If there is one thing I am asked more than everything else, it is ‘how do we find more volunteers?’. There aren’t any easy answers, but there are a few key things that can make a real difference to recruiting great volunteers that thrive and make a real difference.
You’d be amazed home many times I ask people if they have prayed look a bit embarrassed and say ‘oh. Yes. Of course.’ Don’t pray once – pray without ceasing! Pray specifically. Get your best prayer people on the case!
No two volunteering opportunities are the same. No two volunteers are the same. Spend some time thinking about what you really need. Do you need a person to keep a record of who is there, and to follow up anyone who hasn’t come for a few weeks? Or do you need someone who can lead sessions? Draw up a description of the role and the kind of person. Include a realistic assessment of the amount of time that it needs – 2 hours a week during term time, from 10-12 on a Sunday plus an hour preparation once a month. Or maybe 8 hours a month flexibly at home. Whatever it is, be specific. Ask us for some samples!
You can ask by doing a notice at the front of church. It rarely works, and you often get the kind of people who aren’t the most suitable responding. My tip? Ask people face to face. Explain why you think they would be good. Spend time getting to know potential people first. Spending 6 months having coffee and conversation reaps rewards at this moment as you know what they care about and are asking them to do something that they care about! Ask people who are already involved who they think would be good. Talk positively about the volunteering experience. Volunteering shouldn’t be a chore – it is good for young people, but also good for volunteers! Offer the chance to visit the group, and see what it is all about.
Now is the moment to safely recruit the volunteer. Agree the role description, fill in the safeguarding forms, and ensure that your church’s policy is followed.
Don’t think you have finished – volunteers should be given an annual review and opportunity to recommit. No one is signing the next 25 years away! Offer volunteers mentoring and training (we do great training in the diocese!) help them to discover new gifts and talents. Help them to grow in responsibility. The article I wrote for Youthwork Magazine covers this a bit more here.
We should say thank you in public. The church is as much volunteer army as anything else. Volunteers don’t have to do it – and that is why young people need them. They may well be one of the few adults in their life who don’t have to be there. Volunteers are heroes, and we should celebrate the amazing things they do in the service of God. Saying ‘thank you’ is the least we should do!