Staffing our Colorado Churches

Many churches around Colorado would love to have an extra staff person, however they
cannot find the money in the budget to hire even a part time Music Minister or Youth Minister. Several churches have been successful in hiring and utilizing volunteer staff, but there are a few considerations when setting up a volunteer staff. Even in our larger multi-staff churches each
of the paid staff probably have need of many volunteer staff within their area of responsibility. A good book for even more information on utilizing volunteers is How to Mobilize Church Volunteers by Marlene Wilson. I have drawn on her experience and wisdom for this short article.

Is it really possible to have a good volunteer staff? An emphatic YES! IF:


This is the ultimate put-down for the volunteer. It is an indication that we do not believe that they are good enough and are second class help. Normally in this instance the volunteers will either leave knowing they are not appreciated or live down to the expectations we have of them.


Before we hire a staff person at a salary package of $50,000 + we must have
a written job description, conduct interviews, hire, then goals are set, objectives and action plans are developed. We can have a good volunteer staff if we follow the same procedure and expectations. It is also important to develop a covenant for personal and professional expectations, development and growth.

All of the above is true for both short and long term volunteers. It is interesting that when I first began to use volunteers I probably did everything wrong; I did not expect much, I did not plan well, I did not set up interviews, I did not set up a covenant and I did not supervise well. I did not utilize volunteers, I used volunteers. I wish I could go back and do it all over again, but instead I am doing my best to learn from my mistakes and then to help others do a better job than I did.


Motivation is the internal drive that prompts us to act in certain ways. What really motivates people? Abraham Maslow in 1924 developed what he called the hierarchy of unfulfilled needs, a short explanation of which is below. If we are to have a good experience with our volunteers we need to at least have a small picture of what motivates them.

Physiological Security/ Safety:

Very few volunteers come to us within these two lowest categories of need which are basic food, water and shelter and/or freedom from harm. We can have a few that we see, especially in the Christian Social Ministries areas and possibly a transient type ministry. As a general rule though, most of the volunteers we will be hiring and supervising are not in these stages of need. Usually the motivator in these first stages is a paycheck so they can eat and pay the rent. We will however, get quite a few in the next stage,

Social Needs, Acceptance:

Many people volunteer to meet a sense of acceptance they are not receiving in any other way. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They have a need to be loved and to give love. I would say that many of the young people in mission youth groups fit into this category. They are experiencing, possibly for the first time, a real acceptance and approval for something they individually are doing. These people, at this stage, are not concerned about the financial rewards but about the recognition they will receive. They are motivated by recognition. Making sure they understand how important they are to the project and to the Kingdom is a very important motivational tool. Certificates, banquets, recognition services are all biggies. It is especially important at this stage to make the recognition public.

Recognition, Self-esteem:

At this stage I am volunteering because it makes me feel good about myself. I am no longer as concerned with having public recognition but I still need for you to tell me how important I am to the project/ministry and the Kingdom. This is probably where a lot of our interns and summer staff are. They could be earning money for school or going to school but they see a need they can fill and feel good about themselves in the process.

Achievement, Self-actualization:

In this stage we see some but not many volunteers. Most of these are either retired or have independent means. When we get this volunteer we know we have something grand. They see a need and achieve it for the Kingdom regardless of the cost to them personally or any recognition they might receive.

It will make all the difference in the development of a volunteer staff if you can detect a person’s motivator. You will then know what they need to do a good job and feel good about it when they leave.


Teams by their very nature say that everyone is important and yet they also help us to see our distinct position or role. If the volunteer is placed on the team with paid staff and recognized as a valuable part of that team with all the same rights and privileges, they will perform as a part of the team.


6 items that volunteers have repeatedly said they want and need:

  • to be carefully interviewed and appropriately assigned to a meaningful task;
  • to receive training and supervision to enable them to do that task well;
  • to be involved in planning and evaluating the program in which they participate;
  • to receive recognition in a way that is meaningful to them;
  • to be regarded as persons of uniqueness;
  • to be accepted as a valued member of the team.