8 Steps to Creating a Contagious Volunteer Culture

How many of you are fans of Apple, not the fruit, the company that makes the iPhone? I became a fan several years ago because of my senior pastor. He bragged and bragged about their products, until I finally broke down and got the iPhone, then an iPad, then an iMac, and eventually a Macbook. Over the years I’ve fallen in love with their products, but I have to admit something…there are other companies that make products as good, if not better, than Apple. I don’t keep buying Apple products because they’re necessarily the best. I keep buying because of the culture Apple has created.

Samuel Chand says, “Culture is the strongest force in any organization. The best way to understand culture is the statement: This is how we do things here.”

It goes without saying that culture is a big deal when you’re trying to sell something. In fact one of the new sayings the church has adopted from the business world is “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

So, if you’re having a hard time getting people to serve in the church, then you may want to take a long hard look at your culture.

If it’s not working for you, you may want to try these eight steps to create a contagious volunteer culture.

  1. Raise Awareness. Ephesians 4:12 says that Jesus gave pastors the job of equipping His followers to do ministry. That means ministry isn’t something only pastors do, ministry is something we all do. Each of us has a ministry. You need to make sure people are aware of this.
  2. Have a Compelling Vision. Your vision should not only excite you, it should excite others. When my pastor was talking about the latest Apple product, he did it with excitement, which peaked my interest. Not sure what your vision is? Check out this post to help discover it.
  3. Tap a Shoulder. Many pastors ask for volunteers from the stage and have limited success. Don’t stop asking from the stage, but teach your leaders to tap a shoulder. You are ten times more likely to gain a volunteer from a one on one conversation than you are from asking from the stage.
  4. Develop Leaders. Speaking of leaders, you need to take time to develop them. They need to own the vision and be able to communicate it clearly to potential volunteers. The best leaders are those who have influence and a positive attitude.
  5. Change the Language. Try to never say the word need. For example, never say we need more nursery workers. Instead of needs, you have opportunities. We have an amazing opportunity for you to love on some babies. Also, try to avoid saying, “I have to serve today.” Instead develop a culture of saying, “I get to serve today.” There’s a big difference.
  6. Create Job Descriptions. Many people hesitate to volunteer because they are uncertain of what’s required. Job descriptions eliminate this issue. If you don’t have time to develop your own, send me a message, and I’ll send you ours.
  7. Offer a Trial Period. Another reason people hesitate to serve is because they’re afraid they’ll be stuck doing something they don’t enjoy. You can get around this by offering trial periods. I would make the trial period no longer than 3 months. Anything longer than that starts to give people anxiety.
  8. Show You Care. One of the worst things you can do is recruit a new volunteer and never follow up with them. Don’t make this mistake. Make sure you develop a system to check on new volunteers periodically and show them you care.

What would you add to this list? Let me know by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget about the Small Town Big Church Coaching Network launching this fall. You can find out all the details here.

Five Numbers to Watch this Fall

I’m a numbers guy. I’ve always loved them. Math was my best subject in school, and I graduated college with a Business Management degree so I could count more numbers. When I was asked to become the Executive Pastor at the church I serve, counting numbers was the easiest part of the transition. Unfortunately, a lot of pastors don’t share my same love for numbers, but regardless there are a few numbers you need to pay close attention to this fall.

Historically, September through November has always been a season of growth at the church I serve. Summer is over and temperatures start dropping, which means people are spending less time on vacation or at the lake and more time showing up to church. The kids have gone back to school, and parents have gotten back into their regular routine.

It’s not uncommon to see ten to fifteen percent more people showing up to church in the fall than in the summer. More people gives you the chance to build momentum and get more people connected to the mission and vision of your church.

This fall should be a win for your church…if you measure it.

If you don’t measure it, how will you ever know when you’re winning?

Here are the five numbers I’ll be measuring, and I think you should be measuring them as well.

  • Attendance. Every pastor should be measuring weekly attendance. How many people are showing up at your church for weekend services? Once you get this number you need to do something more with it than just put it on a board in the back of your church. You need a way of tracking it over a long period of time. Church Metrics is a free online platform that allows you to do that and a lot more. Once you start tracking these numbers you can go back and compare them in order to give you a better idea of the health of your church.
  • Giving. I’m guessing even if you don’t count the attendance, you probably still count the offering, right? Of course you do, you’d be crazy not to. This fall I’m looking for my weekly giving numbers to be ten to fifteen percent higher than during the summer. How do I check that? You guessed it, Church Metrics.
  • Groups. The fall may be the best time of year to launch new groups. That’s why this fall I want to measure how many total groups the church is offering and how many total people are showing up to them. Groups are difficult in a small town. You can read my thoughts on why, here. But, they are vital to keeping people connected to the church. I’m really excited about our groups this fall, and I haven’t been able to say that in a couple of years. If your church offers Sunday school instead of groups, you can still use the same measurements.
  • Volunteers. The fall is also a great time to recruit new volunteers. The closer we get to Thanksgiving and Christmas it seems the more people get in the serving spirit. Just last month we added 15 new volunteers at one of our campuses. That’s huge in a small town church, but we still need more. So, this fall I’ll continue to measure the number of volunteers we have, as well as the number of new volunteers that have been recruited. If you need help recruiting and retaining volunteers, you can find out more here.
  • First Time Guests. One of the most important numbers I’ll be measuring this fall is the number of first time guests. They’re the key to church growth. I heard someone say once that in order for your church to grow the number of first time guests that visit during a year needs to exceed your average weekly attendance. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but it’s definitely a number we’re striving for. That means if your church averages 75 people on a weekend, then in order to grow you need to have more than 75 first time guests throughout the year.

Of course, we’ll also be measuring salvation and baptism numbers as well. We just don’t see as much change in those numbers during the fall. Again, you can track those using Church Metrics.

I’d love to hear some of your number goals for the fall. Are you trying to break 100 in weekly attendance? Trying to add 10 new volunteers? Trying to serve 50 first time guests? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe. Also, if you’re looking to grow your church this fall in an incredible way strongly consider becoming a part of the first ever Small Town Big Church Coaching Network. You can find more details here.

Help! I’m a Student Pastor

I recently got a new job title, Student Pastor. It wasn’t one I applied for. It just kind of dropped into my lap. Now, I’m not leaving the church I serve as Executive Pastor. I’m just expanding what I do. For those of you who serve in small town churches, you probably can relate. You’re rarely just the Groups Pastor or Worship Pastor or whatever. Most of the time you wear multiple hats, and the hat I’m putting on is a flat bill hat tilted slightly off center.

The good news is I’ve been a part of our Student Ministry for the better part of ten years. The bad news is Student Ministry is changing at a rapid pace, and I have a lot of responsibilities to juggle.

Time is not on my side.

And if you’re a Student Pastor who is wearing multiple hats or you happen to be bi-vocational, you realize time isn’t on your side either.

Thankfully, I think I’ve found a solution, or at least a lot of help when it comes to planning and preparing for student ministry.

It’s called Grow Curriculum, and from what I’ve seen and used of it, it’s pretty awesome.

Here’s what it includes:

Curriculum – 52 weeks of teaching in 13 sermon series. You get the logo, the video openers, the customizable messages, and the small group materials that go with each message. This alone will save you hours upon hours of work.

Discipleship – 4 activities, one per quarter, that will grow your students in the spiritual disciplines of serving, evangelism, community, and personal time with God.

Games – 50 fun and interactive game ideas that tell you exactly what you need to get your students smiling and laughing.

Events – 7 done for you event guides so you can easily put together weekend retreats, summer camps, and mission experiences.

Volunteers – Everything you need to connect and build relationships with your ministry volunteers throughout the year. Discussion guides, conversation starters, meetings, celebrations, and more.

Parents – A one-year parent investment strategy that again includes emails, events, open houses, and more.

It includes everything you need to have a successful student ministry, and it will save you a ton of time.

There are also a couple other big bonuses that come with it.

The Grow App – The app includes all the small group materials for your small group leaders to use. Why is this a big deal? Because you don’t have to spend time thinking up and printing off group questions each week. You can just tell your leaders to download the app.

The Message Builder – One of the coolest pieces to this whole curriculum is their drag and drop message builder. I used it for the first time this past week and loved it. It’s kind of hard to explain, so make sure you check out this video for all the details.

If I didn’t stumble upon this curriculum, I can honestly say, I would be in a world of hurt because I just don’t have the time needed to do student ministry at the level it deserves to be done. This is going to be a game changer for me, and I think it would be for some of you as well.

Now it’s not free, and I didn’t expect it to be. A ton of work has gone into this. A yearly plan that includes everything I’ve listed above is $997. I think it’s worth it. If you can’t swing that, then you can get just the curriculum, the discipleship piece, and the games for $497. I think it’s worth the extra $500 to get all of it, but I understand student ministry budgets are often really tight.

Quick Disclaimer – If you purchase Grow Curriculum through one of the links on my site, I will receive a commission on that purchase. But, everything I said above I would’ve said if I didn’t get paid. It really is a great product that I’m currently using and one I believe can make a difference in your student ministry. If you purchase it, let me know how you like it by leaving a comment below.