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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.

Comments (1) (Open)

Michele Maure (not verified) 2 years 3 months ago

I have been UU member of a congregation for 23 years and the pressure to volunteer never lets up. The roles that need to filled are not well defined and as in any organization, some people step up and some people don't. I have not seen any UUA resources on how to assess your volunteer pool and adapt your programs to what people power you have. It is time to look our members time as a bank account. You have the money or you don't . How do we innovate and use adaptive leadership to decide from year to year what or how we run our programs? Why are we more concerned about committees than connections? I have heard from friends and neighbors that they would like to join our church but there was too much work required. If there is a large RE program, it chiefly is populated by parents, because of the understanding that if you have a child, you must teach. So the people that have the most difficult time just getting to the church, are the ones that teach downstairs. So it is families that bear the burden. I would love to hear how some churches have used alternative approaches.

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