9 Ways to Motivate More Church Volunteers

9 Ways to Motivate More Church Volunteers

Would you like to bring more enthusiasm and participation to your church’s volunteer programs? Do you struggle to find ways to get more people involved or to get a greater commitment from those already volunteering?

If so, here are some simple ways to motivate more church volunteers I have found to be successful.

Do what Jesus told us to do: pray for laborers.

His words could be no more clear than Matthew 9:37-38: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” If you’re not praying for workers, you’ve missed the fundamental step to recruiting volunteers.

9 ways to motivate more church volunteers:

1. Teach Service as a Component of Discipleship

I use the word “volunteer,” but the Bible doesn’t use that term in reference to God’s work. We are followers of Jesus, students of the King, and laborers in His vineyard. Serving is not optional in His work; in fact, the word “disciple” makes more sense than “volunteer” when speaking of God’s work.

2. Make Serving an Expectation from the Beginning

New believers and recent church members are often the most ready to serve God. They’re motivated and willing. Teach them—optimally in a membership class—why and how they must use their gifts in your church. Expect them to serve, and then help them get connected via a spiritual gifts assessment, personal interview, etc., during the membership class.

3. Utilize a Good Tool to Help Members Understand How They Might Best Serve

Tools like Rick Warren’s SHAPE process, Wayne Cordeiro’s DESIGN process, and Jay McSwain’s PLACE process help believers look not only at their spiritual gifts, but also at their personalities and life experiences. When members begin to understand how God has shaped them throughout their lives, they will begin to see more clearly how they may be of use to God today.

4. Quickly Give New Members a Role

Clearly, one’s level of spiritual maturity matters here, but everybody needs to be needed in the church. Create entry-level positions (e.g., preparing coffee, greeting in the parking lot, cleaning the worship center between services), and give each person some responsibility. If a member knows he will be missed if he doesn’t show up, he’ll think twice about staying home.

5. Focus on People Rather Than Positions

Many churches recruit volunteers this way: They have an open position, so they look for someone to fill it. That process can work, but it may overlook the people God has intentionally placed in our churches. Sometimes God brings folks to us who don’t seem to fit any of our current positions; instead, they bring opportunity to develop a new ministry or approach. That’s one reason we need to help members understand how God has shaped them—we then develop ministries around people, rather than positions.  

6. Use Personal Recruiting Rather Than Pulpit or Worship Guide Announcements

Let’s face it: folks generally don’t listen to our announcements or read our worship guides thoroughly. Moreover, a “blanket” announcement about a specific need might create the awkward situation where a volunteer who isn’t motivated offers to fill a leadership role you’ve broadcast. Enlist recruiters who value the position for which they’re recruiting, and turn them loose to have face-to-face conversations with qualified potential workers.

7. Offer Training and Support for Volunteers

Volunteers who haven’t been properly prepared may feel discouraged and alone. Too often, churches focus simply on getting volunteers to say “yes” to the task and don’t provide the support or motivation they need to succeed in the role. Change that pattern by providing solid training, ongoing encouragement via email, and continuing prayer support. Build this training into your church’s volunteer program so that potential recruits know that your church stands behind those who are willing to serve.

8. Provide “Practice” Opportunities

Strategies that allow potential volunteers to “test the water” can help them determine their place of service. For instance, allow a potential teacher to teach one week under the loving eye of a master teacher. Invite that prospective men’s leader to join an event-planning team. Let them serve with less risk while you and they seek God’s will.

9. Recognize Those Who Serve

Publicly saying “Thank you” can go a long way for volunteers. In fact, I encourage churches to pray for workers as they begin their service, and then honor them for their faithfulness at least once a year. A simple but intentional “Well done, faithful servant” can be enough to motivate volunteers for the year to come.

One of the 5 bad habits that kill church growth is a lack of investment in volunteers. In fact, poor leadership of volunteers can have an adverse effect not only on the workers but a particularly negative ripple effect on church operations as a whole. That’s why we wrote the free ebook, 5 Bad Habits That Kill Church Growth. Download it today to learn the additional 4 habits that impact the health of your community.

Chuck Lawless
Chuck Lawless

Dr. Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions, Dean of Graduate Studies, and Vice-President for Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. He previously served as a Vice-President for Global Theological Advance for the IMB and as dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY.
He has authored several books, contributed articles to various periodicals, written Bible study curriculum, and led conferences on spiritual warfare, healthy church growth, leadership, evangelism, discipleship, and prayer. He blogs at chucklawless.com. He and his wife, Pam, live in Wake Forest, NC.