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6 Solutions for the Volunteer Crisis in Churches Today

There is a volunteer crisis in the church today. It’s been a crisis for nearly two decades, if not longer. In 2008, Exponential Leadership did a study to find out American churches’ greatest need. The answer: “more leaders and volunteers.” Fast forward to 2018, the same study is conducted to get a status update on churches in this area. The results? The exact same. In one decade, nothing had changed. Then, covid came and decimated many churches’ volunteer and leadership teams. Solving the volunteer crisis is no quick fix or simple matter. But, it can be solved. Do you long for your ministry to have a deep bench of volunteers and leaders ready to step up and serve? Are you done with the 20/80 rule? Is 20% of the church doing 80% of the work? What if you could flip that number to the 80/100 rule? 80% of the church doing 100% of the work? How much would that change your ministry world? Lots? Then keep reading . . . 

What are some initial steps to solving the volunteer crisis?

1) Admit There’s a Problem

First, we must admit there’s a problem. I consult with churches all around the country to solve the volunteer crisis. Many are desperate and welcoming for aid. Others are too prideful to admit they need help or to accept help even if they know it would. Admitting there’s a problem is hard. It’s humbling, but it’s not a strike against leadership. As much as 85% of churches struggle with solving the volunteer crisis. Pastors, elders, and senior leadership, you are not alone! I see small, medium, large, and mega-churches all failing to overcome their church’s volunteer demands. There is no shame in having a problem and admitting it’s there. Turning a blind eye, not admitting, and not doing anything about the main thrust of your ministry, people, is not ok. Admit you have a problem with solving the volunteer crisis, reach out, and seek help.

2) Assess your Volunteer Totals

How many total volunteers do you have? Where do they serve? How frequently do they serve? How many volunteers are you short in each given ministry to function weekly? Not the ideal number to function, but the bare minimum. (Example: “If we don’t have this number of volunteers, then we can’t offer ______ ministry this week.”) How many new volunteers have you added in the last six to twelve months? Which ministries are they joining? These questions are essential to assess your current volunteer base to measure you're perceived vs. actual needs and for which ministry areas.

3) Make a One-Page Process

No crisis was ever averted without a plan and process put into place. Solving the volunteer crisis requires you to have a plan and process in place to take people through. A one-page process that a potential volunteer can look at, see the steps, and understand what you’re asking of them is essential. When you make an “ask” of someone to possibly serve as a volunteer, they need to know exactly what they are potentially committing to. A written on-page document that shows a clear process, steps, and expectations should be a fundamental prerequisite before an “ask” is for someone to potentially join a volunteer team.

4) God’s Calling, Not Your Ministry Needs

Solving the volunteer crisis isn’t about warm bodies with a pulse filling volunteer ministry holes. Rather, solving the volunteer crisis is about filling volunteer’s souls. Volunteering is about helping people discover what God is calling them to more so than your ministry needs. Solving the volunteer crisis is about helping people discover and fulfill their God-given ministry. If the crisis is predicated upon your pain points and needs, then relief will never come.

5) Know Your People

How can you help people discover their call to ministry without knowing them. Know your people. Understand their gifts, passions, and God-given wiring so you can help them serve as bright, burning fire to the ministry God prepared for them to work in beforehand (Ephesians 2:10). When you make an “ask” that someone is clearly not gifted or wired for, it reveals our ulterior motives to use someone to meet a need rather than to help them fulfill their ministry call. Don’t use people for ministry, people are the ministry.“ Don’t use people for ministry, people are the ministry.”

6) Communicate Service Opportunities

A house fire can only be seen from inside the home at first. Once the flames grow and engulf a home, they become visible from the outside. In many churches, the volunteer crisis works the same way. It can only seen by people from the inside because it was never communicated to those outside of the ministry there was a fire inside the house. Communicate service opportunities to larger body. Many churches fail to communicate the different areas of service that are available for people to explore and serve in. How do you communicate these service opportunities? Social media, church website, literature at the next steps or info desk, seat back pockets, weekend service announcements, email, text, word of mouth, a creative poster sign in a high-traffic hallway, and many other ways.

What's Next?

The volunteer crisis has become increasingly more real. With greater needs arising in local churches, these are just a few ways to help solve the volunteer crisis. At Build Groups, we have consultants who help churches all around the country solve the volunteer crisis by increasing their volunteer based by 30-50% in 6 to 12 months. If you would like to learn more about how we serve churches in this way, please visit 



Adam Erlichman

Senior Consultant and Author at Build Groups in Dallas, TX. Adam has served in Executive, Discipleship, Groups, Young Adult, and Youth ministries. 6-time best-selling author of Christian leadership and discipleship resources. See more about Adam's consulting services on the following topics:


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