I don’t want to mislead you. This is a post why I’ve created a ministry environment where volunteers serve every week. The title isn’t 100% honest. 92.3% of my volunteers serve every week. I have a few legacy volunteers (less than ten wh0 have been serving for more than 4-5 years who have not transitioned to a weekly role). As persuasive as I am, I just haven’t been able to convice them… yet. I also have a handful of of volunteers who work on some Sunday’s like police officers, fire fighters and nurses. Those are the 7.6% of my volunteers who don’t do what I’m going to tell you about.
Okay, if we’re being 100% honest, I have a few others who technically don’t work every week either. My production volunteers don’t either. They work once a month, but they come in at 7:30 AM and serve all three services and don’t leave until after 1:00 PM. I’ve taken the liberty in saying that their 5.5 hours on one Sunday a month is pretty much equivalent to every Sunday volunteering. If you don’t agree with me, then the honest truth is that 75.7% of my volunteers (not including the few who can’t/won’t and my production volunteers) serve every single week.
Moving toward weekly volunteers was probably the best thing I’ve EVER done in ministry. When I started in ministry, I had volunteers serve once a month. We only had one adult service, so I felt that it was pretty fair. Later, I worked at a church where there were two services and I bumped up my ask to serving every other week. The transition was easier than I thought it would be. However, it was about 6 years ago where I and my staff transitioned our volunteer base at Gateway from multiple schedules (once a month, once every three weeks, every other week) to weekly almost exclusively.
The transition took about 2-3 months in elementary and closer to 18 months in early childhood. It wasn’t easy, but it also wasn’t a hard as I thought it was going to be either. If your church offers more than one service, here’s 7 reasons why you need to move to a weekly schedule for volunteers:
Parents and kids prefer weekly volunteers
When we recruit, some volunteers (honestly, it’s less than you think) resist having to serve every week. Some ask, “why do volunteers have to serve ever week.” We simply answer the question with a question. “Do you have a child? Would you rather he/she be in a group with the same volunteers every week or a room where the volunteers are different every week?” Sometimes we even mix it up. “In school, would you child do better with a different teacher every day or the same one every day?” It makes sense. It’s not rocket science. Kids want to walk into a room where and adult calls them by name and asks them how they did on their test earlier that week and how their sick aunt is doing. It’s better for families.
You recruit better volunteers
I don’t want to stereotype here. I’ve had volunteers of every type and I’ve found that people who commit to serving weekly tend to be a different calibre than those who can only give you once a month. People who show up every week have a different level of ownership. We tend to feel bad asking people to volunteer, like we’re asking them to do something they don’t want to do. We have a tendency to minimize the ask and we end up getting a different type of volunteer. Leading a group of kids is a huge responsibility. Their eternity is on the line, right? I want a volunteer who is fully invested and you’re more likely to get that from the person who will gladly serve every week.
You develop better volunteers
Every Thanksgiving my wife asks me to carve the Turkey. After years of butchering the bird, I found a really great video on YouTube showing how to carve the perfect bird. Every year I re-watch the video because I just can’t seem to remember everything. I only do this thing once a year. I’m sure that after a few more years, I’ll have done it enough to remember.
This isn’t any different with our volunteers. You’ll have better volunteers faster when they serve every week. Practice and experience trumps knowledge. Encouragement and training nuggets every week are way better than quarterly or annual trainings.
Scheduling volunteers is no longer your job
I’ve had staff who spent hours and hours every week slaving over the schedule. Now there is great software that will make scheduling easier, but it’s still a huge task to be managed. However, when your volunteers serve every week, there’s nothing to schedule. Sure, you’ll have to plug in subs, but that’s simple enough that a volunteer coordinator can usually manage that. I’ve also found that volunteers who serve every week are more likely to find their own sub as well.
You build a stronger culture
Culture is so important. Nothing saps a strong and passionate volunteer quicker than being surrounded by volunteers who just don’t seem to care nearly as much. When you’re able to gather EVERYONE together EVERY WEEK, creating healthy culture is so much easier. Teams are unified and friendships are more easily formed.
Spiritual Care is far more powerful
As a ministry leader, you do have a spiritual responsibility for those who serve in your area. How well do you know them? Do you know where they are struggling? Are you or a coach/coordinator connecting with volunteers outside of the weekend? Spiritual care is time consuming. What if you only had so spiritually care for half the number of people you do now? What about a quarter? Less is more.
Recruiting weekly volunteers is easier
It really is easier. I’ll explain. Your church is only so big. There’s only a certain number of people who can or will serve in your ministry. There is a certain number of potential volunteers who jump on board with little effort. I like to call these people low-hanging fruit. The next batch of volunteers are more challenging. It’s going to take repeated emails and phone calls to convince them and schedule them for orientation. I’ve found that the low-hanging fruit are almost always just as willing to serve every week as they are for other schedules. The people who take more effort to bring onto your team are going to take effort anyway, just exert a little more effort to get them for weekly service. I will say this. It’s not twice as hard to recruit for every week as it is for every other week. It’s not. So why not exert a little extra effort and for twice the results.
What sold me was our first volunteer recruitment where we made the switch. It told my team before we started, “we’re only recruiting for weekly volunteers.” Everyone was a little nervous. We went into the recruitment campaign thinking that even if we only recruited half the number of volunteers as the last time, we’d be even. At least that was encouraging. We were surprised though. Would you believe it if I told you that we recruited the same number of volunteers at the “weekly only” recruitment than we did the previous time. I was sold.
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This is an amazing post! Our terms are set up June-August and September-May. We promote kids in June. We ask all our volunteers that are adult/youth leaders that work directly with our kids, to serve every week. (It has been this way for over 20+ years) Kenny, my numbers are probably pretty close to yours on those who continue to serve term after term after term. AMAZING! The only ones that rotate are check in and storytellers.
We use Planning Center Online to schedule all of our volunteers in Kidmin. I have a staff person that oversees. This gives our volunteers an easy way to contact us if they are going to be out. And it is easy for US to schedule a sub. Which brings to the point of we were loosing volunteers because they didnt want to get their own sub because they didnt know people on the list or felt guilty about being out on a Sunday. I have a guilt free policy. If you need to be gone we want you to be able to do that without feeling guilty!
That’s pretty great Tammy.
Yeah, to clarify. We have volunteer coaches over most areas and they’re the ones who usually get subs for the volunteers. A coach usually only oversees 10-12 volunteers, so managing the subs isn’t too challenging. I just don’t want my staff doing it… it’s time consuming if one person has to manage all of it. Our coaches do a great job managing it.
How did you make the transition. Did you start with new ‘recruits’ or ask those currently serving to move to every week instead of every other?
Both. We began casting vision to current volunteers about changing how they volunteered. We realized that even if half of our volunteers quit because of it, we’d be in exactly the same spot as were were right then (currently serving twice a week). We were surprised to see that didn’t lose anywhere near half. We realized that there were still several people who had legit reason why they couldn’t do every week (police/fire/nurses). We also had many people move to sub roles so they could continue at a less frequent schedule, but where they served and in what capacity might have changed. We showed lots of grace. However, from that point forward… all new recruits were every week. This entire process took some time (probably longer than it needed to), but we started in sections… like one age division at a time as opposed to an entire shock to the system. Hope that helps a little.
Great post Kenny! Diving into weekly only volunteers is a step of faith but so well worth it!
Do your volunteers serve year round? Or do you give them some time off?
Do you want the real answer or the theoretical answer? LOL!
The real answer is both. When we recruit our volunteers, we tell them that this is a long-term opportunity. We don’t want them to ever feel like they’ve been trapped into something they can’t ever get out of. We tell them that we expect them to serve for the year, but we believe that they’ll connect with their kids, build great relationships and they’ll serve much longer than just a year. However, we want them to stay for a LONG time, meaning that we want them to take breaks when they need to. If they need a month or two off, go for it. We’ll make arrangements to have their group covered so they can get refreshed. One of the things we have been trying to move towards is giving most of our small group leaders at least one month off during the summer… recruiting parents and others to pitch in during the summer while the small group leaders take some time off. I know some churches that have done really well at this, it’s something I was just starting to work towards the last year or so.