We all want our church members to get plugged-in, planted and flourish. This isn’t going to happen for everyone automatically. You need to have clear pathways for people to get involved.
Share an exciting vision
This is the core of every successful attempt to get people involved in the life of your church. All the gimmicks and all the systems in the world can’t do anything if your members never say to themselves, “I want to be a part of that.” But, if you dream big and share that dream with your members, you give them something to latch onto and something they can unite behind.
Of course, you also have to accept that not everyone wants to dream big. You’re going to have some members who prefer to show up on Sundays and go home without any other involvement or commitments. You can’t fall into the trap of catering to these people. You have to dream big and share your vision in spite of those who don’t want to be involved. On those hard days, just remember that dreams are viral. You may not get a lot of response at first, but slowly and surely you’ll get two or three more people charged up, and they’ll each get two more people, and so on and so on, until the whole church is excited and those who don’t want to dream big start to be infected by the excitement.
Give people opportunities to be involved
This may sound simple (or even stupid, since you obviously have opportunities open), but it’s worth thinking about. Just because you have opportunities doesn’t mean your members know you do. In fact, one of the most common problems churches have is that uninvolved people look around, see everything works fine, and assume there’s no need for help. All the while, you have three volunteers working twenty hours a day in addition to their full time jobs, just so everything at church runs smoothly.
Your job is to make it clear that more volunteers are needed, that small groups are open to everyone rather than a select few, and that anyone who wants to help in church is welcome to. Some ways to make this clear is by:
- Letting members know what you would do if you had more volunteers and more leaders (so they contrast the present situation with your dream, rather assuming that if everything is working there must not be any need for help).
- Advertise areas that need more volunteers. You can do this verbally, you could have a volunteer fair, you could send emails, or even post needs on your website.
- Take your overly-active members (those who tend to do the work of three people) and change up their responsibilities. I wouldn’t suggest too radical of a change, but if you have a new ministry or a new need come up, take one or two responsibilities away form an over-active member and put them in charge of the new ministry. In order to make sure someone picks up the slack, publicly announce the change in roles and announce that you need volunteers to join the ministries your over-active member is leaving. This is also a good chance to publicly acknowledge those who work hardest to serve the church.
Start a connection desk
One thing my home church does that works well is they have a connection desk. This is a central place where people can get information on small groups, learn about serving opportunities, fill out prayer request cards, and basically do anything else related to connecting into the body of the church. At the end of every service, they invite anyone who’s new and interested in getting connected to stop by.
Because they mention the connection desk in every service, people hear about it the first time they come. It’s important to reach first time guests, because there is a small window when people are willing to work at getting connected. Once people find friends in the church, they’ll feel connected enough that they won’t put forth the effort to try something new. But, if a first or second time guest is interested in the church, they’re desperate to get connected and meet more people and will work hard to do so. The connection desk meets that need and channels this desire toward integrating people in to the heart of the church.
The First Serve
A first serve is where prospective volunteers are allowed to test drive a service opportunity with no strings attached. Too many times we in the church are so hungry for volunteers that we latch onto anyone who shows interest and never let them out, which makes people more hesitant to express interest. Because a first serve has no strings attached, it encourages people to try out different ministries and find one that fits them.