This is Part 2 of a two-part post. For Part 1 on “How to Ask for Volunteers,” click here.
The Church is full of things that need doing. But often, we find ourselves struggling to get people involved. Here are a few more thoughts on how to ask for volunteers.
5. Tell them exactly what you want them to do and for how long. No matter how large or small a job, it’s always helpful for folks to know exactly what is expected of them. No one wants to serve a life sentence, so even if it is for a day, a year, or 3 years, be specific about how long you want them to serve. This helps also in keeping them healthy and the ministry vibrant. Also, many of us learn our gifts by trying something new, but if we don’t know how to do it, then we will easily say no or quit. All ministries of the church require guidance and passing along the best practices to the next person who is doing them. Especially in churches where not everyone is a cradle Episcopalian, it’s important to help them know how to set the altar, or how to greet people as they come into church, or how to pull weeds in the Memory Garden.
6. Check in with them, but don’t micromanage. This is tough and requires some skill. There is a fine line between being supportive and seeming like you’re undermining someone’s work. This is another place where relationship is key. Making sure that volunteers have the resources they need to do what’s been asked of them is important. Gentle notes of encouragement are helpful. Sometimes, when someone doesn’t show up or the job doesn’t get done, we jump to conclusions that they don’t care or aren’t good volunteers. Nine times out of ten, I’ve found that people have a legitimate reason for not fulfilling their task, whether it’s a crisis, or that they really wanted out of the job, but didn’t know how to communicate it properly. But overall, we should remember that if we’ve asked someone to help, we should let them help. They may come up with a new way of doing something, and that’s OK.
7. Remind them that even mundane tasks have the potential for the work of God’s Kingdom. I have to be honest. I used to think that flower arranging was an unimportant role in the church. However, through the gentle and loving gifts of the artists who serve on Flower Guilds, I have learned that such a seemingly mundane task has implications for the building of God’s kingdom. The multi-sensory ministry of flower arranging can bring people to experience worship in a new way. Flowers move people to tears or draw smiles across their faces. Every task done in the name of Christ has this same potential, whether it’s taking out the trash after services, washing dishes, or pulling weeds. If we approached volunteers with the wonderful implications of what these seemingly mundane tasks do for others, instead of proclaiming the drudgery, we will at least pique their interest.
8. Thank them profusely. We don’t do ministry to receive thanks, but because we are Christians and have been called to have grateful hearts, we should shower people with such gratitude. I am often amazed the time and effort people give to make things special. I am so indebted to the multitudes of fellow workers in the vineyard who go above and beyond for the sake of spreading the Good News. I’m also indebted to the people who did that one task years ago and never did it again, or the people who can no longer serve. All tasks done are important and for them, we should thank people privately, and publicly. We can never do this enough. So be sure to write thank you notes, give hugs in gratitude, and “embarrass” people publicly when appropriate. At St. Nicholas, the Vestry votes on a “Steward of the Month” where we spotlight the work of one person or group. It makes the Vestry remember each month to recognize their fellow parishioner’s work, and makes us all grateful for the gifts God has given.
I write this for myself as much as I do for others, as I fall prey to the temptations of not asking for volunteers well all the time. So as you prepare for your next push for volunteers, remember these few things and see if they make a difference. This is also not an exhaustive list by any means, so feel free to add other ideas for asking for volunteers in the comments section below.
To say that there aren’t people to help isn’t really the issue when you look at the faces of people who come to church on Sunday morning. Sometimes, it’s merely the way we ask that can make all the difference.