What I Wish I Knew Before Volunteering
Training Your Volunteers
On a Sunday morning some time ago, I was volunteering on a worship team for the first time. I asked for a cord, without it, my bass is rendered useless. I was told that not only was I supposed to supply my own cord, but that I should have a back-up on hand. This information was paramount, but it came at the wrong time. Had I known beforehand how to prepare for the service, I would have acquired the necessary tools to ensure I was ready for the worship service.When you have been serving at church for a long time, these little details may seem like common knowledge, but to a new volunteer they are likely foreign. If you want your volunteers to represent your church well, here are some things to keep in mind when training them.
Start with Why: Training, plans and expectations are all great, but if someone doesn’t embrace “why” they’re doing something the way they are, there is a strong likelihood they won’t keep performing their duty the way you intend them to. That doesn’t mean your volunteers are bad, lazy, under-performers or anything like that, it’s just human nature to seek the perceived easiest method of accomplishing a task. If they don’t have a crystal clear understanding of why they’re doing what they’re doing, then the “how” will likely change. Spend time explaining “why” you’re building a Guest Ministry the way you are, and the “how” will make more sense to people.
Define your volunteer roles: Your Guest Ministry is likely to have many different roles which require people with different personality strengths. Volunteers in your parking lot or at your doors need a different skill set than volunteers who are entering data into your church management system on Monday. Defining your roles in advance help you determine what skill sets are needed for each position, which helps you place people in a role where they can succeed. Here is a short list of potential volunteer roles:
Parking Team – Direct traffic and welcome people.
Greeters – At the doors to welcome people.
Lobby hosts – Look for guests in the sea of people.
Ushers – Help people find seats and engage potential guests before service.
Welcome Center – Volunteers who know a little about everything in your church who can point people where they need to go
Follow-up – Reach out to guests after their visit
Coffee/snacks – More than food preparers, they engage people while serving them.
Kids Ministry – Guests with kids are likely stopping here first. Make sure your Kids Ministry workers are prepared to engage guests.
Define a “win” for each volunteer role: With all the different volunteer roles in your Guest Ministry, a “win” can mean something very different for each person. For your Parking Lot team, a win could be keeping guests parked up front and in their reserved spaces. For your coffee team, a win could be learning a new guest’s name, not just getting their order correct. By defining the win for each role, you empower volunteers to make choices in how they perform their tasks, and how they engage people in order to achieve their personal win. If you make the wins all about human engagement and creating an awesome atmosphere, you’re going to create an environment where people, not tasks, take priority.
Don’t forget to personally thank and heap accolades on your volunteers! Volunteering can at times be a thankless job. As the leader of your Guest Ministry, make sure you’re better than anyone else in your church at acknowledging your volunteers for what they do, and more importantly, for who they are. Relationships are wins, not just successfully accomplishing tasks.
We have the best life-transforming message of all time. From the parking lot to the Pastor, there are many opportunities for guests to encounter a positive relational touch. It’s important that volunteers catch the vision so they can engage guests in a positive way.