We hear you. Here at Group Publishing (the publisher of this
magazine), we get a lot of desperate messages from churches.
• Amy, an enthusiastic children’s minister, said, “I feel like
people avoid me in the halls at church or they’re reluctant to
return my phone calls. Maybe I should wear a sign, ‘Not recruiting
today — feel free to approach!’ “
• Dan, a pastor for nearly 20 years, told us, “I really love being
a pastor. But I really hate having to beg people to help week after
week, year after year. Finding volunteers is the hardest part of my
• Barbara, a church leader from New Jersey, wrote to us and said,
“Recruitment is difficult. I’ve put ministry needs in the church
bulletin and received little response.”
• Hope shared her frustrations when she said, “Motivating
volunteers can be a real challenge. You always have to be
enthusiastic, whether you are or not. You have to fake it till you
• Mikal, a long-time committed ministry worker, summed it up when
he said, “Jesus himself said the harvest was plentiful but the
workers were few, so I feel like I’m in good company when I’m
struggling to get enough volunteers. I wish pew-sitters at church
would wake up and read the Bible: Becoming appropriately involved
in ministry isn’t optional — it’s mandatory.”
For years, we’ve been asking church leaders to identify their #1
ministry challenge. And for years, church leaders have been telling
us the same thing, loud and clear:
“We need help recruiting, keeping, training, and inspiring
Or to put it another way, “If we could just get enough of the
right volunteers in the right places, we could do some serious
ministry around here! And we wish we knew how to motivate our good
volunteers and find new spots for those who don’t…shine so
There’s no question that, in most churches, volunteerism is a
famously (some would say infamously) nagging thorn in the flesh.
Everyone knows the 20/80 rule — 20 percent of the people do 80
percent of the work — and many would say it feels more like 10/90
in their home church. Recruiting volunteers is hard. Keeping,
training, motivating, inspiring, administering, managing,
rewarding, evaluating, interviewing, and firing them can be even
Group’s mission is “To equip churches to help children, youth and
adults grow in their relationship with Jesus,” and all our
resources do exactly that. But how can churches help people grow in
their relationship with Jesus when they’re struggling to find the
workers to make it happen?
We felt an extraordinary responsibility to do something.
Starting From Scratch
“How can we help churches solve their volunteer challenges?” We’ve
asked ourselves this question over and over through the years.
Since Group is a publisher, the logical response was to publish a
handful of books and articles about church volunteerism. But even
though the books sold well and were well-received, church leaders
continued to struggle with the issue.
As most ministries typically faced their volunteer challenges with
a belabored approach, they needed more substantial support. This
issue has become a significant distraction — even a major obstacle
— for leaders everywhere. Many church workers spend more time
trying to recruit volunteers than using the gifts that got them
into ministry in the first place.
“It’s suffocating,” one leader told us. Is that what ministry
should be all about? Isn’t there a better way?
We wanted to give churches some good news about an issue that
seemed to be choking the life out of tens of thousands of church
ministries. So we started from scratch.
About 2 ½ years ago, we assigned a task force at Group to look at
how we can help churches solve their volunteer challenges. We had
no idea what the end result would look like; we left the options
and opportunities wide open.
Although churches state “volunteer recruitment” is their #1
challenge, we learned early on that the problem of volunteerism
goes far beyond recruitment. Too many recruiters simply look for
warm bodies to fill urgent needs and don’t search specifically for
qualified candidates. Volunteers need training, motivation, and
supervision; the majority of church leaders are unprepared or
unqualified to handle the host of responsibilities associated with
But the issue gets muddier when you consider the long list of
potentially disastrous legal concerns. The more we talked with
church leaders, the more we learned that most of them are
completely unprepared to handle something as simple as a background
check, much less a lawsuit or criminal situation.
Our task force realized churches needed a more significant base of
support — a place where they could go to get help with all their
volunteer needs, no matter how simple or complex they are. Group
needed to create one convenient location where churches of all
sizes and denominations could go to make volunteer management easy,
once and for all.
So we researched volunteer management from every possible angle
and approach, talking to church leaders like you and getting
mountains of feedback. We consulted with long-time volunteer expert
Marlene Wilson, who became one of the developers of our new program
and continues to be an associate as we roll it out. We also worked
with churches who’ve been succeeding in volunteer management for
And, finally, we developed a solution like nothing you’ve ever