What Makes People Hesitant to Volunteer at Church?

You need volunteers. You need them in the nursery, greeting at entrances, checking in children, making coffee, running sound, and much more. If you’re running short on volunteers, consider how you’re presenting the opportunity to serve. There are several unknowns that makes people hesitant to volunteer at church.

Here’s what makes people hesitant to volunteer at church:

#1 – They don’t know what you’ll expect.

Potential church volunteers need to know what they’re getting themselves into. You probably wouldn’t apply for a job (much less accept it) if you had zero information about the expectations and responsibilities associated with that role.  Potential volunteers feel the same way.

  • How often would I be agreeing to serve?
  • Am I signing up for forever or is there an end date where I can change or stop serving for a while without it being awkward?
  • What does that volunteer role involve (what skills are you looking for)?
  • Who would I be reporting to (what volunteer leader or staff member coordinates that group)?

Develop a brief description for each volunteer role that includes the following:

  • How long before/after a church service you expect someone in that volunteer role to be in-place
  • Skill sets required
  • Personality type(s) that would be a good fit
  • Any attire expectations
  • Background check required or not

#2 – They’re worried about failing.

What if a volunteer signs up for a certain role and realizes a few weeks in that it’s a bad fit? You need to give new volunteers a graceful and shame-free way out. If they serve in the bookstore for a couple of Sundays and realize they’re better suited to be a greeter, make that an easy transition.

Let potential volunteers know they can try out a role for a few weeks before making a longer-term commitment.

#3 – They don’t know what volunteer role to sign up for.

You’ll have better success with volunteers if you take the time to match each person to the role that’s the best fit for him/her.

You can have them take a personality and/or spiritual gifting test. You could also take 5-10 minutes and talk with the individual.

  • What do you do for a living?
  • What’s your degree in?
  • Do you consider yourself really outgoing or more reserved?
  • What are your hobbies?

Get to know potential volunteers and then assign them to a role you both think they’ll enjoy and be successful in.

#4 – They don’t have a clear reason to volunteer at church.

Now, most potential volunteers won’t come right out and ask you why they should serve. However, it’s something we all consider at least subconsciously.

Why should I serve?

If you can’t answer that one question, answering all of the others listed above is a waste of time.

They have children to raise, bosses to report to, errands to run, and a ton of other responsibilities.  If they don’t know why serving is important (for them and for others), then serving won’t be able to compete with all the other items on their to-do lists.  Help them see how they can easily get started and how vital their participation is to the vision of the church.

After all, this isn’t just about why you need people to serve in the nursery. This is about why followers of Christ should serve others.

Weave that answer into your communications about serving at your church.

  • Serving is about putting others ahead of yourself.
  • It’s about following the example of our Savior.
  • It’s about using our time and talents to honor God and contribute to the Body of Christ.

Volunteering helps us grow in our relationship with God, make life-long friends, and enjoy the feeling that comes from knowing we’ve helped someone else.

Help potential volunteers understand why, remove any mystery about your expectations or the commitment involved, and help new volunteers get acclimated quickly. This isn’t an overnight solution. However, if you’ll take the time to answer those questions you’ll end up with more volunteers who’re passionate about serving.

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