By Greg Curtis: Let’s face it. 2020 has taken a huge bite out of our volunteer apple.
As churches cautiously regather, many volunteers have chosen not to return because…
The spike in COVID makes them afraid to regather
They are in a high risk demographic
They are moving away due to the economic impact of 2020
They have gotten used to church online
They have changed churches during the shutdown
They felt the need for a break and now is their chance
Their reasons may vary, but the reality is that only 30% to 60% of church volunteers nationally are returning to serve at this point.
Because attendance averages are down as well, not quite as many volunteers are required to serve as before. But even before the pandemic, my church established a way of letting an overlooked group of people taste what it means to serve God and others. In fact, for years now we have earmarked volunteer positions in every ministry for this group of people. These are individuals who would not be allowed to serve in many churches.
Curious as to who they are? Meet Katie by clicking on the video before reading on. She represents someone from this group who recently begin serving at my church. I dare you to keep a lump from raising in your throat as you watch.
I love Katie’s story as she represents a group of people largely overlooked by churches: those who don’t know what they believe yet.
Many churches do not let people who are unsure about God or who have not made a commitment to following Jesus yet. I even know many large churches where you cannot serve unless you are a full fledged member.
I think this is a mistake for 2 reasons:
Jesus didn’t make disciples that way. In fact, his followers were serving alongside him for about a year and a half before one of them finally figured out who he was! (Matthew 16:13-20)/
Many people figure out who Jesus is by getting their hands dirty first. Seeing God move through them toward others (like Katie did) is what draws them to the discovery of who Jesus is for them.
As a result, I think serving is not for the discipled. It’s how you make a disciple.
Here are 3 things you can do over the next month or two to tap into this group for the sake of not just your church’s ministry, but for their own spiritual journeys.
Determine what qualifications are necessary for people who do not believe yet to serve at your church.
Our qualifications for them are these: they are regular attenders, they can show up on time, and they play well with others. If you have those 3 things going on, come serve with us. You can come up with your own. I just encourage you to define them.
Have each ministry leader at your church make a list of volunteer positions that could be filled by a “pre-christian”.
We call these “green level positions” I think around 20% of all your serving opportunities should be in this category. Here are the 3 levels of volunteers
Green means “go”: “Are you new to this, still exploring your faith but want to give back in some way?” These opportunities include things like data entry, tech team, playing a musical instrument, nursery, craft lab, facility maintenance, local compassion, greeting, and more.
Yellow means “caution”: “Do you consider yourself a new follower of Jesus or one who has not served through a local church before?” Let’s have you move into opportunities like being a next steps discussion leader, being a live chat moderator at our services, video editing, social media, info counter, virtually any team member.
Red means “stop”: “Have you been following Jesus for awhile now and want to expand his influence in a new way through your life? We would like to have some time get to know you and train you so you can consider roles like being a small group leader (in homes or online), Next Step Host, or a team leader of any kind.. Stoping allows time for these people to hav their readiness assessed so they and others do not have a negative experience serving or being served.
Communicate these opportunities where new people at your church gather.
I suggest communicating your entry/”green” level positions in these ways:
On your website. Make a webpage where people can not only see these opportunities, but sign up for them.
Through your team leaders. If they know which positions are “green” and know people that are still processing their faith in their relationship circle, empower them to invite them to serve on their team.
At your One Program for guests. We have a connection environment called Next Steps where new people to church can identify what they have to offer and match it to our entry level opportunities to serve. Watching this happen is one of the most meaningful things I get to witness in my role.
At physical Next Steps and at Next Steps Online, guests are given links to forms so a volunteer champ can set up an orientation, interviews, and training so they can be onboarded.
If this kind of approach to volunteering intrigues you, get my online course. Watch session 5 on volunteer placement processes and how to automate them for every department in your church through a volunteer champ system. You won’t regret acting on that concept.
In the mean time, try leading your team through the discussion below and land the plane on making disciples by creating volunteers out of people like Katie-people who are not sure what they believe yet.
Once they see God use them, the game could change forever.
1. What qualifications for serving do you think Jesus has for new people exploring faith at your church? List them.
2. What kind of volunteer roles are appropriate, even advantageous for people still exploring faith to serve in?
3. How will you make these easily available to this group of potential volunteers so they can jump in easily?
4. When will you have this new recruitment emphasis in place?
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