Encouraging Service at Your Parish

Encouraging parishioners to serve is an important part of the parish’s role in the community and, more importantly, in helping each parishioner grow in their relationship with Christ. But how do we find these superstar servants who freely give their time, energy, and expertise? Where are they all hiding? ParishSOFT has some suggestions.

1. Just Ask
This first point seems obvious, but it’s often overlooked. You need to actually ask people to serve. You may think it’s self-evident, but you’d be surprised how many members just don’t know how to find opportunities to serve.

Extend the invitation to volunteer across all your communication channels:

  • Does your website include a section for service opportunities?
  • Do you regularly highlight volunteers and service activities on social media?
  • Do you call out specific opportunities during mass, in the bulletin, and at Sunday School classes?
  • Do you regularly circulate the needs for short-term service projects with Small Group leaders?
  • Do you feature service opportunities in your member newsletter, along with a call-to-action to volunteer?
  • What are you doing to make it easy for your current volunteers to invite their friends to a service event?

In addition to spreading the word, don’t forget to ask people one-on-one. You may have supporters who would love to get more involved with your parish if they only knew you wanted them. Consider setting up a display and meeting people in your parish lobby. Set up a laptop so members can sign up on the spot.

Once you start looking outside your immediate circle of regular volunteers, your website and church management software (ChMS) like ParishSOFT Family Suite are there to help you. Using your website to serve as a central place for posting volunteer opportunities is always a good idea but using a ChMS that has a robust volunteer pipeline to expedite the process is always key to making it easier on those looking to serve and for parish administrators handling the backend processing and communications.

2. Be Specific
“Volunteer” is not a specific description of a job. All it means is that someone is volunteering time to do a task. If you put out a general call for volunteers no one knows exactly what you mean. Ask for people to do the specific jobs: ushers, greeters, childcare, or small group leaders. Prospective volunteers will know exactly what you’re looking for and see themselves in your call for service.

Point to the specific skills that volunteers need to do the job. If you’re willing to teach someone how to do something, make sure you mention it. (Likewise, if you need special experience, make that clear, too.) Getting specific also helps to get around any mistaken ideas about volunteering. Specifics paint a clearer picture.

3. Focus on the Volunteer
Flip the question: ask why they need you. Why should someone give time to your parish? “We need help!” may be true, but it doesn’t make the most compelling case for volunteering. Instead, focus on what volunteers gain by giving their time.

  • Point out that as Christians we are called to serve. (Mark 10:45)
  • Making a difference by helping others in the community
  • Using their skills and talents for the Kingdom
  • Meeting others in the community and sharing the Gospel
  • Serving a cause they believe in

4. Keep it Simple
Is signup easy? Are the staff members they encounter friendly and helpful? Don’t underestimate the power of a form that won’t load, a cold-sounding administrator, or an unreturned phone call to turn a member off your service opportunities.

Look at your website. Does it clearly lay out the next steps toward becoming a volunteer? Does it link directly to your ChMS to help expedite the process (especially where volunteers need to have extra steps like background checks), and does it automatically respond with a confirmation email and alert the right coordinator? When someone expresses an interest in volunteering with you, follow up quickly, even if it’s just to say, “Thanks, we’ll get back to you soon.”

5. Provide Opportunities for Different Levels of Engagement
Maximize the number of volunteers you can appeal to by providing opportunities to help out at different levels of commitment. Some like organizing large-scale events like bagging meals for foreign missions. Make sure you offer a variety of service opportunities. Make it clear in your volunteer content that you have opportunities for different levels of commitment. If someone has a positive experience doing a small volunteer assignment for your church, they may consider getting more involved in the future.

Once you’ve recruited a new service volunteer, you’ve only just begun! Now you’ll need to manage and retain them. Retention is the opposite side of the recruitment coin, and it might even be more important. It’s important that you have a church management application that can track and report their engagement over time: this can help you spot trends and modify your volunteer strategies. Serving the Church and the community is one of the best ways for parishioners to grow in their walk with Christ. Make sure you make it easier for all your members to participate in this critical opportunity.

From Ministry Tech

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