4 Things You Should Know About Your Prospective Volunteer

Last week, I started a new series of blog articles on recruiting, training, and sustaining volunteer ministers. The next two weeks, we’re going to focus on the recruiting aspect of the series.

Not too long ago, I wrote a post and gave a workshop on “The Preamble To Recruiting Volunteers.” The premise of that article and workshop was that before we can recruit or invite people onto our team, there are two things we should try to have in order:

  • An exciting and clear vision of the future of your ministry.
  • Some success under your belt.

I still believe these are two powerful things we can have to successfully recruit volunteers.

However, there are some simple truths that I need to understand about my prospective volunteers. As I understand these things, I can more adequately speak to the needs and desires of my volunteers.


It is not just about giving of their time and talent. It is about receiving.

Yes, people do volunteer to give. But the moment they stop receiving, they will stop volunteering. What do volunteers receive while they serve? There are practical things that they receive, like training, food, and maybe little gifts and gift cards. But more importantly, they receive the gift of knowing that what they are doing is making a difference. If at any point a volunteer does not feel that, they will stick around for a short time, but then jump ship. Volunteers need to receive while they give.


Volunteers are busy.

I don’t know any volunteer that is not busy. They have work, spouses, children, homes to take care of, and social lives to be lived. Why would they say “yes” to one more thing? The fact is that busy volunteers do say yes to ministry and are willing to work and work hard for you. However, I need to be flexible with the time that they give. I cannot expect every volunteer to commit to a program once a week. That’s just not realistic for many volunteers. I need to provide other opportunities to serve in which they can volunteer from home, or for one-time events. As the leader, I’m the one that needs to be flexible, not the volunteer. (Although flexibility is always a great strength in volunteers.)


Most people won’t ask to volunteer.

There have been only two or three handfuls of time that a volunteer has come up to me and asked to volunteer. Why? For starters, they are busy, not sure if they have the right gifts, and not clear about the opportunities that exist. That means I need to take the initiative and show them how they can volunteer while busy, what gifts they have that match the ministry, and share with them the many ways they can serve.


They care about the “why” of your ministry more than the “what.”

You can share with prospective volunteers all day long what you do in your ministry, but until you articulate why your ministry exists, it’s hard for people to stay excited for a long period of time. I’ve just recently learned this. If they are excited about the “what” and don’t know the “why,” they will only volunteer until the “what” is not exciting any more (which always happens). If they know why the ministry exists and how it is making an impact in the world, then no matter what the “what” is, they will remain excited and committed to the ministry.


Next week, we’re going to talk about simple ways to recruit volunteers and how not to recruit volunteers.

Question of the day: what are some other things we should know about prospective volunteers?

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  1. Mark Alves

    You can always teach a volunteer the skills, but it’s hard to teach passion or enthusiasm for the mission. Given the choice, I’d usually take the enthusiastic volunteer over the one with the relevant skills who doesn’t feel connected.

    Having a written job description for volunteers helps with recruitment, even if it feels too formal for a volunteer position. It should include specific goals about what is expected to be successful and how this ties to the mission or goals of your church. Some ministry leaders will joke that no one will volunteer if they really know what’s required by the position, but it’s better (and more charitable) to be open about this from the beginning.

    I’ve also found that setting an enlistment term, such as six months or a year, helps with recruitment. Volunteers can re-enlist, but having the opportunity to back out graciously sometimes makes it easier for both parties to have an honest discussion. And if performance is an issue, the end of a term — coupled with the goals from the job description — is a built-in mechanism for dialogue.

    • John Rinaldo

      Hi Mark, I agree. I think simple one page job descriptions can be really helpful for volunteers. Do you have a sample job description that you would be willing to post? I think it would really help folks out.

      • Mark Alves

        Sure, here’s a church volunteer job description template:

        Here’s a sample description that easily fits on one side of a page:

        Web Page Creator Job Description

        Title: Web Page Creator (in English and/or Spanish)

        Goal: Assist a ministry of your choice to promote themselves through the St. Charles website, http://www.StCharlesChurch.org.

        Sample Activities:
        – Add meeting agendas/minutes to a group’s existing webpage
        – Create new landing pages for a ministry’s one-time event
        – Provide suggestions for those interested in developing a better web presence

        – Length of commitment: 6 months
        – Estimated hours: 3/month
        – Scheduling: at the discretion of the volunteer; Web Team also meets periodically

        – Love of Jesus Christ and His Church
        – Basic knowledge of HTML coding
        – Ability to cut-and-paste existing HTML code through a browser or content management system
        – Familiarity with relative references (home versus home)
        – Your own computer, Internet access and email
        – HTML editor of your choice (freeware is fine, but Microsoft Front Page is not)

        – Pick any ministry you would like to work with while setting your own hours.
        – Build your resume or portfolio as your work has the potential to be seen by 1,000s of people.
        – Improve your webpage design skills.

        For Further Information:
        – Email [] at []

        • John Rinaldo

          Thanks, Mark! What a helpful template. I appreciate you sharing that with everyone.



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