Need more volunteers at your church?
While many churches are reporting a decline in the number of people serving, volunteerism in our country remains strong. The Corporation for National & Community Service has stated that 1 in 4 Americans (26.5%) volunteered in 2013, donating 7.9 million hours.
Social science researchers have been studying the reasons people volunteer for a long time. These reasons have been described in many different ways, but five general themes have appeared throughout the research.
People volunteer because….
1. It matches their personal values. These are the people who say it matches their humanitarian or faith needs to help others; they enjoy helping others; it fulfills their personal values, convictions, and beliefs.
2. They want to understand more about the world around them. These people want to learn about the people they serve. They may want to overcome any personal fear or anxiety towards the people they serve or better understand the issues they face. This is why mission trips are often popular venues for service.
3. They seek personal development. Perhaps it’s to challenge themselves by dealing with an emotionally difficult topic, or to understand more about their strength or weakness, or to learn new skills… these people hope to grow personally from their volunteer experience.
4. They are concerned about their world or community. These people consider themselves an advocate for a cause or project because they want to impact the people in their community or around the world. It’s their passion.
5. They want to feel better about themselves. You’ve heard the expression it’s better to give than receive? Many people live into that value and volunteer because it helps them feel better about themselves, or fulfills some other need they have in life.
If we understand the motivations people have for serving, it may help us in connecting them to a ministry role.
• Which of these reasons do you hear most often at your church from the people serving?
• Are there other reasons that motivate Christians to serve?
With this information in mind you’re ready to guide someone into a serving role that matches their motivation. And when people are serving in a ministry that matches their passion—they stick around!
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I’m struck by the disparity between the number of volunteers and the number of volunteer hours reported. It reflects about 80 million volunteers serving for an average of 6 minutes apiece during 2013. I assume this comes from some combination of inflated answers (“I want to tell the nice pollster that I volunteered, even if I didn’t”) and under-counting by organizations (how many volunteer hours has my church received already this year? There’s no telling). It’s clear that lots of people volunteer. And it’s logical that if we thought volunteers were as important as money, we would count them just as carefully. Is there a way to count volunteers that encourages their service but doesn’t present a bookkeeping hassle?