We did it! 50 episodes and we’re still here; growing, sharing, and teaching more than ever. For our 50th episode we want to answer one of the BIGGEST questions we get from our audience…how can we inspire church volunteers?
We’re interviewing Pastor Danny Franks who oversees over 1000 volunteers every month. Danny shares how to grow your church volunteers environment, uncover hidden talents, and inspire church volunteers to recruit more volunteers.
About Our Guest: Danny Franks
Danny Franks is the Pastor of Guest Services at The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, where he’s been since 2003. He oversees guest services for 9 campuses.
Danny is a dad and husband. His passion is to help outsiders become insiders and then help the insiders reach the outsiders.
TL;DW (Too Long; Didn’t Watch)
In guest services, Danny oversees what’s not happening on stage or in age-graded ministry. These are things from the “street to the seat…” parking, seating, setup, first-time guest process, and the logistics of weekend service.
A big part of Danny’s job is to recruit and inspire church volunteers. He wants to intercept new people coming in and capitalize on their excitement to serve.
So how do you find out what your new church members can achieve?
Uncovering Your Church’s Hidden Talents
Danny’s guest services team is built around finding the right people for the right job.
Instead of putting people through a ringer like a spiritual gift survey, Danny strives to help people understand what opportunities exist. He wants people to have a clear menu of what is available and where they can fit in.
These ministry opportunities are divided into two simple categories, inside the walls and outside the walls. Inside the walls ministries cover what’s going on inside the church: kids and youth ministry, worship, church media team, greeters, etc. Outside the walls cover the community-driven ministries.
The key to onboarding new volunteers is to not overwhelm them with all the different opportunities. This leads to analysis paralysis, or not making a commitment because there is too much to choose from.
At all of The Summit Church campuses, there is a monthly event called Starting Point to help people find out what the next steps are. After Starting Point, the definitive next steps to take are:
Opportunities to serve
Coming out of Starting Point, the goal is to figure out what the new people are gifted for and passionate about doing. This process is not about filling empty spots, but understanding how God has wired them. Then Danny’s team curates positions that the new member would be a good fit for.
Danny wants to make sure that every ministry is 100% staffed. Instead of operating with the mentality of “how many people can we get away with,” Danny wants to operate with an abundance mentality. God has given many people to the church, and he wants to utilize as many as possible. This is why Starting Point is every month and not on an “as-needed” basis.
Once people volunteer for a ministry, next comes the training…
How To Incorporate Volunteer Training
Starting Point gives church people concrete steps in what to do if they’re interested in serving. In addition to Starting Point, the guest services and kids teams have a monthly orientation for people interested in serving. The other ministries will do orientation less frequent but still regularly.
After getting connect beyond orientation, individual ministries handle their own training process. But everything is very systemized. Kids ministry always begins with background checks. And tech team always begins with technical evaluation and shadowing.
So this system works like a funnel. Everyone is invited to Starting Point. After that, people are moved into the ministries they are a good fit for. Then the ministries do their own orientation and specific duty-related training.
This makes a smooth transition from interest to action.
But how to you inspire church volunteers to get fired up and take that first step?
How You Can Actually Start To Inspire Church Volunteers
Inspiring church volunteers really begins with your posture as a leader.
When you’re trying to inspire people to serve, don’t let the narrative become desperate. No one wants to sign up to board a sinking ship.
On the other hand, many leaders will try to soft-sell their ministry. But this is still negative. There is obvious deception that causes hesitation in potential volunteers.
Instead, paint a picture of what’s happening here and now in the lives of people. How is your ministry creating life change? How does fine-tuning sound or stapling curriculum lead to a baptism? Posture your ministry as part of the vision and great commission of the church.
Help your potential volunteers understand why they do it. Emphasize the “why” over the “what.” Figure out why your ministry exists, and communicate that to your volunteers. You don’t want them to show up on Sunday only knowing what they’re supposed to do. These volunteers can be cranky, don’t work well with others, and draw many lines in the sand. But when volunteers know and connect to the “why,” they see their part in delivering Jesus’ message.
Your volunteers are not button-monkeys. When you design an environment for people to come closer to Jesus, you will go farther in ministry than technical skills could ever take you.
Pro-tip: If you’re strapped for time and can’t get everyone on campus at the same time, use Zoom to train remotely.
The Secret Sauce To Managing 1, 100, or 1,000 Volunteers
Danny manages over 1000 volunteers a month through his guest services ministry. But these principles are not limited to just large and megachurches. These principles are rooted in small to medium churches.
Do not depend on the pulpit to bring volunteers out of the woodwork. After 25 years of ministry, Danny knows that calls to volunteer from the pulpit create a lot of awareness but rarely create action. And if there is a response, it’s either out of guilt or somebody thinking, “this is a great idea for someone else.”
Action happens when somebody currently serving takes it upon themselves to invite other people into the volunteer environment. Tim Stevens and Tony Morgan call this Shoulder Tapping.
It is the leaders role to make people aware of the opportunities, but it is the volunteer’s responsibility to do the shoulder tapping to create action. Your volunteers can more effectively get the YES than anyone from stage. Shoulder tapping also helps emphasize that volunteering is a joint effort.
Make And Trust The System
When you put a system in place like The Summit Church, you can focus on the process more than the outcome.
Part of the beauty of having a system is the mile markers along the way. When you have events calendared, you get a continual reminder to always be inviting people.
And part of your system should include checking in with people. The volunteer doesn’t just magically disappear into the machine after they say yes. They need a process for onboarding.
Continue checking in with your volunteers after their first shadowing, after their first solo Sunday, and every month after. Constant continual conversations help develop them as leaders.
A great book to follow up up on systemizing your volunteer environment is The Checklist Manifesto. With this book you’ll see how to systemize your process to serve your volunteers well. We also talk about this more in our interview with Adam Mclaughlin, How To Recruit The Best Volunteers In Church (And Continue Growing The Team).
So often in church, we look for the people who can just do more of what they’re good at. But this can lead to volunteers becoming overburdened and underappreciated.
The key to inspire church volunteers is the life-change that happens because of their service. Show why you have a ministry, not just what you do.
To make it easy for someone to volunteer, setup a process to onboard them. Map out what steps you want them to take, and then make it easy for them to flow through those steps. With a simple and repeatable process, your volunteers will have an easier time inviting more people to join alongside them.
You can learn more from Danny in his latest book, People Are The Mission: How churches can welcome guests without compromising the Gospel.
Do you have a system to inspire church volunteers? What about an onboarding system? Let us know in the comments below!
[Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, we receive compensation if you purchase any of the resources above at no extra cost to you]