Volunteers provide numerous vital services for parishes. Recruiting and maintaining a consistent volunteer corps may require some creativity. Beginning with identifying parish needs, recognizing groups and individuals available to whom you can reach out, and most importantly, helping parishioners discern how their particular gifts and talents can bless the Church and the community. There are certain liturgical seasons, like Advent and Lent, when parishes may find an uptick in those interested in volunteering. It’s good to optimize those times to encourage assistance with charitable and parish activities throughout the year. Introduce a variety of volunteer opportunities so those men, women, and even families will continue to serve well beyond the season.
One strategy for achieving success in creating a core of dedicated volunteers comes from offering a wide range of volunteering opportunities. Brainstorming a list of all the tasks throughout the year requiring extra hands is pivotal. Parishes can then find ways to tap into people’s gifts and talents. Consider adopting a broader definition of volunteer work beyond collecting donations, teaching in your religious education programs, and serving at Mass in order to engage a larger potential volunteer population.
Thinking Outside the Volunteer Box
Not everyone may feel comfortable to assist in the more spiritual activities of a parish — they may even consider themselves unworthy. Why not begin with the parish’s building and facilities needs such as snow removal, raking leaves, window washing, and even floor-sweeping to help parishioners understand that they can be of great use to the church in many capacities outside of the traditional spiritual activities.
Does your parish have a small clerical staff? Could the parish use assistance with filing, email sending, or contact collection? What about phone calls or emails for pastoral outreach, follow-up on missing sacrament forms or inquiries, or assisting families to complete registration forms for your faith formation programs.
There are many ways to open people’s hearts to the possibilities of sharing their unique gifts and talents. Try to introduce how someone may be able to bless the parish through singing, crafting, graphic design, managing social media, formatting the weekly bulletin, or organizing parish fundraising and social events!
Help Wanted Description
Make sure to create a clear summary of each role and duty. Be clear about the time commitment, skills, and talents that you are seeking for the role, and of course be sure to share if there are any benefits! After all, who wouldn’t show up for a free meal after volunteering?
Once you have a description, share it in the bulletin, mailings, parish website, social media, and any other avenues of communication your church has. Rotate the “wanted ads” and consider including testimonies from new and current volunteers. These types of testimonials can be great during Mass announcements as well!
Don’t Overlook the Little Things
Here’s an example of how a parish embraced one woman’s desire to volunteer although she initially felt that she was inadequate to serve. She shared with the Director of Religious Education how embarrassed she felt when volunteers were sought at meetings, especially when asked to help provide food for parish events. Cooking and baking were not within her gifts or talents. The DRE suggested finding something else that might be needed for the event, something that she could buy instead of cook. Taking this advice, she chose to start supplying the potato chips for events at the parish.
After a while, the woman’s donation of potato chips became what the DRE would refer to as the woman’s “secret recipe,” particularly when requesting the item in front of other parents. The woman reported that this simple gesture helped her to see how she could easily contribute in a meaningful way, and over time, she found even more ways to contribute to the parish.
The Great Commission
Every church is unique. Each has different demographics, programming, charisms, and missions. One thing that stays consistent throughout, though, is that volunteerism is foundational to the mission of Christianity. Remember, the Great Commission calls each of us to be part of the whole Body of Christ. Creating a sound strategy to recruit and maintain volunteers provides the Church with an opportunity to assist our members in answering that timeless call. After all, we’re in this together!
For more information on guiding parishioners toward discerning their gifts, check out the Strengthsfinder white papers on our Res page.