Without volunteers, most churches could never survive. Even those with robust staffs and large budgets rely heavily on volunteers to keep the wheels turning. The task of finding volunteers, however, can often be a daunting task, let alone being able to keep them coming back.

A concept in business, known as the “80/20 rule” or the “Pareto Principle,” estimates that around 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. In a church, for example, that would mean that 80 percent of the volunteer hours or financial contributions come from 20 percent of a church’s congregation.

Several years ago, Matthew Kelly and the Dynamic Catholic Institute set about to see if this concept applied to Catholic Churches. They were shocked at what they found. Instead of 20%, they found that only 7% of an average congregation was doing 80% of the volunteer and financial contributing.

Churches of different denominations undoubtedly vary in their congregations’ typical contribution, but, as Kelly offered, think of the difference churches could make if they could engage just 1 additional percent of their congregation.

As a result, finding and keeping volunteers is one of the most important things a church can do to survive. That’s why we’ve put together some handy tips and insights to help:

  1. Help them see the Big Picture. Though volunteering at a small church event may seem unimportant by itself, weaving it into the tapestry of the greater mission of your church will help volunteers feel like they’re part of something bigger. Help them see that they’re contributing to the overall success of the church just by giving a little time.
  2. Make it easy for them to volunteer. It’s one thing if you want volunteers to fill a spot on a schedule. It’s another thing entirely if the volunteer has to first make the schedule! When asking people to give their time, it’s best to meet them halfway (as much as you’re able) so they can simply sign up and get to work. Once they’re signed up, schedule a reminder text or email using Flocknote to go out to all your volunteers the day before an event.
  3. Keep timeslot length manageable. Valuing volunteers’ time is one of the most important things a church can do. Keep the timeslots short (30 minutes to an hour, depending on the event), especially when asking first-time volunteers. They can always sign up to work longer if they feel ambitious.
  4. Ask people personally. There’s nothing quite like a face-to-face interaction, and asking for volunteers is no different. If you think a fellow parishioner will be a good asset to an event you’re holding, walk up and ask them next Sunday. Heck, invite them out to coffee if you can. A direct conversation allows the individual to be seen and known as a part of the community, and who knows! Maybe the person was waiting to be asked all along.
  5. Ask families to participate together. Volunteering at a church is a fantastic opportunity for a young family, so consider asking a few families to take a shift. Small children, for example, simply by bussing a few tables, will almost always delight older parishioners who enjoy seeing younger generations take an interest in service.
  6. Thank your volunteers. It’s easy to forget about retaining current volunteers when you’re in the market for new ones. Remembering to say a sincere “Thank you” after any event you hold can be the difference between a person offering to volunteer over and over, or never showing up to help again.
  7. Don’t forget to pray. If you believe God is behind your mission as a church, then you better believe He’s willing to provide the resources to succeed. Here’s the thing: You need to remember to ask for them. Though it seems counterintuitive, Jesus wants us to ask for what we need — He wouldn’t have asked the two blind men in Matthew 20:32, “What do you want me to do for you?” unless He wanted an answer. Ask daily for good servants for your church’s mission. You might be surprised what you get.

With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to making your volunteer programs (and your church as a whole) better than ever.

Is there something that’s worked especially well in attracting volunteers at your church? Tell us in the comments!