Volunteer Culture: Debunking the Myth that Volunteering Takes More Time – Part 2

In our local churches we sometimes operate in a fantasy land, ignoring the reality that our people are living outside the four walls of the church. We create programs, activities, and opportunities for people to volunteer their time and talent as though our people are sitting around with nothing to do.

When we do ask them to step up and participate, we’re often vague, and sometimes shaming.

It’s as though we think people walk through the front door of our church saying, “I want my life to count. I want to make a difference. Everything I’m doing now, I’ll stop to be involved here.” I wonder if we see a blank slate in the lives of our members and attendees and think it’s our job as pastors and staff to “fill ‘er up!” Really?

None of us really thinks that. We know better. But sometimes we don’t lead like we know better.

  • The weekend bulletin/program is filled with a menu so large people are overwhelmed looking at it.
    • We forget that people already have a full menu. They work jobs that already require more from them than they feel they can give. They are the taxi service to get kids to school, soccer practice, school games, dentist appointments, shopping and over-nighters. They have their own doctors’ appointments, gym schedule, cleaning and social lives. People are busy! Aren’t you?
    • Then on top of that menu – not in place of it – we lay out an extensive array of opportunities for involvement. We tend to categorize the options: volunteer opportunities, Bible studies, group life, weekend services, etc. However, not all, but many people see the menu as a whole. “I can choose to volunteer, attend a class or be in a group. I can’t do everything.” Meanwhile the local church is communicating, “You need to be in a group, attend midweek classes, volunteer through a church ministry, be in the weekend service and spend time with your friends who need you to be Jesus in their lives. And don’t forget your family. Oh, and here’s one more all-church project we need everyone to prioritize.” Really? How’d we come to think people live a 9-day week? 
    • Trim. Trim. Trim. Here’s the simple truth: too many options on the menu means people won’t choose. It stresses them out. They’re paralyzed. Or they’ll choose and end up backing out. “Buyer’s” remorse. 
  • People can’t figure out how to volunteer.
    • People want to help. They want to be involved. They want to make a significant contribution with their time and talent. 
    • If you want them to help, you’ll need to make onramps visible and easily accessible. Host a ministry fair, a volunteer expo. a VolunTour or Backstage Pass. Make a clear pathway through your website. 
  • The what – the task – is communicated without the why. 
    • I just wrapped up a lively lunch meeting with four men from our Elkhart campus. The focus was connecting new people. The foundational conviction was people must hear and embrace the vision to make a connection at all. All four of these men spoke from their own experience. The why behind the what at Granger Community hooked them. Knowing why, the what was easy. 
    • If people are going to give up time in the middle of their work day like these men did today; if they’re going to give time on the weekends; if they’re going to stay late and show up early – they deserve to know “why.” It informs and motivates the activity of serving.

Here’s the recap…

  • Reduce the menu. Don’t overwhelm your people with too many choices.
  • Make onramps to volunteering visible and easily accessible.
  • Cast vision. Explain the why behind the what. Give context for the task.

Next post…

  • Invest in people; don’t merely expect them to invest in your ministry.


Of course, while you’re waiting for the next post, you should pick up THE handbook on all things volunteering by Tim Stevens and Tony MorganSimply Strategic Volunteers (also here).

And then, hop over to ENGAGED (Verb), the blog of Kim Volheim, our director of volunteer involvement at Granger Community.

Oh, and I did write more about this topic in Lasting Impressions (also here).

Read Part 1 here.

Read about Mark here.

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Environments >


Mark Waltz

Mark has spent the past 25 years serving and leading people. While many of those years were focused within the local church, he brings marketplace experience from retail management, as well as career development and training. Regardless of his work or ministry context, he is about investing in people, because he believes people really matter. Think of him as a "people advocate." A sought after consultant and trainer, Mark has helped local churches of all sizes improve their guest services experience. Today Mark serves as executive pastor at Granger Community Church where for the past fourteen years he has been a unifying force, overseeing adult relational connections, including groups, guest services and volunteer strategies. As Granger’s chief guest services practitioner he still inspires teams of volunteers who make Granger Community Church a relaxed, rejuvenating and relevant experience for members and guests. Mark also oversees Granger’s multisite campuses.

See more articles by >


What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.