The Most Effective Way to Inspire Your Volunteers (and Attract New Ones)

inspire and attract volunteers

We all have them.

People who came into our lives and made a difference.

They helped us dream bigger, reach higher, and try harder than we would’ve done without them. They made us better.

Who was that person for you?

Most of us have a few people we could put on that list.

My List…

For me, there was Coach Gleason, my high school baseball coach.

There was Mrs. McKinney, my 10th grade English teacher.

There was Chris Cockerham, a Young Life leader at my high school.

There was Matt Rice, one of the pastors at the first church I attended after I became a Christian.

The truth is, I wouldn’t be where I am today or who I am today without the influence, investment, and support of these people.

I’m sure you have a similar story.

Telling the Story…

On Sunday night, January 24, CNN is airing a special called, “The Person Who Changed My Life.” Their anchors and reporters reflect on the people who made a difference for them. Here’s a preview:

They’ve also created an online wall where people can post a picture and tell their own story.

It’s amazing what happens when a person tells another person how they have received help, support, inspiration, and encouragement from them. Tears, joy, and gratitude flow freely.

Honestly, we probably don’t share those stories enough.

Author George M. Adams said, “I don’t care how great, how famous or successful a man or woman may be, each hungers for applause.”

Those difference-makers weren’t looking for applause when they were making a difference. They just made the investment, said the encouraging word, offered the help, or gave the advice. But now that they’ve made a difference, applause is an appropriate response.

Saying Thank You to Your Volunteers…

Before we baptize people at my church, we have them film a video. Each video is about 90 seconds, but those 90 seconds are powerful. They share their story of how they came to trust in Jesus as the Lord and Savior. They mention the low points from the journey. They name the people who have helped them get to where they are now. They express hope for a brighter tomorrow. Those videos are amazing testimonies that resonate with all different types of people in the room.

The best inspiration our small group leaders receive comes when one of their students mentions their name on the video. “I would like to thank my small group leader, Brian. He helped me understand Christianity better and he made coming to church something I looked forward to.”

Do you think Brian is inspired after hearing that?

Of course he is.

And so is everyone else in the room. They see the difference a volunteer can make in the life of a student. They imagine the difference they could make as a volunteer. After all, they probably know Brian. He isn’t a Bible scholar. He’s even a bit weird sometimes. But he’s faithful and consistent. And that makes a difference with students.

Highlighting the difference-makers in your ministry attracts others to become difference-makers too.

Your Move

I think you can do something similar in your church. Ask each of your students to tell you about a person who has made a profound difference in their life. Then tell the story.

You don’t have to use video. You can use a quote and picture on your social page. You can include the story in your next church newsletter article. You can tell about it in your next church service or volunteer recruitment season.

If you want to inspire your volunteers and attract new ones, then you need to highlight the stories of the ones who are making a difference.

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Trevor Hamaker (DMin, McAfee School of Theology) is an author, adjunct professor, and youth ministry coach. He helps youth pastors see their potential, develop their skills, and reach their goals.

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