Every church has, at some time or another, complained about a lack of volunteers. Excuses are given as to why volunteers aren't showing up and a mad scramble usually ensues to figure out how to get the work of the church done. But most of the conceptions that we have about volunteers are misconceptions. Some of the reasons our churches give for not making great strides in recruiting volunteers are not good reasons they're myths. Here are the seven most common myths about volunteers.
There aren't enough volunteers to go around.
Almost everywhere I turn when I meet with pastors and leaders, they're bemoaning the fact that they don't have enough volunteers for their ministries. But there's always a reason why they're not serving. I don't know what it is in your church. We know some of the reasons in our church.
But here's an idea to consider: Why don't you identify those people and ask them to come to a pizza party at the pastor's home? Say, "Hey, we've asked you to come tonight to pose a question. We're trying to raise the value of volunteerism in our church and we know you attend, but we're not sure that you serve anywhere. Why don't you serve?" You're going to hear some very interesting things. Some will say: "You know, I served for a while, and then no one called me to serve again so I thought you didn't need me;" "I served for a while, but the ministry team leader was not a good guy, so I stopped serving and no one's called me since;" "I served for a while because I was told that I was needed, I got there, and I really wasn't needed, so I stopped serving."
There are going to be lots of reasons. We can moan, sob, and groan about a lack of volunteers in our churches. It's just a myth. There are a lot of people who are potential servants in your church. You have to identify why they're not serving, get on the solution side, and invite them back into serving.
There are 500,000 non-churched people within a 30-minute drive of our campus at Willow Creek. If we're not making significant progress in drafting the people who already attend our church, who aren't willing to serve, then I've got to think beyond that and say, "Well, there are 500,000 other people out there. They all represent becoming potential volunteers. Obviously, there are a few challenges along the way to drafting them. But the people are there. We have to meet them, lead them to Christ, disciple them, convince them they have a spiritual gift, and invite them! If you're a leader in a local church, part of what you need to do is lift the vision, set the strategy, and start praying like crazy that you'll start to meet and lead to Christ ever-increasing numbers of people who will eventually become volunteers in your church.
Volunteers are only capable of doing the busy work of the church.
By this I refer to the myth that volunteers are only capable of doing repetitive tasks that the paid staff doesn't really want to mess with. That they're only capable of doing the tasks that are low in strategic import. At Willow, the decision-making positions with the greatest strategic import are often done almost exclusively by volunteers. To think that volunteers can only do busy work isn't true theologically, it doesn't agree with the experiences of the New Testament church, and it certainly doesn't agree with the experiences of our church.
Our elders, for instance, are responsible for the overall spiritual oversight of our church. They hire and fire the senior pastor, they exert church discipline and doctrinal evaluation and they're all volunteers. Our board of directors moves around tens of millions of dollars. They're involved with construction, legal matters, etc. They're all volunteers.