Why People Don’t Volunteer at Your Church

Church Revitalization Podcast – Episode 109

“How can our church get more volunteers?” “Why don’t people volunteer at my church?” Have you ever asked these questions?

It’s a rare church that doesn’t constantly feel behind in volunteer engagement and it cripples the ministry.  Most church leaders we speak with think that people don’t want to volunteer, but we don’t think that’s true.  Unfortunately, that idea becomes self-perpetuating by the church doing even less to recruit people or work on a recruitment system that works. The good news is that this is a fixable situation! Let’s take a look at six common problems that churches face and how your church can get more volunteers.

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Job Security

Believe it or not, some pastors or staff members prefer to do as much as they can themselves out of self-preservation, and a need for importance.  This is usually not an intentional rationale, but instead just a bad habit that forms.  It actually develops into an opposite effect though.  The quantity of good ministry that one person can accomplish is finite. A leader that doesn’t work on replicating themself and leading others is bound for burnout and maybe even replacement with someone who can seem more productive.

Bad Theology

Too many people think serving in the church is the job of the pastor and staff.  Who is to blame for this misunderstanding of scripture?  People do have a responsibility to increase their own knowledge of God’s Word, but the greater responsibility is on the church to teach them well.  If church leaders fail to teach people the proper role of Christians in the church and in the Kingdom, that is a great travesty. Ephesians 4 tells us that God gave those leadership positions to “prepare God’s people for works of service.”  People serving is not only important for their own growth and maturity, but it also is important in building unity in the church.

Poor Time Management and Priorities

If you’re not spending time building leaders, then your schedule needs a makeover.  If you think you don’t have time to do that, then you probably need to get more volunteers in your church, and you need to keep reading this article.  The church that develops a culture of leadership development and volunteer engagement is the church whose leaders have time for more important things such as spiritual and organizational leadership (additional resource: Build Your Schedule to Build Your Church).

Fear of Failure

This one is from the perspective of the would-be volunteer.  Sometimes people don’t engage for fear of not being qualified or not knowing what to do.  No effective volunteer engagement process is complete without first qualifying people well. After they’re qualified, your church needs to train them and coach them for success.  In order to get more volunteers, people need to feel confident in what they do and they need affirmation that they are in the right place and performing well.

Faulty Recruitment Communication

All too often the volunteer message is one of pain instead of profit. These are both sales techniques, but churches have latched onto the former and not the latter.  In “pain point” selling, the message is that something is wrong or something bad will happen to you or someone else if you don’t act soon.  Think about how many times you’ve heard or said that children’s ministry needs to get more volunteers.  It’s always need, need, need.  It’s true, but you don’t need to state it that way all the time.  It may even have an opposite subconscious effect on people.  If something is always in need do I want to be a part of it? People want to associate themselves with positive things, positive activity, and growth potential.

Instead of talking about how the church is in need, talk about how the church, the people being served, and the people who serve will gain. This is the profit perspective.  Serving is a win for everyone involved, as pointed out at the beginning of this article.  God created us to serve and equipped us to serve.  The church that doesn’t engage people to do so is limiting themselves.  The upside is huge!  The church will profit from more people serving by expanding its ministries.  The people on the receiving end of the service obviously profit from the service being given.  And finally, the people serving profit from the growth and maturity gained, from doing good works, from living out their gifts, and from building unity with fellow workers in the faith.

A Simple Lack of Knowledge of How to Do It

Sometimes leaders just don’t know what to do or where to start, and that’s ok. There are certainly best practices for developing systems for recruiting, training, deploying, and evaluating volunteer teams, but they are not always self-evident.  Fortunately, there are a great many resources for rectifying this.  Many people have written books on this subject, and here at The Malphurs Group we have a service called Leadership Pipeline that will walk your church through everything you need to get started.

Don’t accept the status quo as the way things have to be.  You can do better.  God has a vision for your church to do great things to build His Kingdom, and it takes every part of the body working together to make it happen.  Be the leader that your church needs you to be.

BONUS: Get a free Team Discussion Guide in the video description on YouTube.

A.J. Mathieu is the President of the Malphurs Group. He is passionate about helping churches thrive. A.J. lives in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex, enjoys the outdoors, and loves spending time with his wife and two sons. Click here to email A.J.

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