Take Your Culture’s Temperature

Take Your Culture’s Temperature
October 15, 2013 Jim Wideman

Does your church have a volunteer-welcoming culture? It’s good to know, because slick volunteer recruitment won’t make a bit of difference, if once people sign up, they don’t like how you do business.

Think about Disney World. Disney spends a fortune on advertising that it’s a great vacation spot. But if kids bounce through the gates and all they find is Grumpy the Dwarf and a couple of lame rides, what’s going to happen?

I’ll tell you: Disney will be out of business in six months. Disappointed people talk, and they talk loudly. It will be all over the Web, all over the news, and for Disney it’ll be all over—period.

People talk about what it’s like to volunteer in your ministry too. They talk about what the leadership is like, whether it’s fun to volunteer, and whether they plan on coming back. People are talking….but what are they saying?

If you want long-term Velcro volunteers, you’ve got to have a culture that encourages people to stick around. You may think you’ve accomplished that, but what do people in your church think?

Ask them. Create a quick survey to give your volunteer. Here are four questions to get you started:

  • Fun: How much fun is it to volunteer at our church?
  • Fair: In your volunteer role, are you treated fairly?
  • Forgiving: In your volunteer role, are you expected to be perfect—or just growing?
  • Faithful: How much trust do you have in your leaders?

Before you distribute it, ask someone you trust to collect the completed forms, type up a summary, and destroy the original surveys. That way volunteers can give their honest opinions anonymously. When you see how your church’s current culture is evaluated, it might be an eye-opener.

Your church’s culture will make or break your volunteer program. If it’s not fun, fair, forgiving, and faithful, you won’t hang on to volunteers that stick—you won’t have volunteers at all.

Creating a volunteer-welcoming culture is huge, and you can’t do it alone. You need to get lots of people on board, especially people in leadership. Jot down the names of people who are already making your church’s volunteer culture a place that’s fun, fair, forgiving, and faithful. Who’s already helping? And who do you need to recruit?

Consider Disney World again. They’ll let you get away with a lot, but if you cross the line and start ruining the culture of the theme park, you’re history. Disney World is a fierce defender of its culture. And it’s smart for you to do the same. Don’t let anyone go chasing volunteers away because of a nasty attitude or a lack of commitment to the vision of your church and ministry.

Creating a volunteer-welcoming culture is a great first step—but it’s just a first step. It’ll make volunteering at your church attractive, but it’s not going to keep people on board long term. Most of what you do to turn volunteers into long-term volunteers who stick—the Velcro volunteers—you’ll have to do anyway, just to have a healthy volunteer culture.


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