Christmas and Easter are two of the busiest times of the year for churches. This is due in part to the reality that many people attend church only on these two days. Because of this increase in church attendance, there’s more to do, and there’s an increased need for help. Many churches do special things during the Christmas season. Some add a special Christmas production, host special events for children or ramp up services for Christmas Eve. Regardless, having a team of volunteers ready to meet the challenge of getting it all done is critical to success.
This time of year is also an opportunity to get new people involved for the first time. Having a clear goal and definite ideas about how to manage the volunteers can make the difference between winning a new volunteer or not or perhaps even losing a faithful one.
How to Manage The Influx of Volunteers During the Busy Christmas Season – 10 Things to Consider When Managing Church Volunteers
1. Share the Vision for Christmas
Recruiting volunteers during the busy Christmas season is challenging because people have so many other personal and family commitments. Spend some time sharing the goal and vision for the Christmas season to help people, who may not have stepped up to volunteer before, understand the importance of getting involved and assisting the church reach those first-time visitors or guests of church members.
2. Create a Streamlined Approval Process
It’s important to have a streamlined volunteer application and approval process during this busy time. The goal is to get as many people through the process as quickly as possible so you can increase the number of available volunteers to help. The process should include gathering all pertinent demographic and background information about the volunteer. Make sure you find out what skills and experiences they have that would help you target job placement.
3. Background Checks
Volunteer background checks are an important step in managing volunteers, particularly if those volunteers work around or with children. Churches are legally responsible for children in their care, making it important to know whether a volunteer has a criminal background. You can’t afford to miss this step.
4. Targeted Job Assignment
Consider what job you assign each volunteer, particularly when you’re managing an influx of new volunteers. Filling a hole with a warm body is not always the best way to get the job done in the way you want. For example, you may not want to put someone who isn’t comfortable around children in the kid’s church for the first time when you know you’re busier than usual.
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5. Equipped for Assigned Tasks
Volunteers give their time to help and make a difference. It’s up to you to make sure they have what they need to do the job. Whether that’s providing adequate supplies, working equipment or a uniform, make sure every volunteer has what they need to do the job successfully. For example, a volunteer in the parking ministry may need a working headset and radio. Make sure you have enough equipment, and it’s in good working order.
6. Adequate Training
People pay attention and judge a church based on the way volunteers interact and treat members, guests and visitors. Volunteers need thorough training on job assignments to ensure they’re completing tasks within the scope of ministry guidelines. This may include setting a dress code and delineating specific behavior while serving in a volunteer capacity. Consistency in practice and the way you do things are what defines excellence.
7. Reasonable Schedule
Despite the fact that there are countless things you need to do with sometimes not enough available people, it’s important to consider the way you schedule volunteers. The Christmas season is a busy time of year for everyone, so take the time to create volunteer schedules that maximize availability yet not place an undue burden on your free labor. The last thing you want is for volunteers to hesitate about volunteering because they can’t manage the time commitment. Remember these are volunteers—free labor.
Regardless of the role a volunteer fills, oversight is important to ensure they feel supported. Someone should be available at all times to answer questions, resolve issues or troubleshoot the unexpected. Make sure volunteers understand the chain-of-command and know who to go to with questions.
9. Thank You
Following a busy season, make sure you invest some time thanking volunteers for their help. Share information about attendance, reaction and success of Christmas-related events to help them recognize the part they played in pulling it off. Most people treasure a personalized handwritten note, so invest the time to show your gratitude.
Conclude any season or event by soliciting feedback from the volunteers. This serves two purposes. The first provides valuable insight into the volunteer experience and allows you to learn from that experience. Ask them how to improve things for next year or the next event, and you’re sure to walk away with action steps to incorporate into the planning process. The second benefit is that sharing thoughts and ideas validates volunteers and makes them feel like a valuable part of the team, and that’s what engages them and keeps them involved.
Christmas is the time of year when Christians celebrate the birth of our Savior. We come together to share the story and its meaning with family, friends and strangers. In order to have a smooth operation at the church, it’s vital to have an organized process to manage the influx of volunteers and those you’ve come to depend on. A well-oiled system can help not only to get new people involved, but it also allows you to accomplish a lot of tasks that help to sustain and maintain that holy and magical season of Christmas we want to share with others.