In a perfect world, our parishes would be well-oiled machines that ran perfectly 24/7. We’d have a dedicated office administrator to answer the phone on the first ring and respond to emails within 10 minutes of being sent. Our parish doors would be open more times than closed, and the pastor would be available for anyone, at any time.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in that perfect world. With pastors responsible for multiple parishes, parish offices being responsible for many congregations, and everyone doing more with less resources, it just can’t happen with the small staff employed. However, there are still people out there who are ready and willing to help the church through a volunteering role. All that’s needed is a little recruitment, an examining of the gifts they have available, and a way to keep it all on track.
Figure Out What You Need
When it comes to parishes, so many big things are dependent on small tasks. People can’t get to church if the parking lot is full of snow. Parishioners can’t donate to the parish if the link to online giving on the website is broken. A teen can’t be confirmed if there isn’t a catechist to help guide them through the intricate process.
To start the volunteer process, it’s essential to start with a wish list. If you had the people to fully run your parish, what would you have them do? Take a few hours to brainstorm all the needs that are currently in your parish, and then begin grouping them together. Could the person answering phones in the afternoon also do some filing twice a week? Could the people coming in to organize the food pantry also stay an extra hour to stuff bulletins for the coming weekend? Can you get a group of dedicated people to come in once a month for heavy cleaning, such as window washing, pew polishing, and vacuuming?
Once you have some idea of what is needed, it’s time to get the word out.
If You Don’t Ask, They Won’t Know They’re Needed
There are so many ways to ask parishioners to volunteer. Start with a volunteer informational meeting once a month, where parishioners can come in to learn what it all entails and offer additional services they might be able to offer (think technical, marketing, small business, etc.). In order to keep track of interest, include a link to a Google form or SignUpGenius so you know how many plan on attending.
While a monthly meeting might seem like overkill, it’s actually a good way to keep things fresh and remind your parishioners that all help is welcome, regardless of what or when. You’ll also find that some people are easily able to volunteer for a few weeks or months, but eventually they may need to step back. You may find that new parishioners are interested in helping, too. Either way, a short, half-hour or hour informational meeting will do wonders when convincing people how much their gifts are worth to the parish.
Organization Is Key
So, you have the tasks needed and a list of people who have raised their hands to help. The next step is creating a schedule and keeping it as organized as possible. Thankfully, there are several tools you can implement to make that happen.
Consider using a Google form or SignUpGenius to schedule volunteers for upcoming tasks and shifts. With SignUpGenius, volunteers also get reminder emails when their shift is coming up, which is helpful for people who rely on those types of reminders. Google For Non-Profits also has a tutorial for using its form to schedule volunteers. However, a lot of backend work is required, because they are not geared towards the church market.
LPi’s WeGather has a Volunteer Scheduler feature that allows volunteers to select their preferred volunteer times and events. This allows parishes visibility into volunteer capacity for planning and a smooth execution of all events. Administrative staff no longer need to scramble for volunteer replacements — a common problem no matter which organization you work at — freeing up their time. Through reporting and automated communication confirmations and reminders, staff can easily coordinate all volunteer efforts within their organization.
Looking for more ways to make volunteering as seamless as possible? Check out Keep Volunteering Fresh and Why Your Parish Needs a Volunteer Onboarding Process.