January 01, 2016

By Tricia Brown

The minority of the people do the majority of the work. Unfortunately, that is a statement of fact for many churches, and one that can lead to discontent among members. Churches need volunteers, and lots of them. But how can you convince someone to sacrifice time, energy and sometimes even their own money, to do something for free? How can you attract volunteers? 
    
By using some innovative and creative means of promoting the need for volunteers, you can let people know about service opportunities without turning them off.

Start with Scripture

The greatest way church leaders can gain volunteers is to teach and dialogue about the importance of loving through action. For United Methodists, participating in hands-on in ministry and mission is a way of living our membership vows to support the church with our “prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.”

Encourage Participation

In the article, Questioning charity: Redefining the role of the church, the author suggests that small churches stop creating costly volunteer programs and start connecting with existing programs. Why reinvent the wheel when current community projects desperately need helping hands? All the church needs to do is jump in and start making relationships.
    
Consider joining a volunteer matching service that uses an individual’s specific interests, passions or skills to recommend local or global volunteer projects they can get involved in. Check out the following organizations:     
Churches with more resources might consider creating a volunteer-matching service. Just subscribe to a volunteer-management service such as Hands On Connect or Network for Good and build your own online portal. These services will help you manage projects easily and recruit volunteers.
    
Already planning a community service event? Let us help you attract more volunteers! If your event qualifies for a Rethink Church Grant, we’ll build a basic volunteer management website for you as part of the grant. Our grant-funded media campaigns will direct people to this website where they can view your event’s projects and register to volunteer. 
    
We also provide you with a dashboard from which you can manage your own projects and run registration reports as needed. For questions about any of our grants, email us at rethinkchurchgrants@umcom.org or call 877-281-6535.

Create an Online Form

Add sign-up forms to your church website where interested church members can indicate interest in serving. You could even include a “talent” form where interested applicants can apply to be a part of your church volunteer database which matches skills with existing community needs.

Plan a Party

Pick a theme, bake a cake, make some punch and issue an open invitation. Create an attractive display where party-goers can check out opportunities to serve, peruse curriculum or supplies and sign up for responsibilities. Encourage church leaders to mingle, answering questions and discussing opportunities, responsibilities, support for volunteers and so forth.

Send an E-vite

Recruiting volunteers is often best done one-on-one. If you think someone would make a good fit for a particular position, consider a telephone call or a personal invitation. Use snail mail or email or try your hand at sending an online invitation using sites such as smilebox, paperlesspost or e-vite.         

These online “greeting card” sites offer a variety of entertaining options, some of which are free. The process is simple:
  1. Choose “invitation” for your type of card.
  2. Choose a design of your choice.
  3. Customize the design as the site allows, changing background colors, fonts and so forth.
  4. Add your text. Be sure to include your contact information.
  5. Include a volunteer form link.
  6. Proof your card.
  7. Email it to the recipient. Don’t pressure the individual, but do ask him or her to pray about the opportunity.

Make a Meme

Memes are the frequently comical, sometimes thought-provoking, statements that are included with an often-recognizable picture. They are circulated widely on the Internet, especially on social media. Take advantage of the fad and create a few of your own to advertise opportunities to serve. Apps such as Imgur Meme Generator and Meme Factory (Free, iOS) walk you through a step-by-step process:     
Some of these generators include auto-populated user-created examples that may be PG-13. We don’t endorse their content, only the tool.
    
Memes can encourage people to think about available opportunities. But, they work best when they are memorable. Do a little research to figure out what will be the most effective.


Create a Commercial

Use programs such as iMovie, Windows Movie Maker or masher.com to create recruitment commercials to display on your church website, hallway monitors or screens in the worship center. Create and produce a variety of skits that highlight the need for volunteers in comical and memorable ways. If you use a smartphone to shoot the video, check out these tips for how to record a video on your smartphone: http://desktopvideo.about.com/od/homevideotips/tp/Phone-Video.htm

In addition, think about ways to retain your volunteers once they have signed on for the tasks. Educate your congregation about the needs and encourage enthusiasm about participating. Support volunteers in every way you can and say “thank you” as often as possible. Recruiting may not be easy, but it can be fun.