Opening Your Church: 5 Steps to Bringing Back Your Volunteers

Months ago, churches across the world made the difficult decision to shut their doors as we sheltered-in-place to limit the spread of COVID-19. Now, here we are several months later, and after having adjusted to working from home, attending church online and navigating all things Zoom, Google Hangouts and Facebook Live events, it’s time for some to begin thinking about re-entry.

Cue all the emotions and questions! Will our volunteers be ready? What will church experiences look like now? What will serving look like now? How in the world do we come back strong during this strange time in history?

As many Oklahoma locations of Life.Church chose to re-enter in May, we’ve learned a lot about how to make the church experience one that’s special, welcoming, but also safe and healthy. We know this season of carefulness and physical distancing isn’t over yet. Re-entry is just the beginning of a long process of things being back into full swing. But we’d like to share five things we’ve learned that we think all pastors and church leaders should know about bringing back their volunteers in the weeks and months to come.

1. Cast the Vision.

Successfully leading volunteers to come back to serving at your church starts with casting a strong vision. Pastor Craig Groeschel often reminds us that, “vision leaks, but culture drifts.” We’re responsible to continually remind our teams, volunteers, and attenders of the vision behind why we do what we do when it comes to our ministries. Help your volunteers to see that while the method of ministry will continue to look different, the “why” of what we’re doing has not changed. Circumstances change but vision does not have to!

2. Set Expectations.

Set expectations quickly and often. As we re-enter we’ll need to paint a picture for attenders and volunteers for what they can expect when they decide to come back too. Be diligent in communicating clearly what volunteers will be doing when they serve and exactly what their roles will look like.

For instance: Are the serving roles for your ministry the same? If not, what are new roles and what do they entail? Ensure that your volunteers know what to do, where to go, and what they need to be prepared (serving shirt, gloves, masks, etc.) It’s as easy as using video to visibly show them anything that will be different.

3. Be Anticipatory. 

Ask yourself what questions your volunteers are asking and get ahead of their questions as you communicate. One thing that people are especially hungry for is accurate, real-time information. Consider creating a FAQ document addressing possible questions volunteers might have and sending it to your team, leading a FAQ video call, and doing all that you can to leave no stone unturned. Volunteers will appreciate that you took the time to think through their concerns.

4. Model Flexibility and Fun.

Flexibility is one of the key elements to a successful re-entry! This is not business-as-usual. Things are different and will likely change from week-to-week or even day-to-day, and we must remember to lead through all of that with positivity and gratitude. Don’t forget to make it fun!  Even with physical distancing measures and disinfecting protocols, the church should always be a fun and exciting place for both attenders and volunteers to be.

5. Show Great Care.

As you’ve been hard at work touching base with volunteers throughout the stay-at-home orders in your community these past few months, I’m sure you’re learning all that you’re attenders and volunteers are experiencing through this crisis. Whether layoffs, sickness, losing loved ones, or navigating homeschooling while working from home, many of your people have a lot on their minds and in their hearts throughout all of this. Many are even working on the front lines in the medical field or as essential workers. No matter the circumstance, our volunteers each need your support and your prayers, but most importantly, they are craving for something to be “normal.” You get to make the pastoral care that you provide a consistent and dependable resource.

The reality is that we can expect that not every volunteer will return to the physical church experience at first, and others may not return even for a while. There will be a myriad of reasons for this, and the most important thing we can do is to be empathetic, listen and take every opportunity we can to pastor our volunteers rather than trying to fill our volunteer roster. If we’re casting clear vision, setting expectations, anticipating problems, modeling flexibility, and caring for our people then we will surely be setting our teams up for success as we begin re-entry!

Watch this video from Pastor Sam Roberts to learn more about how Life.Church created a touchless service for attenders and volunteers.

Bonus Volunteer Resources:

FOMO is real, so don’t take chances.

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