Volunteer Engagement: There’s More to Serving than Serving

more to serving than serving

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What if getting volunteers to serve in our ministry teams isn’t just about getting ministry done?

That was the question that prompted me to do a deep dive into our data to analyze some of the key differences between churches with high volunteer engagement and churches with low volunteer engagement.

In preparation for this month’s podcast series focusing on building volunteer teams, I dug into the most recent data we’ve been collecting from churches. At the time I pulled this information, we had collected data from close to 300 churches in recent weeks. This is fresh data from what churches are experiencing in the current ministry season.

Needless to say, some interesting trends surfaced through that analysis.

Let me acknowledge up front: I don’t believe that improving volunteer engagement necessarily causes the changes I’m about ready to share. However, there does seem to be at least a strong correlation between volunteer engagement and some of these other characteristics of healthy churches.

Here’s what I did. I compared the churches in the top 25% for volunteer engagement to the churches in the bottom 25% when it comes to engaging people in serving roles. I wanted to specifically compare churches with high volunteer engagement to churches with low volunteer engagement.

Here are the most interesting findings:

  • The churches with higher volunteer engagement are reaching four times more new people. For some reason these churches have a much bigger front door. Or, it might mean that it’s more likely that new people will serve. Or, it might mean that people who serve are more likely to invite new people.
  • Churches with more volunteers are also reaching more people for Jesus. They have 40% more decisions to follow Jesus. Could it be that when people serve other people it encourages people being served to take their next steps toward Jesus?
  • Churches with low volunteer engagement have 67% more debt. It makes me wonder if volunteer engagement is a reflection of their overall engagement in the mission including their level of financial investment in the mission. I wouldn’t be surprised if people who serve are also the most generous people when it comes to financial investment in the mission.
  • Churches with low volunteer engagement have bigger boards and more committees. In fact, the boards of churches with low volunteer engagement are 34% bigger and those same churches also have almost twice as many committees. The data clearly indicates that more people in meetings means you probably have fewer people who are serving.
  • Churches with high volunteer engagement are experiencing more growth right now. The churches with low volunteer engagement actually have more people in attendance, but the churches with high volunteer engagement are experiencing higher attendance growth.
  • Churches with high volunteer engagement are more likely to offer home groups. Not only that, those churches also have more than three times as many people in small group environments. Our previous research indicates that volunteer engagement is more of a driver for group participation than the reverse. In other words, people are more likely to move from serving to a group than from a group into serving.
  • Churches with high volunteer engagement also have more volunteer leaders. These churches have about three times more volunteer leaders than the churches with low volunteer engagement. Of course, when you have more leaders, that also means the span of care across the congregation is also much smaller. 
  • Churches with high volunteer engagement are more likely to offer online services. Every single one of the churches in the top 25% for volunteer engagement offer online options for watching their services. On the other hand, there were several churches with low volunteer engagement that don’t offer online options. If you thought offering services online was one of the reasons why you were struggling getting more people to volunteer, the data would indicate otherwise.

Of course, what can’t be captured in this data is what happens in a person’s heart when they begin serving other people. Not only does that impact the life of the person being served, but I think you would agree, there’s also something that happens in the life of the person doing the serving.

This is what I know about myself…

When I’m serving other people, I’m worrying less about the challenges I’m facing in my life.

When I’m serving other people, I feel more connected to the Body of Christ and the mission God has given the church.

When I’m serving other people, I can’t help but experience a sense of fulfillment that I’m making a difference in someone else’s life.

When I’m serving other people, I pray more because I want people to experience God’s love through me.

When I’m serving other people, it stretches my faith as I trust God to do what only he can do.

You can’t put numbers on any of that. But, at least for me, I’m convinced that there’s more to serving than the serving.

"How to Engage More Volunteers & Leaders This Fall"

 

As we approach Fall 2022, how can we attract and engage more volunteers and leaders to our ministry teams? And once we’ve engaged them, how do we approach onboarding and caring for our volunteer teams?

We invite you and your staff team to join The Unstuck Group for this free one-hour training event.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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