By Jennifer Maggio, Crosswalk.com
Engaging Volunteers in Ministry
Volunteers are a critical component to any healthy, thriving, single moms’ ministry. They can truly enhance the overall experience of single mom attendees in your ministry and your ability to have longevity in the ministry.
In this article, you’ll find:
Why You Need Volunteers
Volunteer Best Practices
Potential Assignments for Volunteers
Why You Need Volunteers:
Volunteers increase your capacity. You can’t do it all. Volunteer support extends the amount of work that can be done and positions your ministry for growth. You may be effective at managing 10, 20, or even 30 moms in your group, but what if the Lord wants to grow your group to 100 or more? In order to facilitate effective single mom’s ministry at significantly higher volumes, you need to recruit a volunteer team to help. Position the ministry for growth by recruiting now.
Volunteers advertise the group. Volunteers are excited to serve. They talk to friends & family about the work they are doing, about your single moms program, and about how others can get involved, so they can be your biggest advocates, potentially. They can help in passing out fliers, telling the single moms they work with, and growing your overall network. You could potentially tell 50 single moms about your single moms’ program, but what if you had 10 volunteers doing the same? You just expanded your reach ten-fold, just be having volunteers!
Volunteers bring creativity. They will have ideas that you won’t. They give you a bigger perspective on the ministry. They bring a new-ness, fresh-ness to the table. A brainstorming session of one won’t be near as effective as a brainstorming session of ten!
Volunteers increase your sense of support. Volunteers shift thinking from “me” to “we”. All of a sudden, you are not on an island doing it all alone. If you founded the ministry at your church, there is a great deal of ownership. They become your girls, your ministry. That can be fantastic, because you are passionate about the ladies you serve and take your responsibility seriously. However, it can also be dangerous, because taking too much ownership becomes more about you than the Kingdom. Volunteers allow the focus to be on a team serving single mothers, rather than one individual.
Volunteers provide accountability. When you are working in teams, it is easier to ensure spiritual accountability. Volunteers are those advocates that can engage in healthy boundary discussions or ways to keep your thought life pure, or just how to do life well, in general. Volunteers become friends! They will offer candid feedback on potential pitfalls they see. We all need that in our lives.
Volunteers offer unique perspective. Sometimes, in the midst of planning and preparation of single moms’ ministry, we can get stuck in the weeds and struggle to see the big picture. Additionally, we can create a tunnel-vision view of single parenthood based on our own life experiences. Volunteers can offer us different perspectives on how to achieve mission goals. Further, volunteers bring different life experiences that can offer insight into ministry best-practices and overall enhancements to how you serve the single moms in your ministry.
Overworked and underpaid will definitely reign true when you are a volunteer if you are not receiving any value from the position. Too often volunteers enter into a role excited about serving others, but when they aren’t trained properly, or when they aren’t valued, they feel like they are being under-utilized. The point is, although volunteers are not growing their pocketbooks, they are growing their emotional and spiritual cup. Here are some ideas on setting up your volunteers for success:
- Utilize your church resources. Many churches have collective church leadership training via in-person meetings or online training. Utilize what is available to line up with the beliefs and design of your church within your single moms’ ministry. In other words, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel and setup a huge conference to train your volunteers.
- Meet regularly for business and pleasure. Set up a monthly or quarterly meet-up with your volunteers to cover some of the logistics of your single moms’ ministry. What is working? What is not? Just remember to keep it light and fun and not all business. Most people volunteer to give back to the community, but in turn, make friendships along the way. Play a game. Draw for a door prize. Go to dinner at a restaurant or offer dinner at your house. Tell funny stories. Have fun with it! Developing strong relationships with your volunteers will go a long way in helping them feel part of the team.
- Have a “quick meet” with the team before each meeting. It is important to have a quick meeting with your volunteers before a single mom’s group meeting starts in order to pray and make announcements, as well as to create a team environment. For instance, if your group meeting starts at 7pm, then set up a quick meeting at 6:15pm to rally the troops. It’s a good idea to give out assignments and cover the meeting agenda, so that all are on the same page. Remember, this is not a long meeting, so don’t plan lots of chit-chat. It’s more of a quick rah-rah.
- Assess volunteer skills. Training may imply it’s a one-time event, but training is about assessing the skills your volunteers have and allowing them to best utilize their skills to maximize the ministry experience for your single moms.
- Rest. Burn-out happens and it will happen with your volunteer team. They key to know when a volunteer is approaching this stage is communication. If you notice a leader is volunteering in several different capacities in the church, call them to check in. Ask how they are doing and oftentimes, if they are approaching burn-out, they will break down in tears and tell you how tired they are. This is a difficult position as a leader looking for any help they can get to tell someone to take a break, but it’s important. Model rest for your volunteers, as well. It is important for you, as the leader, to take sabbaticals and rest. (That’s what you have the volunteer team for!)
- Look at the heart, when recruiting. Recruit for heart. Keep an eye out for someone with a heart for single mothers or fatherless children. If someone already has a passion for those you are ministering to, chances are they could be your next volunteer. Look for those who exhibit great compassion for others.
- Look for humility. Humble volunteers make great future leaders. They are the ones who are willing to take out the trash, mop the floors, and clean baby’s bottoms. They aren’t concerned with being seen. They are there to serve precious families.
- Single moms can volunteer, too. Many single mom ministry leaders think that they must be recruiting a volunteer team from outside their ministry walls. They couldn’t be more wrong. Single moms can be faithful volunteers and often already share a great passion to serve their sisters within the ministry. Look for early-arrivers to your ministry meetings. Take note of any single moms who consistently arrive early for your group meetings. Chances are she’s probably really excited about the meeting and that arrival time works for her. Why not ask if she’d like to help set-up or serve as a greeter? Giving single mothers volunteer roles also increases overall engagement in the ministry.
- Get new people in your church connected. If your support group meets at a church, make an effort to look for individuals needing to be connected. Newcomers are often looking for a way to make their new church family feel like home. This can be achieved by plugging them into existing volunteer opportunities.
- Consider current church members. Maybe a church member has been attending for some time, but is not serving in any capacity. Alternatively, maybe someone already serves one Sunday a month at church, but is looking to expand their service opportunities to do more. Why not approach them about helping in single moms’ ministry? Youth Ministry can sometimes be a great place to solicit help for set-up, clean-up, or childcare. The same is true for the senior citizens’ ministry at your church. Perhaps they’d love to cook a meal for your moms or rock sweet little ones during meetings.
- Avoid stereotypes. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that all your volunteers need to have the same background. They don’t have to be current or former single moms to help with set-up, clean-up, greeting, etc. Likewise, they don’t have to have had the same single parenting experience that you had. You could miss out on an outstanding volunteer if you have a preconceived idea of what the volunteer should be like.
- Consider commitment level. Understand that not every volunteer that serves in the ministry is going to have the same level of commitment. It will vary widely from volunteer to volunteer. Perhaps some volunteers serve every group meeting while others serve every other meeting. Still yet, some may prefer to only serve at special events. That’s okay. Know each volunteer’s level of commitment, so you can honor their boundaries.
- Praise them. People go where they are appreciated. Everyone likes to know they are valued, seen, treasured, and appreciated. Be sure that you are being intentional about praising each volunteer for all they do. Volunteer praise can include simple gestures, such as texts or notes in the mail, as well as public atta-girls during team meetings. They can also go beyond to bigger gestures, such as volunteer dinners, award ceremonies, etc. Work within your budget and time constraints.
- Maintain a personal relationship with your volunteers. Build relationships outside of the ministry with your volunteers. Your support group meetings should not be the only time they see you or hear from you. Have coffee with them. Talk to them about their families. Send an encouraging text message. Whatever works. People go the extra mile, when they know they are cared for and seen beyond a number or duty.
Volunteer Best Practices:
- Get to know your volunteers. How many children do they have? Where do they work? What are they passionate about? What is their cat’s name? People want to know you care. They want to know they aren’t just a number. Relationship is so important in ministry, whether its with the people you serve or the volunteers who serve with you. People show up when they feel connected.
- Match immediate ministry needs with volunteer skill sets. Maybe you have an immediate need for data entry at your organization and someone steps forward to do that. However, if we make the intentional effort of learning the skill set of the volunteer that serves (through a survey or onboarding volunteer document), we may find that they are gifted in graphic design, Bible teaching, website development, etc. We like to get a resume on every volunteer to help us with this task.
- Have a plan. Please. Have you ever volunteered with a church or at an event with dozens of other people? Maybe there was a big push to get volunteers at this big 5K Fundraising Event and so you showed up and found that most of your time was spent standing around with nothing to do. Ugh. I have volunteered countless times when I literally was digging for something to do. Don’t let this be your volunteers. Thoroughly plan the needs you have for your program. Do you need more prayer warriors? Babysitters? Food service team? Facebook gurus? Whatever your needs are have them listed. Assign volunteer coordinators and leaders to different teams to help with organization.
- More IS merrier. Never, never, never tell a potential volunteer that you have nowhere to use them. Sometimes this volunteer opportunity is the very thing they need to move into a leadership role. Maybe it is the very thing God has called them to do. Maybe this volunteer was called to launch a single moms program in another church and this service will give them the confidence to do so. Volunteering gives value. Don’t miss an opportunity to bless someone else with the opportunity to serve.
Potential Assignments for Volunteers:
As a ministry leader, it is common to feel overwhelmed with the list of things that need to be done especially when you do it alone. Some of us recruit volunteers and sincerely appreciate their servant’s heart, but are we delegating effectively? Are we giving these talented and capable individuals the opportunity to develop their skills in meaningful service or do we just call on them to step in when we get tired? Here are some ideas of potential volunteer assignments:
Phone calls. Follow-up phone calls after an event or single mom’s meeting is crucial to connecting moms to the ministry. Who is the volunteer that calls you often or has a friendly personality? This is the type of volunteer who could call moms reminding them of meeting dates and times, praying with them, checking on them periodically, and following up with new group members. This person may even lead a team of phone “bankers” for extra large groups.
Follow-up emails. Who is the volunteer that prefers to communicate via email, is organized and may even send you unsolicited feedback via email? This volunteer may be perfect for managing emails to moms and volunteer teams. There was a lady I once worked with that would often be the first to say, “I wish they had sent an email about that.” Bingo! She became the email lady. She was effective at it because it was something she valued.
Building a social media platform or private group. There are so many social media savvy ladies who would really shine at building and maintaining a Facebook group page (or some similar social media avenue) for your single moms group. It’s a great tool for building community, making announcements, sharing resources and filling their newsfeeds with positive and uplifting messages from you and your team.
Greeters Team. Every single moms’ group, regardless of size or location, needs a greeter’s team. Whether you are meeting in a home as a small group of 3 or 4, or are a much larger ministry with several dozen, having a greeter’s team creates a warm and welcoming spirit among both new and regular attenders. Greeters should be diverse in age, race, and life experience, when possible, and should be friendly, out-going types, who know how to give a great hug!
Food Team. Some churches have a fantastic cooking team and can provide meals for your single moms’ group. However, most don’t. That’s why assembling a food team for your single mom’s group is a necessary part of effective single moms’ ministry. Have families in the church sign up and put them on a rotating schedule. Contingent upon the size of your group, it can be as simple as having one volunteer/family to cook the meal for the ladies, or putting together an entire team to cook the meal. (e.g. Betty cooks the green beans. Sally cooks the roast. Nancy prepares the mashed potatoes. And so on).
Prayer Team. Nothing is more powerful than prayer. And single moms needs lots of prayer. Create a team within your ministry that can handle all the prayer requests that will come in. Maybe your prayer team starts with one faithful individual, but morphs into much larger as the ministry grows. Prayer teams can attend meetings to pray with women on site before or after group, or they can pray from afar, or a combination of both.
Small Group Leaders. As your ministry grows, we recommend dividing the group into a small group discussion time at the end of every meeting. Each group should have a small group leader to help facilitate the dialogue. Single moms are great small group leaders! Ideal small group leaders are those who feel comfortable talking in a group, but also possess the discernment of when to be quiet and listen to others as they share, taking care to ask open-ended questions that solicit as much engagement as possible.
Serve team. This team visits single moms in the hospital, cooks meals for needs that they may have, and provides other practical needs. Maybe this team can help with emergency lawn care services or other handyman needs by helping to facilitate a serve day at a mom’s home one weekend.