How to Use Stories to Inspire, Train, and Recruit Volunteers
It’s no secret that humans are hardwired to engage with stories. From parables, to Shakespearean plays, to the modern cinema, people have always been fascinated by the lives of others, whether real or fictional. So what does this mean for ministry leaders and their leadership responsibilities, which include everything from volunteer recruitment to ministry scheduling? It means that if you want to better engage volunteers, share stories with them. Consider the following ways you can weave stories into your volunteer programs.
When you’re recruiting volunteers, one of the most powerful things you can do is have beneficiaries of the ministry tell their stories. If they’re not able to share themselves, ask to share on their behalf. Do you know someone who was new to the area and found a home at your church because of the inviting atmosphere created by the hospitality team? Does your church visit and serve the homebound? If so, ask some of the homebound church members how they’ve been blessed by the ministry and if you can share that information when inviting new volunteers into the ministry.
When recruiting, impact stories can also come from those who serve. Ask current volunteers what they’ve learned and how they’ve changed through their service. Ask if there’s a specific moment or interaction that touched them the most, and then ask if they’d be willing to share that in person or in print to help encourage others to serve as well.
One of the benefits of using stories during training is that the story doesn’t need to be true to be effective. Use skits as a way to have fun, increase engagement, and reinforce best practices. While creating a handbook with policies and procedures is essential to an effective volunteer training program, nothing will stick in the minds of your volunteers as easily as a story.
For example, if you’re training volunteers for the music ministry, create a skit about an unprepared musician who comes to church surprised to learn that he’s scheduled for that day and hasn’t practiced the music. Set this character next to one who checked his ministry schedule on his mobile device, viewed the ministry notes, and was prepared to play during the service. Enjoy some great laughs while demonstrating easy-to-remember best practices for volunteering. New volunteers will more easily recall important procedures when they’re acted out in front of them rather than given as a list, so be sure to weave skits into your volunteer training.
When it’s time to create the next ministry schedule, it is best practice to request volunteer availability first. But how do you encourage volunteers to take the time to look at their calendars and submit their availability? Tell them a story!
Share the story of a diligent volunteer who enjoys a stress-free schedule because she was only scheduled for the dates and times she was available compared to one who did not submit her availability and ended up having to find last-minute coverage multiple times. Pull from true stories or create fun, fictional characters to illustrate your point. Then, see if there’s an increase in responses when you weave your request in with the fun story of why it’s important to communicate availability.
Find out what great things are happening in other ministries within your church or your community to start a fire in the hearts of your volunteers. Begin by talking with other ministry leaders inside or outside of your church. What experiences have they had that would be encouraging for your volunteers to hear? Be curious and ask lots of questions before getting permission to share their stories. It may be appropriate to change identifying information, such as names, ages, or volunteer roles, so be sure to respect any privacy concerns when sharing stories with your volunteers.
When you need an example to help lift the spirits of volunteers, consider looking into your denominational history or religious history for examples. What stories might both be familiar to your volunteers and illustrate the importance of the work they’re doing? Don’t shy away from well-known examples. Telling a well known story only serves to reinforce its importance and cultivate the shared identity of your volunteers.
When it comes to volunteer management, the time-tested power of stories is undeniable, but having the right tools is important too. If you’re looking for a better way to connect, schedule, and grow your ministries, start a free 30-day trial of Ministry Scheduler Pro to see what it can do for you.