The budget of our church’s volunteer program got a substantial bump this year. Thankfully, we are now able to hire a full-time coordinator. What are the most important parts of a volunteer program that we should shift to her, the expert? — from Alison in Missouri
Glad to hear your church is joining those adding a staff position for volunteerism, and I’m especially glad you’re starting by thinking through your expectations.
In everyone’s dream world, you’d be able to go to this person to place your order for the two Sunday school teachers and the four ushers you need, plus someone to head the rummage sale, and 24 hours later she’d have them all ready to go to work! I wish it were that easy, but a volunteer coordinator cannot do all the recruiting.
What a volunteer coordinator can do:
- Fill your data base records with the gifts and talents of your people
- Increase congregational awareness of the many opportunities to serve
- Share the many great things that volunteers are doing in your church
- Add conversations about gifts and serving into the new member process
- Provide you and other leaders with training and personal assistance on best practices for recruiting and supporting today’s volunteers
- When it’s hard to recruit, help you diagnose the problem and explore solutions
- Advocate for staff having the time and resources they need to lead volunteers well
- Connect your church to serving opportunities with local community organizations
- Help staff and church leaders view and improve your church’s overall volunteerism health
A volunteer coordinator will contribute to a healthy volunteerism system and culture, getting more people involved in ways that are a good fit for them. When your volunteers are enjoying meaningful work, they are your best recruiters! Healthy volunteerism is how we accomplish our Lord’s mission, as pictured in Eph. 4:16: “From [Jesus] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
Your volunteer coordinator leads the way, but everyone has to work together to build this system and culture. And it is work. You and other leaders will need to ditch “do it at the last-minute” habits in order to recruit well. You’ll need to follow up on leads from the volunteer coordinator, not all of which will pan out. You’ll spend more time training volunteers. You’ll need to learn and practice good delegation skills. You and your supervisor may need to revamp your own expectations, from a view of staff as those who do all the work, to staff as those who spend most of their time leading productive volunteers.
But it’s worth the work. Our Lord has commissioned each of us to bring His love and peace and joy to a world that desperately needs it. That takes all of us, staff and volunteers, giving our best, working together in partnership. Your volunteer coordinator, and the team he/she will build, are your ‘ligaments’ for joining and strengthening that teamwork.