7 Ideas That Will Help You Connect With Busy Volunteers

Jacob Eckeberger
September 18th, 2016

These days, it seems that people are busier than ever – and that includes all the volunteers that sustain your ministry.

The thing about volunteers in any ministry is that while they need certain information to fulfill their roles at church, they also have responsibilities outside of church. They have parents, siblings, children, jobs, Bible study groups, and so on.

Volunteers do not have time to take in tons of instructions or info that doesn’t apply to them. They need access to the most important stuff so they can feel connected to the ministry and prepared for their roles.

But the thing about family ministry is that there is a lot of information to get out to volunteers. Upcoming dates, training, changes, vision casting, opportunities for feedback … the list could go on and on.

The harsh truth is that if you give too much information or communicate ineffectively, your volunteers are going to stop opening your emails, stop attending your meetings, and stop answering your phone calls. And that’s when things start to get rocky – your relationships with the volunteers suffer, the students in the ministry suffer, and no one feels (or is) prepared.

So how do you get all of the information out to your volunteers effectively?

It starts with you. You have to invest some of your time in order to save your volunteers’ time. You have to change your thinking and your strategies for communicating, not expect your volunteers to adjust to your preferences.

The more time you can save your leaders in prep/training/updates, the more time they can invest in students. It’s not about giving your leaders more or less information, it’s about delivering it in the best possibly ways. After all, their time is best spent actually doing ministry. It’s what they want to be doing anyway.

7 Ideas That Will Help You Connect With Busy Volunteers

1) Make Your Emails Scannable

Chances are that you read almost all of your emails from your phone. Think about the differences between viewing your emails on a phone versus your computer. Your phone’s screen is smaller, dimmer, and full of interrupting notifications from other apps. You need to get away from the paragraph format and start using pictures with text, links to your ministry site for more info, and bullet points. If the information is jumbled or just too wordy, your message will be deleted. 

2) Kill Group Messages and Move to Texting Groups

No one wants six text notifications from the group that has everyone replying with thumbs up emojis. Save your leaders some unwanted text messages and utilize a text messaging system. Remind is perfect for you to implement. It’s free and simple to use. Start scheduling event reminders, encouragements, and Bible verses throughout your week so that you are investing a small amount in your leaders’ day-to-day lives.

3) Schedule Posts

Social media is a really great way to connect with your volunteers. As you communicate with your leaders, make sure they have the church’s social media handles and hashtags or your personal accounts so they can follow your posts. Once the accounts are made public, you need to post, post, post. This can seem like a daunting task if you aren’t used to it. The easiest way to ensure you post regularly and often is to schedule your posts through your Facebook page or a third party site. Google will give you plenty of free options (I use Facebook’s scheduler through my church’s page and Hootsuite for Twitter and Instagram). I typically spend 15 minutes on Monday planning and scheduling that week’s media, and then I don’t have to worry.

4) Create Video Trainings Instead of Meetings

As a busy family man, I understand that no one wants to attend yet another meeting. But as a family pastor, I also understand that you occasionally need to gather the troops to instruct, cast vision, and plan. A great way to honor your leaders’ time is to create video trainings. This will eliminate scheduling conflicts and allow your leaders to access it on their own time.

You don’t need fancy equipment to make a quick update or training video. Most videos can be made with your smartphone or laptop. Your leaders don’t expect your videos to resemble a Hollywood blockbuster! They are looking for quality content and encouragements. So jot down some reminders, pull out your phone, and create a short training video. If the content or information is really important (like child abuse prevention or any other mandatory volunteer training), you can use a system like Teachable that allows you to see who has viewed the training.

5) Email Training Highlights Once a Week

You probably read lots of books and blogs about student ministry. That information is valuable, but your volunteers probably aren’t going to read a bunch of books or posts along with you. As you read and learn, pass along the most inspiring and useful content once a week in a special email blast to those leaders who would benefit. Think about it as a virtual CliffsNotes specifically designed for your team.

6) Mail Out Monthly/Quarterly Calendars

While I would love for all of our leaders to utilize technology, many of them don’t. So I still mail out our quarterly ministry calendars so that they can have a hard copy of the upcoming events. They will be able to post the calendar on their fridge and keep up with what is happening next. (Note: I send this to parents, too, because students don’t always communicate ahead of time with their parents about big events.)

7) Follow Up Directly

Pick up the phone and follow up with a leader. Sending and responding six times to one email thread consumes more time than picking up the phone and having a direct conversation. Long text messages and emails can become confusing and important topics can be forgotten or overlooked. Use your commute to and from work to make a few phone calls. Your leaders’ honest input on how things are going is probably not going to come in a big meeting or as a response to an email. That comes in one-on-one conversations.

Now What?

I would love to know what methods of communication work best for you. How do you approach the challenge of connecting with busy volunteers?

Chase Snyder - Headshot - 200x200Chase Snyder is the founder of MINISTRYBUBBLE.COM and serves as a Family Pastor in Knoxville, Tenn. He seeks to live a life that glorifies God and disciples others through their day-to-day lives, and his passion is equipping those in the church to seek those who are outside of it. Check out his writing at MINISTRY BUBBLE or connect with him on FACEBOOKTWITTER, or INSTAGRAM.

Jacob Eckeberger

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.