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11 May 2017

5 Steps to an Energized Pastor

Raul Rivera

For the past year or so, Pastor Kevin had become used to getting to the church early on Sunday mornings to open up the building, put on a pot or two of coffee, and greet those who walked through the doors of the church. 

Pastor Kevin was also the last one to leave so he could lock up. During the week, he would take care of any maintenance issues at the church. 

Since the children’s ministry had started growing, his wife spent most Sundays overseeing the children’s church service. With the significant growth of their church over the past year, Pastor Kevin and his wife were beginning to grow weary from all of the effort and energy they were giving to the church. They needed help!

Does this situation sound familiar to you? In a new church startup, many pastors are used to handling the majority of administrative activities. However, as the church grows over time, the pastor cannot be expected to oversee everything at the church. 

This is where volunteers come into the picture. Churches largely depend upon the service and dedication of volunteers in order to properly function and operate. However, the question many pastors have is, “How do I create a functional and efficient volunteer program?”

Are you fostering a culture of service in your church?

I think we can all agree that without volunteers our churches simply would not be the same. We want our churches to offer the best programs and services to those who walk through our church doors, and in order to do that we need volunteers. 

If you are not careful, it can be easy to value the “success” of a program or service over that of the act of volunteering, or worse, the actual volunteers.

Hence, it is important that you and your church foster a culture of service.

As a pastor, the act of fostering a culture of service begins with your example. Just like Jesus showed us what it means to be a servant leader, so must you show your church congregation.

Next, let us look at 5 components necessary to manage and maintain a volunteer program that helps facilitate a culture of service.

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5 steps to an energized pastor

Creating a volunteer program at your church allows for efficiency and excellence to be a standard when it comes to serving at your church. A volunteer program helps to ensure quality programs and services at your church, as well as a great experience for volunteers and nonvolunteers alike.

Below are 5 strategic components to consider:

1. Recognize the need you need

Take a moment to think about it. Which areas in your church come to mind that are in need of immediate volunteer assistance? Whether your church has just one service on Sundays or multiple services, it is necessary to identify all areas where volunteers are needed.

Perhaps your church could use more nursery or children’s ministry volunteers. Maybe there is a large need for more ushers, greeters, or hospitality team members. Whatever the need may be, it is important that you and your staff or leadership team take time to adequately acknowledge those needs. This will allow you to know which areas in your church have the greatest need for volunteers.

It is necessary to identify all areas where volunteers are needed in your church.

2. Describe the need you need

Once you have identified the areas of your church that are in need of volunteers, it is important that you create detailed descriptions of each need. You can almost think of this as creating a job description. To do this, simply answer the who, what, when, where, why, and how of each volunteer opportunity.

  1. Who: Which type of individual would be best suited for this service opportunity? There may be some volunteer opportunities that are more physical than others. In that instance, make sure it is clearly stated within the description.
  2. What: Clearly state what is involved and expected from each volunteer opportunity.
  3. When: Indicate when the volunteers for each opportunity will be needed. For example, ushers may only be needed during Sunday morning worship, but children’s ministry volunteers may be needed during your Sunday worship service as well as during your midweek worship service. Also, indicate how early they will need to arrive to the church when it is their day or time to serve.
  4. Where: State where the specific service will be conducted. For instance, where will your greeters need to be “stationed” on Sunday mornings? Letting your volunteers know ahead of time will help prevent unnecessary confusion.
  5. Why: Let your volunteers (and potential volunteers) know why this area of the church needs volunteers.
  6. How: Be clear and concise in how you expect the specific volunteer act to be conducted and completed.

(Recommended reading: “Surviving Summer, Part 1: Children’s & Youth Ministry”)

3. Enlist the need you need

You cannot expect for your congregation to know that the church is in need of volunteers. Yes, there are some church members who are ready and eager to serve. You do not even have to ask them to give their time to the church. However, the majority of church members need to be informed.

One way to inform your church members of the volunteer needs in your church is to create a flyer or print something in the bulletin. It does not have to be something that is printed each week. You could decide to address volunteer needs once each quarter. The frequency is up to you.

You cannot expect for your congregation to know that the church is in need of volunteers.

4. Process the need you need

Once you have identified the volunteer needs in your church, create descriptions for each volunteer opportunity and the process that recruits will need to complete. It only makes life easier for you and the volunteers if you have a streamlined volunteer process in place. Let me explain.

Once an individual has expressed interest in serving at your church, you will want to consider having the following steps in place:

  1. Volunteer application: Have each person complete a volunteer application. This allows you to keep adequate record of those who are actively serving at your church. Our Document’s Suite contains a template for a volunteer’s application that you can customize to your church’s needs. 
  2. Background and reference checks: This step is especially important for all children’s and youth workers. Many churches are good about conducting criminal background checks, but it is important not to stop there. You should also conduct a reference check on each individual. The importance of reference checks was highlighted in a case in which the Florida Baptist Convention (FBC) was found liable, and ordered to pay 12.5 million dollars, for the acts of a minister within its organization, even though prior to hiring him the FBC had conducted a criminal background check. The FBC had failed to conduct a reference check on him.
  3. Training: Make sure that any necessary training is available for your volunteers. This will help facilitate a better experience for everyone involved, and it will allow the volunteer(s) to feel more confident when serving.
  4. Chain of command: Although volunteers are not employees of the church, it is, at times, necessary to manage them like employees. When issues arise, it is best practice for there to be a clear chain of command. This allows for any potential issues to be handled efficiently and effectively. 

(Recommended reading: “Lawsuit Claims Church Ordained Wrong Person”)

5. Celebrate the need you met

By now, it is no secret that volunteers are some of the most vital and integral parts of your church. If not for the volunteers, who would greet newcomers in the morning and make them feel welcome? Who would help teach the Bible classes and small groups that make up a huge part of your church community?

One way to show appreciation to them is to host an appreciation dinner and present them with certificates. No, your volunteers are not serving for recognition by man, but it cannot hurt for them to know that their church truly values the time and service they so freely give.

(Recommended reading: “IRS Wants Cut of Volunteer Rewards”)

Ministry is a team sport

I have never seen a professional sports team win a championship with the efforts of just a single player. Rather, it takes the effort of the entire team. The same is true with your church. You cannot do it on your own. A team effort is required in order for your church to dominate your community with the love of Jesus Christ.

Likewise, you need a team in place when it comes to your church’s compliance efforts. We would love to be a part of your team. If you are on the fence about allowing us to join your team, I invite you to attend one of our conferences near you. If you are unable to attend, then give us a call at 877-494-4655. We would love to hear about what God is doing through your church or ministry.

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Please feel free to comment. We always appreciate good dialogue. However, we do moderate each comment to ensure that it is on topic and not derogatory to other participants. We ask that you keep your comments brief and pertinent to the topic so that others may benefit.

Raul Rivera

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About the Author

Church Planter. Speaker. Author. CEO. Raul Rivera has had ample experience in the church planting world. His current venture, StartCHURCH, has helped 1000's of churches to start right. Raul has compiled an array of manuals and software tools that help churches stay compliant with the IRS. He also hosts over 35 national conferences per year, training pastors on how to launch their churches. Raul is married to his wife Genel, and they and their five children live in Atlanta, GA.