8 Tips for a Strong Volunteer Team

Photo by Papaioannou Kostas on Unsplash

By Karen Tripp MS LMFT President /Founder Cancer Companions

To print or download article 8 Tips for a Strong Volunteer Team CLICK HERE

Picture a small group of volunteers

  • passionate about the same cause
  • committed to make a difference
  • equipped to serve others
  • joyful in their endeavor

What size impact could they make on their community?  GIGANTIC!!

It’s easy to see the importance of building volunteer teams but not as easy to see how to establish their foundation.  Here’s some tips that we have seen work amazingly well for Cancer Companion volunteer teams.  Pick the tips that can work for your community.

Tip #1 Engage a Prayer Team– Think of it- nothing draws people towards a mission like consistent prayer.  A group of people dedicated to to persistent and consistent prayer for your volunteer led ministry will create focus, community and direction for all involved. Two words I want to emphasize here: persistent and consistent.  Ask team members for specific prayer requests to send to our prayer team.  “Pray for the announcement in church this Sunday.”  “Two more people are considering joining the team; prayer for God to lead them.”

Here’s a link to learn more about integrating a dedicated prayer team into your volunteer led ministry.  Starting a Prayer Team is the first video in Cancer Companion’s 7 Steps to Get Started Video Series.

7 Steps to Get Started Videos  https://www.cancer-companions.org/seven-steps-to-get-started/

Tip #2 Acknowledge the Calling.  Why do committed volunteers serve? They see a need?  They want to feel useful?  It sounds like fun? The answer is “YES”.  There are tons of reasons but at their core, the committed volunteer feels a tug- a calling. With Cancer Companion volunteers this often sounds like “I always knew God wanted me to do something with my cancer .”  or “Everywhere I turn there’s cancer.  I feel like God wants me to do something about this.”  Whether it’s a team of VBS teachers or greeters, explore the types of calling in your potential volunteers.  This will help keep your messaging on track.

Tip #3 Look for a team.  Let the team pick the leaders.  We know that having a team instead of a single person running an endeavor increases the project’s stability because more people are invested. Yet it’s tempting to find a single person to be in charge before you select a team. Instead, think of how much easier it would be to find team members instead of leaders.  After your volunteer team is formed, give them 3 leader roles that need to be filled and let them sort it out.  This process increases the longevity of the team as well since leadership is not dependent on one person.  With Cancer Companions the three team leader roles are

  1. Church staff liaison (How cool is being a Liaison?)
  2. Church Communication Organizer
  3. Community Communication Organizer

Tip #4 Clarify Volunteer Roles  Write down what you are asking of these volunteers.  Think of the details.  How many meetings a month?  Is there any training involved?  If yes, what?  How much additional time? Is there a financial commitment?  Other requirement such as age? Background check?  How long is the commitment?  Most serve much longer but we ask Cancer Companion volunteers to serve for 8 months.  Be realistic of a volunteers commitment level.

Tip #5 Ask “Is this you or someone you know?”  In churches we’re great at giving information (announcements) but not so great at getting information (feedback.)   Feedback can be as easy as a slip of paper in the pews or as techy as a number they can text their responses. When announcing the need for volunteers, ask for each person to share 3 names of people they think might be interested.  Maybe Susan writes down her own name and Harry’s.  Discuss with Susan the best way to share this volunteer request with Harry.

Tip #6 Provide Material to Easily Share Volunteer Request  Most people need more than one interaction to decide to volunteer.  Having a piece of paper or a short video that clearly communicates the request is very helpful.  This allows the conversation to continue without the need for you to be present.  (I.e. Susan can talk to Harry and you can follow up with the same message.)  Equipping others to approach volunteers is the BEST!.)  Cancer Companion churches share this video with potential volunteers to get an overview of the ministry.  Now it’s easy to see who is interested and who is not.

Introductory Video  15 minute: http://www.cancer-companions.org/intro-web-seminar/

Tip #7 Start with Church Staff, Elders, Council Members, Committees…  Since the question is “Is this you or someone you know?” there are no barriers to how many people you ask to help with this search.  Start with the people that have various spheres of influence in your church.  The director of worship does not typically interact with the same people as the children’s ministry leader.  Ask church staff, elders, etc. to share 3 names of who they think might be interested in volunteering.

Tip #8 Announce in BIG Gatherings and Small.   An announcement during worship is vital (Most effective? Announce in worship for 3 Sundays) because it brings credibility to the request for volunteers.  Yet in smaller gatherings (choir practice, Bible Study, senior luncheon, small groups, Sunday school teacher meeting…) the process of announcement and feedback can create interactions that are invaluable for finding and motivating volunteers.  In a smaller meeting people can ask questions, share ideas of potential volunteers with each other.  Also, along with the church announcement, they’re hearing about the request more than once.

I guess that’s it!  Let’s share ideas.  Please use the comments section below to let us know what you think, what you do and what you hope for.

Blessings friend!

Karen Tripp


About Karen Tripp

Beyond being a Christian Counselor and the President of Cancer Companions, Karen loves to read (she's a great reader) and loves to sing (she's a bad singer) in her home near St Louis, MO. Cancer has personally touched Karen's personal life through her dad - a 23 year colon cancer survivor. Impacting lives for Christ through her speaking, writing and counseling fills Karen with a passion which infuses every task she approaches. (except matching socks. Karen hates matching socks.)
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