How to Assess Church Volunteerism

When you want to improve, you measure. You see where you’re at, decide where you want to be, take steps to get there, and track your results. You use the bathroom scale to see if the diet is working, the grades on tests to see if you’re studying enough, and the balance in the savings account to see if you’ll be able to go to that special vacation destination.

If volunteerism at your church isn’t where you want it to be — if a few people are doing all the work and getting burned out, if everyone’s tired of the same pleas for help in the bulletin week after week – it can be hard to know where to start. One solution is to push people harder to volunteer, to develop more subtle ways to guilt, pressure, or argue people into doing what you want them to do. Trouble is, we know that’s not the right thing to do and it just plain doesn’t work.

The right way to improve is to aim to be the church described in I Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians 4, one in which, just like in a human body, every person/part is doing what God designed it to do and is doing it for the common good.

But to become that, what do we measure? Here’s some suggestions. Look at your church from the perspective of a new member, or a member who isn’t involved other than worship.

  1. Getting involved. How easy/hard is to:
    • See all the opportunities available?
    • Find out the details of opportunities I’m interested in-hours, length of commitment, who’s in charge, am I qualified?
    • Discover my spiritual gifts
    • Learn what God has to say about serving him
    • Get help if I need it to select a ministry
    • Try something out to see if I like it
  2. Once I select a ministry,
    • Will I feel welcomed or an intruder?
    • Will I get training?
    • Will I have the information and tools I need to do well?
    • Will I know how/where to get help if I need it?
    • Will people accept me? Will I make friends?
    • Will my work make a difference to anyone?
    • How hard will it be to quit if I need or want to?

People who are already involved will likely need to talk to newer members to get an accurate measure of these things. Talking to long-time members who are not involved will reveal their perception of the church in the above areas. As you listen, remember you are measuring, not judging.

Measure your church’s volunteerism culture–‘the way we do things.’ If someone were to ‘hang out’ at your church on Sunday mornings and when people are gathered for ministry activities, how often would they see people:

  • Reminding each other that everyone is designed for a purpose in the body of Christ
  • Reminding each other that are they gifted by God for specific service
  • Inviting others into ministry, reminding them of specific ways they can see available opportunities
  • When recruiting for a specific need, saying something like: “Please take time to pray about this first. We don’t want you saying yes if you don’t really have time, or don’t feel God is calling you to do this.”
  • Going out of their way to make someone new feel welcome
  • Training a volunteer
  • Training leaders
  • Sitting down specifically to talk about how things are going
  • Handling conflict promptly, speaking the truth in love
  • Telling someone else, “You really do that well” or “I’ve noticed you really have the gift of . . .” or “I think you have potential to be a leader”
  • Saying “Thank you for all you do; for doing that so well; for giving your time”
  • Having fun while working
  • Talking about how serving relates to their relationship with Jesus Christ
  • Celebrating

Next step: How to Improve Volunteerism

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