4 Things to Know About Potential Volunteers

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?

John Rinaldo

As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.

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