From the MinistryBestPractices Archives:
It doesn't matter if you are a church of 50, 500 or 50000, - encouraging and mobilizing volunteers seems to be the perennial challenge in ministry. At my church we are constantly wrestling through this issue. I don't presume to have the final word on this, but here have been some of my thoughts and teachings about how to more effectively get more volunteers.
1. Develop leaders first. Volunteers will only work under competent leaders. Therefore it is your job to develop, to coach and to pour into leaders. Emerging leadership is one of your most important assets. Make sure you have good leadership first and then from that volunteers will grow.
2. Stop fishing from the same pond- You can only know so many people. Malcolm Gladwell says that most people connect within only small and intimate circles of relationships. Therefore the key to recruiting is to be able to get into other relational circles. In order to do that, you need to ask your key volunteers to intentionally tap into their circles. Ask your volunteers to recruit their own team themselves because chances are they know people you don't even know.
3. Equip your volunteers - people are not merely tools in order to accomplish your ministry goals and objectives. But unfortunately, too often, we treat them that way. You need to value your volunteers. Train, equip and develop your volunteers. Make sure they know that they are going to walk away with an added value for volunteering, in other words, a free prize inside. In other words, it isn't so much about "getting" from your volunteers, but rather "giving" to them and investing in them.
4. Simply ask. Most of the time, the people you need to serve in your ministry area are simply sitting in your church doing nothing. The reason for this is because all they hear are asks, pleas and challenges from the platform. And suffice it say, "Everyone's challenge" is too often "No one's challenge". Not everybody will respond to a corporate challenge (also read my post about Communication from the Platform). Sometimes all you need to do is to take the initiative and ask.
5. Communicate Vision, not Need. To often when churches communicate the need for volunteers it sounds like begging. "We need to fill spots!" "We need your help!" Most people don't respond to that kind of plea. People will respond to vision and outcomes. People want to know that their serving will have purpose and gives them a real opportunity to impact the Kingdom of God.