I was hoping to get a little more feedback from my previous post about how you fill the gaps. If you didn’t read it or didn’t have a chance to post, I’d still like to hear some more ideas. You can post your comments with this post or the original one.
So, if you’re recruiting or you need to recruit to fill some holes, what do you do in the mean time?
Last year at the Orange Conference I heard Craig Jutila talk about this. He said, whatever you do, don’t fill the spot yourself. You’ll get stuck and if you’re the leader, how can you lead when you’re stuck in a spot that should be filled by someone you’re leading. It’s a very good point and I do the very best I can to plan for that. I’ve found that in the few times that’ I’ve gotten sucked into a spot, it was because of a no show or unexpected emergency. Otherwise, I try to follow this advise fully.
I combine if necessary. I launched small groups on Sunday mornings in elementary in September. I started with a few open spots that need to be filled. I have two groups that I had to combine. 4th and 5th grade girls during one service and 4th and 5th grade boys at the other.Â They were combined for about 7 weeks. Another group I utilized one volunteer who could only serve every other week. He’s leading on his schedule and I have another leader who is pulling a double shift and serving on the weeks the other leader can’t be there. Not ideal, but it’s holding those spots until I find the right person.
Utilizing subs. If found that subs are better than once a month workers. Once a month workers seem to never remember when they are supposed to work. So, when I’m calling and recruiting and someone says no, they can’t do the job, I ask them if they’d at least be willing to serve. In mos cases, they say yes. I assure them that they won’t be called to work more than once a month. Then, when I have my subs, I call them when I know I’ll be short and they jump right in. I also have a few spots that I’ve used subs to fill. Unfortunately, when I use my subs to fill an empty spot, I don’t have my sub when a volunteer calls in sick the morning of. Then I have to combine or something. Not ideal, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
Work the phones and emails. I always take care of my open spots before Sunday. I’ve had staff who would pull people on Sunday. I told them to stop it. Why? It was usually the same people every week. If we have a healthy sub list then I can work that list and get my people in place before Sunday. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t know that I could sleep if I didn’t have all the spots filled before I went to bed on Saturday night.
Trained monkeys. Always my last resort, but I haven’t had to use them yet!
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this is a loaded gun. the people i talk to that tell me, “i can’t serve every week, but just call me when you need me.” i tell them, “be prepared for a phone call every week.” :)lol
it’s a reality of volunteers. life happens. and it wreaks havoc on your plans. but God has taught me lately that this is the perfect margin for Him to work. the ‘God margin’.
Kenny is right. start early and get the spots filled before the weekend. but don’t leave anyone off your list. you never know who God may want to use in that moment. you have no idea what He’s orchestrating. so if you have holes b/c the flu bug hit… call it ‘God margin’ and look for Him to work. the one closest to the schedule is the one who feels it the most. if you’re the one taking all the calls from volunteers that cannot serve… know that you’re the one that will feel the stress the most. you set the tone for how everyone else views the success of the weekend. are you excited to see what God is going to do? or are you the buzzkill that diverts attention from Him?
i second Kenny’s comments on jumping into an empty spot myself. by tying myself to a room, i eliminate my ability to lead the ministry overall. if ever i’m going to fill a role, it’s going to be strategic.
Hey Kenny….great input about the volunteer deficit question you posted earlier. A few more points that I’d add to the conversation…
— Do you have an apprentice program in place for your small group leaders?
— Do you tap into the students in your high school ministry to serve as small group leaders?
— This one is for Jabberfrog….the “call me when you need me response” can actually develop into a full time volunteer. Hopefully you are able to find a way of plugging those people in on a part-time basis (rotating as greeters, handing out candy to kids as they arrive, walking new families to the classrooms, etc..) then invest, invest, invest in them. More times than not, these same people begin to realize that they actually get more out of serving than they could have imagined, and they’re willing to serve on a more consistent basis.
Just some more points for the discussion….I agree with Kenny that there is no church I’ve ever spoken with who has a plethora of volunteers, but I do think there is a big benefit when you plan for no-shows and periodic vacancies.
Very good thoughts!
God has really had to lead me in re-shaping my view of why people serve. So often I have approached people to help out and I go with the idea that it is a burden to them…God has really challenged me to look at every “hole to fill” as a opportunity to serve HIM. Though that sounds simple and and like a “duh moment” it has been monumental in the way I approach people.
When I can give people the big vision of what a blessing they are and let them know they are a key player in God’s plan, not that they are just filling a hole to make it appear seemless…what do you know….they are excited to be a part of what God is doing!