5 Steps to Calling Volunteers (Hint: Stop Recruiting Them)

5 Steps to Calling Volunteers (Hint: Stop Recruiting Them)

“If you’ve followed steps 1 through 3 of the calling process, then you can be assured that the person being approached is the right person for the job. In most cases, people will be flattered just to be asked.”


Calling Volunteers

Calling volunteers for church ministries is an important task. Note that I don’t call it “recruiting” volunteers. Remember: Jesus did not recruit people; he called them. Calling is the beginning of something. Calling is always an invitation, never a plea.

Whether it is a chair for your annual stewardship campaign, a church leadership position, a church office volunteer, or a Sunday school teacher, it is a call to ministry for using one’s individual’s gifts.

5 Steps to Calling Volunteers

1. Define the Job
The first step in calling volunteers is to define the type of job to be done. This will help ensure that the organization gets the right person to fill the position. Having a clear understanding of what the task involves is important to share with all involved.

2. Determine Job Qualifications
Once the ‘job’ has been defined, qualifications required to do the job can be developed as a way of identifying potential volunteers. A Job Description is a useful tool that lists all qualifications needed to do the job. This step clarifies, for all those involved, the expectations and requirements of the voluntary position. It will give volunteers an idea of the part they play in the total picture of the ministry of which they are being called to serve.

A complete job description should include:

  • Title
  • Purpose
  • Responsibilities
  • Qualifications
  • Relationship (whom they ‘report’ to)
  • Time commitment
  • Benefits (what’s in it for the volunteer?)

3. Develop a List of Potential Candidates
Now that you understand what the job is and what sort of person is required to do it, you need to list potential candidates who may be able to fill the role. This is a task for a small group of people. Gather and begin with prayer.

Talk about the role that you are seeking to fill and who comes to mind. Refer to sources such as your church directory.

4. Interview the Volunteer
This is probably the most difficult step in the process. Let’s face it, there is a fear of rejection. However, if you’ve followed steps 1 through 3 of the calling process, then you can be assured that the person being approached is the right person for the job. In most cases, people will be flattered just to be asked. Have all the materials with you (job description, etc.) to share with the volunteer.

5. Appoint the Volunteer
Once the invitation has been offered and the call accepted, rejoice! Share with them when and where there will be training to help them get started. Provide them with the tools they need for the job: lesson plan materials, by-laws, meeting minutes, teacher’s manual, etc. And don’t forget to “commission” them during a main Sunday service with the congregation present!


10 Additional Principles for Calling Volunteers

Here are some more thoughts and best practices when it comes to calling and training volunteers.

1. Volunteers Beget Volunteers: Encourage all active volunteers to be involved in thinking up new ways to get the word out about volunteer ministries. The best volunteer callers are volunteers who are happy with the particular ministry.

2. Use Every Available Communication: Take advantage bulletins, newsletters, websites, blogs, Facebook, announcements – but remember, personal contacts and invitations are the most successful.

3. Orientations: Offer stimulating, in-depth orientation sessions.

4. Volunteer Testimonies: Have current volunteers tell their story at meetings or gatherings of membership. How has this role informed and changed their life (for the better)?

5. Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Try to think, what would interest YOU in volunteering.

6. Consider Your Tone: People are attracted to ministries that utilize positive, honest, enthusiastic appeals. Don’t make folks feel guilty.

7. Volunteers are People(!): Be interested in your members, not only as volunteers but as individuals.

8. Don’t Overload a Program: Volunteers will lose interest if they have signed up to help, but there isn’t a job for them because of too many people.

9. Co-ownership: Involve volunteers in decision making. Make certain they feel they are an important part of the effort.

10. Attitude of Gratitude: Recognize their efforts. Saying “thanks” goes a long way.


Sharon Ely Pearson is an editor and the Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing Incorporated (CPI). She is the author/editor of several books, most recently The Episcopal Christian Educator’s Handbook and Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Theologies of Confirmation for the 21st Century. When not traveling for work or pleasure, she enjoys tossing tennis balls to her year old black lab, Chobe.


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