Ryan Wakefield Church Marketing University

Ryan has many years of experience working in the trenches with the local church. He served various capacities at James River Church and was the Creative Services Director from 2006 – 2010. Ryan graduated from Evangel University with a major in Biblical Studi... read more

One in six Americans have volunteered in a church or nonprofit in the last week (according to the Barna Group’s latest state of the church assessment). For all the church-related statistics out there that make you wince, this certainly isn’t one of them (which is great news!). The challenge, however, often lies in recruiting, retaining and developing those volunteers.

Gone are the days of only being able to volunteer as a greeter or usher. Don’t get me wrong, positions like that are still needed. The beauty is more and more churches are harnessing the gifts and talents that their church family possesses, and in an increasingly digital work there are likely people attending that would love to contribute to your church’s creative efforts. If you’re struggling with where to begin, or feel like you’ve hit a barrier in working with your volunteers, here are some thoughts to consider:

What kind of leader do you want to be?

“A strong leader has the ability to get great work done. A strong leader of leaders develops and empowers the volunteers around them to exponentially multiply the team’s production.”

As creatives, we can often have a connection to the content we create which can make it hard to hand off our baby to someone else! But instead of playing the lead role, maybe our job is to instead develop that team that can make it all possible. This means investing in mentoring, going out to coffee or even just getting to know your volunteers can speak volumes. For anyone already doing that, hats off to you! Just keep in mind, like Ryan Holck of graphics.church says, that “your place in the church is deeper than what the church is getting out of you”.

Expectations

Our expectations is one of the toughest areas to navigate when it comes to web volunteers. How do you bring people along without bringing the quality of your work down? Unlike other plug and play spots, volunteering to build a website or manage a social media page can have a lot more elements to it. A key here is to consider “perfection through iteration”. Dan Irmler of churchhacks.com suggests that church marketers keep the long game in view by developing a volunteer’s skills over time. Perhaps this means their work isn’t an added value until you work with them enough to hone their craft. Keeping looking for traits such as raw talent, passion or teachability- that’s how MVP caliber volunteers are born. Additionally, being clear with our expectations will set everyone on the team up for long-term success. Interested in seeing some examples? Pro Church Tools compiled a list of 19 Amazing Church Website Headline Examples.

Perspective and Planning

Expand your definition of a volunteer. As I expect may be the case for you, most church marketers wear many hats. Church who are developing volunteers right recognize and leverage this. Volunteers don’t just need to have in-depth coding skills. They can take photos, schedule social media posts or even review your site for typos. Utilize your church’s strengths to reach more people online.

Planning. There’s no more discussed topic among church creatives than planning. And although churches spread the gamet from finalizing message graphics Saturday night to developing sermons six months out, the reality is that the more you leverage volunteers the more you’ll need to plan ahead. This helps avoid burnout, makes contributors feel valued and utilizes resources more effectively.

It can be messy, challenging and even downright chaotic to involve volunteers in your online creative projects. The key to remember in all this is that any website you oversee will likely be phased out in ten years. But, hopefully, the relationships you’ve built will still be going strong.


If you’d like to dive deeper into this topic, check out my interview with Ryan Holck and Dan Irmler. I also encourage you to check out Module 22 inside Church Marketing University as we explore this idea in detail.

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