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Need More Volunteers? Maybe Your Bylaws Are The Problem...
Need More Volunteers? Maybe Your Bylaws Are The Problem...

"We don't have enough greeters!"

"No one wants to host coffee hour."

"We don't have enough teachers for Sunday School."

Are these familiar complaints in your congregation? Do you find that important roles for the core ministries of your congregation are lacking in volunteer support?

I once worked with a congregation with similar problems.  We did a simple exercise to help us understand how volunteers were being deployed in the work of the congregation.  (If you know me at all, you'll not be surprised that the exercise involve sticky notes!) We used red sticky notes for the board and every committee that was involved in governance. We used green sticky notes for each of the ministry staff positions. We used yellow sticky notes for each of the "ministry teams" and listed them under the staff member that has accountability for that ministry. We used blue sticky notes for other various affinity "groups that meet" as a part of the congregation.

We then looked at each committee/team/group and noted the number of members that served on each one. We discovered that there were large numbers of people serving on the governance committees, and that the ministry committees were lacking in numbers of volunteers.

Why? Because churches tend to mandate the number of committee members for governance in their bylaws (which "need" to be filled by the nominating committee) while letting the ministry teams fend for themselves in filling their volunteer opportunities--roles that are just as essential to the mission of the congregation.

What was the takeaway? Consider making your governance committees leaner, so that more members are available to serve the ministries of the congregation. Recognize the importance of those who serve on your ministry teams, such as with commissioning rituals.   

About the Author

  • Rev. Renee Ruchotzke (ruh-HUT-skee) has served as a Congregational Life Consultant in the Central East Region since September of 2010. She serves congregation in Northeast Ohio and Western New York. She is part of the LeaderLab Design team providing Leadership Development resources and other trainings to congregations.

For more information contact conglife@uua.org.

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