Four ways to approach building a volunteer team
Volunteers: when we have them, they can do wonders! But finding and keeping them going in the last two years has been a challenge for most of our communities.
You may be reading this as someone carrying a church’s entire provision for children and youth, wondering how you’re going to gain more help. You might be someone with a small but committed team. You may be blessed with a larger team, but concerned about its fragility.
Below, we share four tips from people who have built volunteer teams in their churches and offer some practical things to try if you’re struggling to recruit at the moment. If you feel like you’re already doing all this, we’ve got more content coming with suggestions for what to try next.
1. Don’t make pleas from the front, ask people directly.
“Although it feels like harder work, people like to be asked, particularly when you can share why you think they would be an asset to the team!”
– Hannah, St Dionis
As a leader, you should be able to think objectively about what skills you need people to have. If you already have some volunteers, have a conversation together about the areas you could use more help in and who might be worth asking in your community. Prioritise your list of people and figure out when a good time might be to ask them.
Often, the best people to approach potential volunteers are those who are volunteering already, as they can justify the commitment in their own words.
2. Don’t fill a rota, share a vision.
“Telling someone, “It’ll be easy, not much work, we just need to fill a space on a rota” isn’t very inspiring and can often put people off. However, saying it is a big commitment but a rewarding one usually works better.”
– Steve, St George Tufnell Park
People are looking for more clarity than ever on why they do what they do. If you can deliver a compelling vision to someone about why the children or youth ministry is worth getting involved with, you’re likely going to have a person willing to help.
3. Don’t hide away, make volunteering attractive.
“One Sunday, the children gave big helium-filled balloons to volunteers during the service so that we could see them and pray for them. Not all your volunteers would enjoy this – so make sure you know your team!”
– Lee, All Saints Hampton
Share stories of significant moments with the church whenever you can. Involve volunteers in the planning and decision-making. Celebrate what is going well and the people who invest their time and heart into the children and young people. People want to be a part of teams that recognise and honour contribution.
One simple way you can get your volunteer team feeling more connected is by getting there early enough to enjoy 10 minutes of chat with tea/coffee before your church service or activity starts, once you are set up. Or try having a team meal twice a year: eat together, ask people to share what they’ve enjoyed most and take notes!
4. Don’t over-complicate, keep volunteering achievable
“Provide clear job descriptions and expectations. Have a short de-brief after each session and always be open to feedback.”
– Juz Paice, St Peter’s Harrow
Life is busy and many volunteers already have more-than-full-time jobs. Give options. Understand that sometimes people will need to opt-out or be late.
Try to avoid a large responsibility resting on anyone wherever you can, working in pairs or teams to allow people space to shoulder or share the load. Ensure each volunteer has someone of equal or better experience to offload to and ask questions.
Whatever things look like in your church at the moment, there is a children and youth support team here to help, so please feel free to get in touch if you need advice or just someone to work things out with.
If you’d like to do some deeper work on building a volunteer team in a children and youth ministry context, check out our course all about it here.
Levi is the Creative Lead for Growing Younger, a priority of the 2030 Vision for churches in the Diocese of London. Levi is part of the Children & Youth Support team, volunteers in youth ministry and leads worship at his local church. Levi completed a degree in Applied Theology before working in marketing and design in the corporate space, bringing both worlds together in his current role.
Read more from Levi Phillips