3 Signs You May Be the Reason Nobody Wants to Volunteer

3 Signs You May Be the Reason Nobody Wants to Volunteer
November 9, 2016 Bob D'Ambrosio

If there’s a volunteer shortage at your church, it’s probably not because there aren’t enough people willing to serve.

According to the 2016 State of the Church report by the Barna Group, about one in six Americans have volunteered at their church in the past week. If they weren’t serving at your church, then they were probably serving at a local nonprofit (19 percent volunteered at a nonprofit compared to 18 percent at church).

Volunteering is “in” right now, so if you’re having difficulty getting people to serve at your church, it may be because of these leadership mistakes:

  1. You’re asking them to volunteer for you. People want to serve their church to help the mission of the church. Too often in our volunteer recruitment, we ask people to help us, not help support the mission. Mission motivates. Yes, people help you champion the ministry you’ve been called to lead, but their reason for ministry involvement is for a greater purpose. Invite people to be part of something bigger than just helping you do your job.
  2. You’re not releasing people to do what you’ve asked them to do. I once belonged to a church where the senior pastor was the only one with the key to the toner for the copier. Great leaders understand how to delegate and equip others to be successful. If we seriously believe in gift-based ministry, our job is to discover the gifts of our people and then help them find a place where they can serve. Josh Packard, in his book Church Refugees, states that many active church members are “done” with serving because they believe the pastor is the only one who is allowed to do any significant ministry. “Catch and release” may be the mantra of the 21st century church leader.
  3. You place people in a ministry role and then abandon them to fend for themselves. Have you ever breathed a sigh of relief when you finally filled an open slot, only to move on to the next volunteer to conquer? When slot-filling is more important than people development, we’ve gotten off track. Finding the right person is just the beginning. Equipping people to serve in ministry includes training, support, encouragement, affirmation, and recognition throughout the journey. Your volunteers know if you’re just trying to get someone to do a job or if you really value them as ministry partners.

A volunteer shortage at your church may be reason to pause and examine your leadership. Making a few changes may increase the number of people involved in ministry.


Bob D’Ambrosio is a 25-year veteran of frontline church ministry and now serves with Group’s content solutions team. He’s a trainer for volunteer equipping, a Refresh the Church blogger, and a ministry coach for Group U. Bob is a contributing author and general editor of the E4:12 Bible Study Series Better Together: Connecting to God and Others and Leading Out: Connecting People to Purpose.


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