How Many Volunteers Do We Need?

There is a simple concept that is true in business: you need to make money.

Spend less than you bring in and you end up with a profit.

In any profitable business, employees should pay for themselves in sales, whether they in some way support the sale or especially if they make the sale. The job of a manager is to find the sweet spot between customer experience and employee cost.

It makes sense. A great customer experience at the optimal and minimum appropriate expense. As long as that ratio is right, you make money, you grow. Get it wrong and eventually you can’t afford to have employees.

But when it comes to church, that same concept doesn’t apply.

One of our campuses recently moved to a new location with a much smaller parking lot then we were used to. Our team has done an incredible job creating a hands-on parking experience for each of our guests. Each person is handled with care and they have ensured that no family or vehicle leaves because they “couldn’t find a spot”.

It’s been awesome, but there is a question brewing on the horizon.

How many volunteers do we need?

There are three factors that must be considered:

  1. What kind of experience are we trying to create for our guests?

    On any given weekend we are creating an experience for our guests. Just like inviting someone into your home, we need to get ready. We make sure the house is clean, that there is a place to sit and that everyone feels “at home”. Church is not different. So, if we can identify what kind of experience we are trying to create for our guests we’ve got a great place to start.

    Using the parking lot example -- we want each family that drives onto the lot to know we’ve been expecting them and we’ve saved them a parking spot. That’s objective #1.
  2. In order to deliver that experience, how many volunteers can we create spots for?

    To clarify, it is not how many volunteers do we need, it’s how many can we create spots for? While it can be easy to get sucked into a scarcity mentality we’ve got to fight that urge. So for a moment, remove the “realist” part of your brain and write down what an amazing experience would look like driving into that parking lot. Someone waving at the street. Someone “tour guiding” you to the perfect open parking spot, close to the door. Another handing you an umbrella on a rainy day. Cast vision for what an amazing experience it would be for your guests if you created that kind of experience.
  3. Does each volunteer role feel like it’s contributing something valuable?

    Can you think of anything less motivating than volunteering your time and effort to something that has zero impact? I can’t.

    Creating multiple volunteers is important, but each must be making an impact. If you don’t have a parking problem, do you actually need a bunch of volunteers standing around? You might not.

Helping the people in your church find a valuable contribution they can make helps them feel like this is not “the church,” it’s “their church.” That is exactly what you want for them. Let them have some skin in the game and look for opportunities for your people to have measurable impact.

Here’s your next step:

  1. Take any one of your environments and make a list of every possible position available to create a fantastic guest experience. Don't add volunteer names to the list, just positions. We call this blanks on a page.
  2. Subtract any position that would make someone feel like they were wasting their time.
  3. Decide what triggers the need for more volunteer spots.

In our example, during a service where 50% of the spots remain available a skeleton volunteer staff is all that is needed, but when we anticipate the parking lot being 75% full, we’ve got to call all hands on deck to maintain a quality experience.

Here’s the simple math:

Maximum Volunteer List
Boring Volunteer Roles
"All Hands" Triggers

The Perfect Volunteer Team

For more on how to recruit without job descriptions see “2 Reasons to Stop Building Your Volunteer Org Chart, Plus 1 Alternative” [link].