How To Recruit Church Volunteers & Create A Culture Of Service


It doesn’t take long in church leadership to realize that you need your volunteers. Just looking at your to-do list, the time you need to complete it, and the manpower required to make a church run smoothly can feel daunting.

One trend we’ve noticed here atVanderbloemen is that healthy churches have a church staff that is focused on creating a culture of volunteerism and service. People grow in their faith walk as they exercise their gifts by serving.

There are a few things that church leaders need to be aware of when approaching the challenge of creating a culture of volunteerism and service.

Barriers: Barriers to volunteering might not be obvious to you as a church leader because you’re already there doing the jobs that you’re asking your congregation to be a part of.  Pay attention to the way that potential volunteers might feel when faced with the challenge of figuring out where to serve in your local church.

Fear: One of the greatest barriers to people stepping up to volunteer is fear. They are afraid that if they sign up to volunteer and don’t like what they signed up for, then they will be stuck doing a volunteer role that they dread. They are concerned that there will be no graceful way out of the volunteer role. We can probably all understand that fear. Somewhere along the way, most of us have signed up for something that ended up not being all we hoped it would be. Then we feel guilty as we try to think of a graceful way out of the situation.

When I was at Willow Creek Community Church, one of the things we developed to help encourage volunteers was what we called “First Serve.” It was a program that allowed church members to set up a one-time volunteer slot in the particular ministry that they were interested in serving within with “no strings attached.” They could give it a test-drive, see if it was really where God wanted them to be volunteering in the church. If it wasn’t, then there was no obligation or long-term commitment, and they were free to move on and try something different until finding the right fit for them.

Experience: Volunteering in your church should be a positive experience. People are ultimately looking for three things when they volunteer:

1. To Make a Significant Contribution

People want to know that they are needed and that what they are doing is making a difference in the lives of others. We need to remind volunteers often that, “We couldn’t do it without them!”  We need to be intentional in sharing stories about how their service is making the church and the community a better place. Even the most simple acts of kindness and service, like passing out bulletins at the door, makes a difference. 

2. To Find a Circle of Friends

People who are exploring volunteering are also often looking to find a circle of friends.  Sometimes it is more important to the volunteer “who” they volunteer with than “what” task or service they actually do. As you promote volunteer opportunities, make sure that you point out the opportunity that new volunteers will have to build relationships and make friends.

3. To have Fun

People want to do something they enjoy with people they like being around. Prospective volunteers need to understand that volunteering is not just about sacrifice and work or doing things just because someone has to do them. Serving can actually be fun. As you promote volunteer opportunities, show pictures and talk about how much fun the volunteer teams have serving together. Even in the most task-driven serving experiences, volunteers can and should experience joy. 

Volunteering isn’t just about what you can get out of your volunteers. Cast a vision for what volunteering can provide them. Provide your congregations with a chance to learn something new, add variety to their lives by doing something different, feel needed, and gain leadership skills

As a church staff member, make sure that you are constantly analyzing what it looks like for a member to decide to volunteer, and focus on making that process as simple and easy for them as possible.

Brainstorm with your church staff on ways you can implement programs and ways that help cultivate a culture of service.

How does your church cultivate a culture of service?