How to Gather Volunteers

Every week a miracle happens here and you are part of it. This was the start of an announcement at the end of the worship service one week. I expected the next sentence to be something about communion, or prayer.

Every week, after worship, we work together to put away all these chairs (150-200 folding chairs) and it happens in no time because so many of you help. That’s a miracle.

Our volunteer-recruiter went on to talk about forming teams to set up the chairs before the service — no less amazing, but less miraculous-seeming  because it requires planning.

It takes a lot of work to gather, organize and equip volunteers. Gathering volunteers isn’t simply about getting stuff done. The tasks to do are opportunities to work together, to see our place in the body of Christ, to build relationships, to discover purpose.

But HOW do I Get People Involved?

I am bursting with more ideas than I will ever follow through on. There is not enough time for them all! When I do follow through, here are some strategies for getting others involved that seem to work.

Invite specific people.

Broadcast announcements of events or requests for volunteers — newsletter items, e-mail blasts, general announcements to a large group —  let lots of people know what’s going on, but they are easy to ignore. Direct invitations to one person or a small group usually elicit more thoughtful responses.

Who do you know that cares about the issue/task/organization you are working on? Who has some gifts related to the task? Who trusts you? People who trust you are more likely to seriously consider your request.

Chat about your project with people you think might be interested. If they are curious, tell more and invite them to help.

Share the big picture.

Do not minimize the commitment or the value of the volunteer’s work. When we ask others to help out and say, “Oh, this won’t take too much of your time, ” or “It’s not so hard,” we diminish everyone. If it’s important, if it’s challenging, say so!

Why does this matter? Does this contribute to a more just world? Does this build up the kingdom of God? Does this work help someone else see their intrinsic value as a person created in the image of God? These are goals worth working for.

Be easy about no.

There are hundreds of good things we could do. We want to spend our time on the good work God has called us, specifically, to do.

In Small Things with Great Love, Margot Starbuck and writes about someone at her church who recruits volunteers saying this: “I’ve got something here and I wonder if it has your name on it.”
Starbuck points out that this invitation reveals two assumptions:
1. If this is God’s work, then God will put somebody’s name on it. God will gently tap someone who is gifted and called to do it. Someone might be gifted and still not called to do this particular thing.
2. If it’s not got your name on it, then don’t bother hogging it up because it’s meant for someone else.
It’s a liberating perspective for the one seeking volunteers and the person invited to help.

No just means, “Not me right now.” In humility I want to trust God to provide the workers for whatever He wants to be done.

Go on! Inspire someone else to get involved in the work of humility, justice and kindness. It’s what the Lord requires of us, together.