunteers.

We run a monthly Sunday morning class for people who are new to our church called Connect. First Sunday is called Flavor, where we tell the story of our church—our history, how we operate, and our vision. Second Sunday is called Grow, where we map out a plan for spiritual development. Third Sunday is called Discover, where people take a personality and spiritual gifts assessment. Fourth Sunday is called Serve, where every serving opportunity is shared.

With all of these things in place, we still are greatly challenged in filling all of our serving needs.

Pastor Thom Fields – Kennewick, WA
Leading people into a lifestyle of service is one of my major goals. Convincing and convicting the heart of a self-centered, carnal believer is a daunting task, but here a few tidbits that have become fairly effective on my journey of involving as many as possible and building strong teams along the way.

I start by training our leaders that their number one goal (as a leader) is to “Build Teams.”

I don’t need a bunch of “task performers”—I need a team of “people developers.” People who are focused upon task performance (especially leaders) are under the belief that the more they “do” the more their value as a leader increases. I tear that belief system down, brick by brick, so that every individual on my team has a clear understanding that their value to me as a leader increases more and more as they invest themselves in the development of others. I do everything I can to instill this reality into the hearts of our main influencers. If I can get a leader to latch onto the vision of “developing people,” I can guarantee that individual of a prosperous future.

So, like I stated, I start by training my trainers. Then, I STOP allowing them to “recruit.”

I know this may sound like just a bunch of “words”… but making this shift has made a HUGE DIFFERENCE in the effectiveness of every single ministry team within our church. We put a complete stop to recruiting. Now we INVITE. Think about it. A recruit is somebody who is about to get themselves prepared for war. When you’re recruiting “nursery workers”, doesn’t it sort of paint a picture of luring unsuspecting individuals into a war-torn combat zone? “You’ve just been recruited for the very next suicide mission. Now put a smile on your face and hang on!” But a totally different picture emerges when you shift to an Invitation. When you invite people to join the nursery team their picture is no longer one of going to war, but one of going to a PARTY! I’ve experienced much greater success when we’ve forgotten about attempting to recruit workers and made the shift to inviting people to join a team that is blessed beyond measure with the opportunity of changing for eternity the lives of small children that God has placed within our care. Again—you may think it’s just a choice of words…but it’s a mind-shift that makes a huge difference.

Next, I find creative ways to teach Familial Responsibility.

At our house everybody has a job. Not much has changed, either. I was raised with a long list of chores. Nobody in our house had the luxury of watching everybody else do all the work while they laid on the couch and played Halo on the Xbox. (We didn’t have one of those any way—but you get what I mean.) It’s the same way (or it needs to be!) in the House of God. It is my job (as the Pastor) to awaken the sleeping giants that are sitting in our pews to the awareness of their role within the body. I go hunting for stories from Team Members who have recently been blessed during a time of serving in order to share it with the body. I get our leaders to talk up the FUN that their departments enjoy as they serve together and the growth that participation has created in the lives of the individuals who have accepted the invitation to become team members. Together, my leaders and I try to negate the thought that serving is a burden or that it takes too much time or that it’s only for “gifted people” or “talented people” or “whatever excuse they can come up with.” We just try to have fun and make anyone who isn’t participating feel as though they were missing the party!

Finally, I Reward the Diligent.

If there’s one area that I want to be more like God—this is it. I want to be a “Rewarder of Diligent People!” I must openly admit that I often miss great opportunities to reward the diligent. I can get so busy—or distracted—that I miss the chance to simply throw a $10 Famous Dave’s gift card (enough for a bread pudding dessert with 2 coffee’s!) to each of the guys who faithfully help people find parking spots. But every time I do one of these little rewards—the body reaps great benefits. People LOVE being loved! It’s amazing how many months of hard work you can get out people whose job it is to smile and open doors for the price of a build-your-own frozen yogurt treat. It’s almost disgusting!

Party Like a Rock Star!

Another thing we’ve done every year at our church that just blows people’s minds—we party like a rock star! We purchase several really nice prizes—for example, big screen TVs one year and a large Traeger smoker another—and a bunch of smaller prizes. We give workers tickets and let them pick the prizes they want to be in drawings for. They can put all their tickets toward one prize or they can spread them out any way they’d like. Then, towards the end of the evening, we start drawing tickets for the individual prizes and giving the gifts to lucky winners while serving cookie bars or finger foods.

We also have our Team Leaders select one person from each department who has been their “Shining Star” for the year and bring those individuals up in front of all the other workers and celebrate them with CASH GIFTS. This demonstrates to all the workers why the attributes of a great volunteer are worth pursuing.

Not only has this proven to be a very effective way of building moral amongst our volunteers – but it also demonstrates how much we value EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. We go all out! Holding nothing back! And we have seen lives really changed and blessed through this practice. Testimonies are amazing of how grateful and honored people are to share life and ministry together through serving the Body. We tell people that God is a rewarder…we’ve found PROVING IT has positioned us (The Church) to reap a great harvest of very invested workers!

Pastor Marvin Yoder – Mattoon, IL
Our philosophy is to create a “want to” within people in the congregation to desire being involved in serving at Life Pointe. We outline the opportunities available and mention the personal benefits of being involved in some area at LifePointe.

We make known the areas where help is needed in the church on a regular basis in our weekly bulletin and in the verbal announcements in our services. We have instructed people in charge of each department to actively recruit people within the congregation to volunteer in their departments. Our experience is that most people will volunteer when they are sought out and personally asked to help by the department heads.

We also routinely express our appreciation and thanks to those who are already volunteering through public recognition, cards of thanks, and items such as gifts or gift cards. We are always looking for new ways to express our appreciation to those who are already volunteering.

In addition to the above, our new discipleship program also has one section on serving which outlines attitudes and values, and gives general guidelines for being involved in some department at LifePointe. One of the requirements to graduate from the serving section of the discipleship course is for a person to be involved and helping in some area at LifePointe.