Before we got married, my wife had a difficult experience with a church. Her experience reflects an issue that is more widespread than many churches are willing to acknowledge: lack of follow-through for new volunteers. Here’s the story:
Before I left for college, Larisa started attending the small church I had been serving at for the past few years. Since I had been plugged in with this church for a while, I was one of those “core volunteers.” I loved the church, I loved serving, and I was eager to see the church grow.
But I didn’t realize how difficult it would be for new people to get plugged in.
One Sunday morning the church mentioned their need for volunteers on the Welcome Team, the Set-Up Team, the Worship Team, etc. That last one caught her attention. She loved leading worship. She had led worship all her life at the church she grew up at.
So she reached out.
Initially, the church got her plugged in with the team. She attended a couple practices to get a feel for how things worked. But after a few weeks of great communication, something weird happened… nothing. They stopped reaching out to her. When she contacted them again about serving, they responded positively, but it was all talk and no action.
This church lacked follow-through with a new volunteer. And here’s why that matters:
1) When churches don’t follow-through, newcomers feel like they aren’t wanted.
This is huge. If you don’t follow-through with someone who has expressed interest in serving, one clear message is being communicated: “we don’t really need you.” That obviously doesn’t line up with the welcoming nature of the Church.
And I get it, sometimes there aren’t volunteer opportunities available in the area a person expressed interest in. But please don’t leave them in the dark. Communicate what the available next steps are for them to take. Give them a clear path to move forward.
2) When churches don’t follow-through, they miss an opportunity for leadership development.
I think the majority of pastors recognize this today, but volunteering is probably the best way to develop leaders inside a church. As Ryan Stigile recently wrote on volunteer culture, “Staff members [should] see their work as ‘equipping the saints,’ recognizing that their ultimate value is in the teams they build, not the tasks they complete.”
3) When churches don’t follow-through, people stop attending.
This may seem like a stretch to you, but it’s a reality. If an attendee doesn’t feel valued at your church, they’ll either go somewhere else where they do, or stop attending church as a whole. In Larisa’s case, she stopped attending the church that didn’t seem to really need her. I pray it’s your church’s goal to develop an experience that fights against this at all costs.
Follow-through matters. If your church doesn’t currently have a clear track for new volunteers, I would highly encourage you to address that this year.