An intriguing way to grow volunteerism at church involves looking at the “in’s” and “out’s” — people volunteering inside, and outside, your church’s walls.
What’s the ratio of inside/outside volunteering at your church? List all your volunteer opportunities, noting which are internal (ushering; Sunday school, etc.) and which have an external focus (donations for a community food pantry; a mission trip to Haiti). Note that when the youth rake leaves at the homes of seniors who are members, that’s internal.
Growing the “out’s” — serving opportunities in the community — grows volunteering in general. Why? Especially among younger generations, commitment to organizations is down but the desire to help the less fortunate, to improve society, is growing. This is good: caring for the hungry, the stranger, the sick and imprisoned is certainly part of our calling (Matt. 25:31-46). When people are involved in and excited about the work of their church, they are also more motivated to help out with the internal tasks of running the church.
How can you grow the “out” in the community volunteering at your church?
- Many of your people are volunteering in the community on their own. The “Volunteering and Civic Life in America 2014” report finds that 25% of all Americans volunteered through an organization in 2013. Find out where your people are already serving.
- In a worship service, acknowledge and bless those volunteering in the community on their own. They actually are being the church in the community when they do this, even though they may not think of it that way.
- Consider starting new ministries in the community. The Externally-Focused Church by Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson is a great resource; it also shows community serving opens the door to faith-sharing.
- Ask some people to research the needs of your local community. Compare the needs to the resources God has brought to your church—the passions and gifts of your people – as a way to determine what God might be calling you to do.
- Consider partnering with organizations your people are already volunteering for.
- Plan a day of one-time community serving projects. My church has found this effective at involving people otherwise not serving at church, and also effective at building relationships with community organizations. More info on our first event and our most recent.
People follow their passion and make time for what’s important to them. When the church is being the light of the world, the town on a hill (Matt. 5:14), the church is also more likely to motivate and involve more of its volunteers.