How To Write Emails Your Volunteers Will Actually Read

We didn’t know about that!

What do you mean, I emailed you guys 3 times about it!” you say.

Have you ever felt like your emails were falling on deaf ears? They might be now, but that can change. And all it takes is a little clearer communication on your end.

When I look at our ministry teams I see a handful of ministry junkies. They read everything. They want more info and more details…but they are probably in the minority. Not everyone wants a jam packed inbox.

Last spring, Tony Morgan (The Unstuck Group) recommended we do a communication audit. So we saved every piece of communication our church sent to our guest, regular attenders and members. We taped it all to the wall and it was mind blowing. We sent a lot.

I can’t even imagine what the word count was. Too many, no matter how you count it.

It isn’t a surprise that with the mountain of email our volunteers get that some would fall on deaf ears. So what can we do about it?

1. Send Less Email

I know what you’re thinking, you only send them what they need. But this is one area where less is more. Pack more value into each email, and send less. Make your emails worth reading (in one sitting, not several).

2. Summarize

I know it sounds odd to give your email a table of content, but it works. Tell your volunteers what the email is about. Tease them.


3. Make It Scannable

This is as simple as bolding important sentences and turning lists into bullet points.

Maybe you’re a leadership junkie and you’ve read every word of this post, or maybe you’ve got a lot to do today so the first thing you did was read the bold words and scanned the numbered list. You’re human…so is your volunteer team.

4. If Possible, Use Images

When you already produce graphics for upcoming events, use the same images in your emails. Create anchor points for your church that they can visually tie together.

The communication you send to your volunteers is for their benefit, not yours.
— Steven J Barker

In reality, the communication you send to your volunteers is for their benefit, not yours. Your job is to give them the info they need to make a measurable impact. As volunteer managers, we aren’t bosses, we are assistants. It’s our job to give them the resources they need (and want).

Question of the day: How have you seen communication change in the last few years?

How Do You Measure Preaching?

I don’t want to preach messages that educate people beyond their level of obedience.

- Mark Batterson

This adventure into communicating is going to require that we are being driven by the same metric. There are two options when measuring our communicating success.

We can either measure either by opportunity or by result.



When we measure by opportunity we define success as the number of opportunities we give our audience to respond. And while most churches may not admit it, they default to this type of measurement. It’s the “butt’s in seats” measurement. Granted it’s not wrong, “butt’s in seats” is valuable, but it’s arguably not valuable enough. We want to see our church grow and we want to impact more people this year than we did last, but measuring by opportunity leaves the responsibility to respond solely in the hands of the listener. And while ultimately application is something done by an individual, it is our job to hand them the baton.

As a communicator we can’t make a decision for our audience, they have to own it. They have to want the change in their life or nothing will come of it. You or I cannot make it for them.  The problem is that this opportunity measurement assumes something dangerous. It assumes that you and I are perfect. That any failure to respond is because our audience wasn’t listening or that “they just didn’t get it”.  I think we would agree that this wouldn’t be fair.

My oldest son is learning to ride his bike and as his dad it’s my responsibility to teach him. I love my son. I want him to have confidence. I want him to be proud of himself. I also want him to learn to ride a bike by himself. So we go out in the front yard and I show him his new bike.

The first thing he says is “where are the training wheels?”

“We didn’t get any for this bike,” I say,  “but let me show you how.”

I proceed to explain how he will need to pedal and that he will need to figure out his balance.  We ride out into the driveway and decide to give it a try.

So what happens if he falls over? Was he not listening to my instructions?  Was he ignoring me? Was he just not meant to ride a bike? Or was it that I could have done better at setting him up to succeed? Maybe I should have held on to the back of his seat to help him get the hang of balancing. Maybe I should have checked to make sure the seat was at the right height and that he understood how the brakes worked. Maybe I’m the one to blame.

I think we would all agree that as his instructor I need to take some ownership over his success. I’ve got to make sure that I did what was needed for him to take the next step himself. I can’t just throw a bunch of information at him and expect him to pick it all up. I’ve got to help him. I’ve got to run along side (even if it means I’m exhausted) and help him take the next step to riding by himself. Much of his initial success is directly related to my ability to teach him.


Measuring by results is unsettling.

We agree that the choice to respond to our message is in the hand of our audience. You, nor I, are responsible for the choices our audience makes…but we must do everything we can to make sure we set them up for success. Measuring our success based on the results of our message is going to cause us some discomfort. There will be times we aren’t completely sure why our message fell on deaf ears. But, if we agree that ultimately we want to see change in the lives of our audience then we must agree to do all we can to give them the opportunity to change and grow.  Life change is our end game, it’s why we do what we do.

If life change is our end game, we must do all we can to give people the opportunity to change and grow.

If measuring by results makes you nervous, that’s okay. It keeps us honest. The trick is making sure we measure what is valuable. Measuring the right things will help us get better and it will help us identify the specific areas we (and out team) may need to improve.

Measuring Success

Practically speaking, measuring results is done using 4 different measurements, which we will dive into during Part 2 of this series. Today we will focus on one simple measurement: commitment. 

In any powerful message there is a conclusion, a call to action, a possible next step. If you've set up your problem well and clearly unpacked what scripture has to say about the issue you naturally have been defining a next step. The first and most foundational measurement is asking your audience to commit to implementing this call to action. 

Many churches have decided to implement this using some form of a "connection card". This is a simple card, included in your program that allows people to sign up for more info, submit prayer requests as well as indicate their commitment to implement the message's call to action. 

This is a great place to start. Measure your audience's commitment to implement. 

Questions of the day: Do you feel tension between measuring opportunities vs measuring results? 

One No Brainer Way To Build Your Organization's Culture

Culture is one of those ambiguous words we throw our organization. As leaders we have a sense of what we want it to be. We want a healthy culture. We want our staff and volunteers to consider our place a great place to work. But if a healthy culture is this secret sauce, how do we make sure everyone in our organization knows the recipe? 

Secret Sauce

Every team is different, every organization is more so. What worked at one doesn’t always work at the next. That means any time I’ve joined a new team I’ve had to spend some time observing. How does this team make decision? What do they say is most important? What’s actually most important?

Understanding how the new team works is critical to being able to survive and then thrive in the new environment.

So if that’s what it means to join a team, what does that mean for you as a team and/or organizational leader? 

It means that you’re rules of engagement have to be crystal clear. 

Most organizations now days have some form of a document that lists it’s mission, vision and values. There have been thousands of books and articles written on the importance of outlining these steering statements. And they're right. They are incredibly important. It’s even more important then that your organization is living out these statements. 

Enter, the no brainer way to build your organization's culture.

  1. Celebrate when people are living it out your mission, vision and values. 

Share their actions as crystal clear, real life examples of what it means to live out your organizational values. Have a party, give out awards. Show the rest of your organization the people and situations that exemplify who you are as an organization. These steering statements can’t just be words in a document some where. These are the things we value, the criteria by which we make decisions, the standard we hold each other to. 

Find a way to celebrate the examples you have. Look for opportunities to share real life stories that highlight these values (try a team email, see "How To Inform & Inspire Your Volunteer Team”). Have parties, share these examples before meetings or gatherings. Look for every opportunity to share to positive realization of what your organization says is most important. 

Without them being lived out, your mission, vision and values are just words on a page. And that’s not benefiting anyone. 

Question of the day: Are your mission, vision, values an accurate recipe for the culture you are trying to create?