Why Can’t the Church Recruit Volunteers?

VolunteeringHave you noticed how many people are volunteering these days in their communities or even traveling to assist in far away disaster areas?
Why is the church having such a difficult time recruiting?

For years we have complained that people are too busy to serve.  Is it that they are too busy or that they are investing their time and efforts elsewhere?  I have long contended that people find the time to do what they feel is important.  Maybe we need to start asking ourselves why people don’t value serving in the church enough to make it a priority.  Why isn’t serving God in and through the church perceived as important, as a worthy investment of their time?

I believe part of the reason is that for too long the church (generally speaking) has acted like a second rate organization, slow to change, and quick to minimize both the service and servant.

Perhaps we’re not doing this intentionally but it happens when we fail to invest adequate planning and hence lack excellence in what we do.  It happens when we expect people to do things the way they have always been done and aren’t willing to accommodate to their needs and interests.  It happens when we recruit in the church parking lot or use guilt or manipulative tactics.  It happens when we do not adequately train people for ministry or fail to say “thank you.”  It happens!

And where local churches are trying to change, people still have perceptions of what the church has been like and so they continue to move cautiously.

Here are some problem areas responsible for such perceptions and suggestions for what we need to do to start changing perceptions about volunteering in the church:

— little value perceived in serving

We need to promote a cause worth their involvement. Cast a vision for serving.  Promote the difference they can make for eternity.

— narrow or inward scope

We need to be more outwardly focused, to make a difference in the world around us.  Build up the saints to grab hold of the big picture.  Communicate the truth of the Gospel in non-verbal, as well as verbal, means.  Feed the hungry, help the poor, assist those in crisis … in Jesus’ name.  People should not feel guilty for serving in their communities.  Rather, we should come along side of them with encouragement and resources.

— shabby recruitment efforts

We need to ramp up our efforts.  Invest time and effort into promoting, recruiting, and placing people in ministry.  Don’t rely on announcements in the bulletin or from the pulpit.  Take time to personally talk with people in a non-rushed setting.

— limited choices in how to serve 

We need to think outside of the box.  Tap into people’s gifting, passions, and availability.  Be willing to change.  Offer short-term as well as long-term opportunities for serving, low or no prep as well as higher preparation tasks, behind-the-scenes as well as upfront settings, inside the walls of the church as well as out in the community, etc.

— minimal assistance given in serving

We need to come along side of people.  Let people know how you will train, support, provide materials, and encourage them and then follow through.

— low expectations in serving 

We need to raise the bar.  Build in some accountability, along with assistance to do better.  Where little is expected, little is given.

— minimal expressions of affirmation and appreciation

We need to demonstrate authentic body life.  Let people know how much they are valued.  Everybody has a part.  We need each other.  Don’t take people for granted.

Do you want people to get more involved in the church?  Ask what kind of perceptions they might have about serving in your church.  Then, under God’s guidance, begin the process of change.

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3 Replies to “Why Can’t the Church Recruit Volunteers?”

  1. This seems to be a very common problem in churches today. From my own experience, I have volunteered but the church seems to not respond. It is very frustrating that, on one hand the church is crying for help, but on the other hand, when it IS offered, it’s not noticed, or responded to. I am active in several volunteer projects in the community, and serve on several boards, due primarily because I want to volunteer somewhere. I gave up on the church, so I pursued other avenues.

    • I am so sorry to read of your experience in the church, Paul. I cannot speak directly on what happened in your situation but I can say that God’s design is for everyone to have a part (Eph. 4:16). For that to happen, it must be a part of the church’s DNA, so to speak. We must take God at His Word when He says the growth of the Body is at stake so much so that it becomes a part of the church’s culture to promote and seek the involvement of everyone. To be real about this, it takes a commitment of time and effort. It takes diligence and persistence. It takes prayerfulness and dependence on God to work in everyone’s heart. It takes personal contact and strategic planning in placing people into their best fit. It takes coordination and communication. If leaders don’t make this kind of investment, exercising the qualities I just mentioned, making it a priority, you’ll have what you wrote … “crying for help, but on the other hand, when it is offered, it’s not noticed, or responded to.” But, to be fair, one leader (i.e., pastor), will find it difficult to provide this kind of coordination in addition to all other responsibilities. This is where mentoring or developing other leaders to have this same ministry philosophy is critical so they in turn promote it in their spheres of influence and eventually it become a part of the church’s culture.

      I encourage you to not completely give up on the church. The church is still God’s plan for today. People who make up the church may disappoint and fail to completely line up with God’s design but the church is still HIS church. Obviously, the church will not change overnight but let’s pray for the work of the Holy Spirit to bring change and renewal. In the meantime, I pray you have a ministry as salt and light in the community in which you are serving.

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