If your church is like most, your volunteer base reflects something close to the 20/80 rule: 20% of the people are doing about 80% of the work. My guess is those same 20% of the people are doing 100% of the complaining about why the others 80% aren’t stepping up and helping out more.
You’ve likely had volunteers who started out enthusiastic and excited to serve. You’ve probably also seen how serving can eventually become a source of stress and bitterness for some of those same people. They end up burned out and upset with God, the church, you, or all of the above.
You’ve probably wished you didn’t have so many volunteer roles to fill. Ironically, your problem isn’t that you have too many volunteer opportunities and not enough volunteers. You actually need to create more opportunities to serve. By taking this approach, our church has managed to create a culture where over 90% of our regular attenders are actively serving on the weekends on a regular basis. How did we do it? I’m glad you asked.
When Friendship originally launched in 2006, we knew our guests would outnumber our launch team. So we invited groups from other churches to help us out by becoming 1-week SWAT teams, where SWAT stood for “Servants – Willing And Temporary.” These teams of 10-15 people would come for one Sunday just to help us by greeting people, directing parking, handing out bulletins, and stuff like that. We had different teams serving every week.
After a couple of months when we were ready to invite our attenders to begin serving, we kept rolling with the same basic approach of having rotating ministry teams. We invited people to serve once every five weeks. Their first time would be a “test drive.” If they served in the parking lot and loved it, then we invited them to join the team and continue to do it every fifth Sunday.
Today after people have attended our worship service 4-5 times, we contact them and invite them to serve with a specific ministry team on a specific date. We explain that our goal is to connect every one of our regular attenders to a regular serving opportunity because it’s such an important part of spiritual growth. Almost everyone says ‘yes.’
If we assign someone to the parking lot team and he creates a traffic jam, then we’ll invite him to test drive with the café team next time. If he then spills hot coffee on people in the café, then we’ll invite him to lend a hand to the set-up team. We’ll keep plugging him into different teams until he finds a fit, but most people stick with their very first assignment and love it.
The benefits to having rotating ministry teams have been huge.
- We’ve created a culture where serving is easy. When people realize that serving on the weekend doesn’t have to equal a 52-week commitment, they embrace the opportunity.
- We’ve created a culture where serving is expected. It’s now part of our DNA at Friendship, so that we almost have a positive peer pressure effect. We talk often from the platform about how we’re convinced that a “non-serving Christian” is a contradictory term. Following Jesus means serving others.
- We’ve created a step that allows people to connect more deeply with the church and become more invested as a partner, even before they take a formal step toward joining the church.
- We’ve created an added opportunity for people to connect with others relationally, as they serve alongside their team members.
- We’ve seen times where a volunteer falls out of the habit of attending regularly. Then when she receives reminders about being scheduled to serve on the weekend, she shows up and honors her commitment. Even if she came out of nothing more than a sense of duty, once she arrives she re-connects with her teammates relationally, connects with God through the worship experience, and is invited to take her next step toward God as she is impacted by the truth of His Word. She is reminded of what she had been missing when she was absent. We’ve had many examples where the scheduled serving opportunity kept someone connected to the church as they went through a spiritual dry season.
- We’ve eliminated the burnout and frustration that inevitably happens when 20% of the people are doing 80% of the work.
Best of all, by removing unnecessary barriers to serving we are giving people the opportunity to grow spiritually. When people get on mission and actively involved, they experience the joy of making a difference and of shifting their focus from themselves to others.
Got questions about how to implement this? Contact Todd Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his blog at BeKnownForLove.com. Todd is an author, consultant, and pastor of Friendship Community Church, one of the fastest growing churches in America.