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7 Secrets to a Compelling Volunteer Culture
July 6, 2017

We’re pleased to be sharing this guest post on our blog today, from Jeff Brodie of Connexus Church in Ontario, north of Toronto.

Finding volunteers can be a challenge in ministry, and I often have church leaders ask me “How do I get volunteers?” Lots of people offer tips and tricks, but these approaches are often short-term solutions.

I’m convinced that the real key to attracting great volunteers is creating a great volunteer culture. When you ask someone in your church to get involved, the reputation of your volunteer culture precedes your invitation to serve.

A great volunteer culture compels people to get involved. Here are some of the characteristics I see in churches that have a compelling volunteer culture:

1. They are motivated by what they want FOR people, not from people.

They recognize that it’s not about “slot-filling” and “cattle calls”, it’s about an opportunity for people to grow spiritually and participate in the mission. They recognize that when people serve like Jesus on the outside, they become more like Him on the inside. Their primary motivation is to see God grow people, not grow their programs. They want to help people find the right place to serve.

2. They look to develop leaders, not delegate tasks.

Here’s a question that we all hear in planning meetings: “Who can we get to do this task for us?”  We can get so focused on the short-term task of getting the job done, that we miss the opportunity to help someone reach their leadership potential. Great volunteer cultures don’t see people as a means to an end, but an opportunity to relationally invest in a disciple. Staff frequently have conversations about specific volunteers and the next step in their development.

3. They don’t just tell people that they are important, but they give them something important to do.

Here’s something we do as leaders that really hurts us. We stand up and tell people in our congregation that they are critical to the incredible mission God is calling us to, then we offer them the chance to make coffee or greet people. These are important tasks, but high capacity leaders in your audience are thinking “If I’m so important, why don’t you give me something significant that I can really lead?” Professional communicators, leaders of corporate teams, or creative artists sometimes choose to be spectators because they need to be personally challenged with something bigger.

Churches I see with great volunteer cultures have volunteers in their staff meetings, have internal intern programs that give young leaders significant tasks, and have volunteers who lead teams that include staff in large projects.

4. Their volunteers feel like they become better people by serving.

This is true in 100% of the churches I see with great volunteer cultures. The volunteers I talk to inevitably mention how volunteering at their church makes them a better parent, business leader, and follower of Jesus. There’s something about the training and experience that adds value to their life. I’m still learning on this one, but we are starting to see it more and more in our context.

5. They keep the mission clear.

In these churches everyone knows the mission, vision, and values surrounding the ministry. They work hard to keep these front and center. When they get to the point where volunteers are reinforcing the culture’s values with other volunteers, they know that they are winning.

6. They keep the bar high.

They also don’t lower the expectation bar in order to get people, they raise the bar because the mission is so important. The side effect: great leaders attract great leaders. A high level of commitment up front means you attract the highest committed leaders.

7. They understand the importance of fun.

These churches are intentional and creative about fun. If all you do is serve coffee and donuts, you are going to attract Homer Simpson. They work hard to creatively thank their volunteers, they write tons of thank you cards, they make sure training is both relevant and fun, they make up crazy awards, they’ll even slide in program elements just because they are fun for the volunteers.

It’s never easy to find great volunteers, but a great volunteer culture creates healthy teams and a compelling reputation as you recruit others. Your culture’s reputation precedes your ask.

The type of volunteer culture you create attracts the type of volunteer you recruit.

As you look at present and future opportunities for your ministry to engage volunteers in the mission, think about the volunteer culture that you are trying to create. There are few things more exciting than seeing seeing people using their gifts and finding joy in being a part of moving the mission of the local Church forward.

About Jeff:

Jeff is the Lead Pastor at Connexus Church and he brings oversight and leadership to Connexus’ campuses. After seven years of full-time ministry experience at a multi-site church in Oakville, Jeff joined the team at Connexus in the fall of 2008 as Executive Director, overseeing Family Ministry and organizational operations. Jeff is passionate about creating churches that unchurched people love to attend, expanding the vision, mission, and visibility of Connexus throughout Ontario, and serving the local communities that surround the campuses.

Jeff also enjoys opportunities where he can invest in and encourage next generation leaders. He speaks at various conferences and workshops in Canada and the United States throughout the year.

He and his wife Leslie live in Barrie, Ontario with their two boys and, as a family, they are avid sports fans and players of soccer, football, and hockey.