Who are our volunteers?
I've been reflecting and reading a lot recently on volunteers and volunteer management. It seems that getting and keeping volunteers is the ultimate challenge that our ministry programs face. Time and time again, I hear a ministry leaders complain about the lack of volunteers that are able to give time to our ministries and our church. I think part of the concern is that we don't know the demographics of who are volunteers are in the 21st century. Our view of who can volunteer and in what capacity is so limited. The common trap for youth ministry is that we need young adults to be our volunteer leaders and the only role that we need volunteers for is as a core team member, which is a weekly commitment until eternity.
I would argue that this is not the best way to view volunteers.
I recently read The Volunteer Revolution by Bill Hybels. It was a very revealing book and has helped me to think outside of the box when it comes to our volunteers. Here is what he had to say about the demographics (based an age generalizations) of our volunteers and who we should be looking for and what kind of roles might be suitable for them.
Who are our volunteers?
Over 65 year olds
Our Seniors are not sitting in rocking chairs anymore. Many are on a second career, are volunteering many hours, or are taking classes or traveling around the world. Although they still may be better cooks than the rest of the Church, we should be asking them to do much more than bake.
45-65 year olds
This group may be still parenting youth or young adult children, and may be taking on new roles with aging parents. This group has vast experience in being boy scout leaders, PTA leaders, and coordinators of bake-sales. Their time may be opening up from their years of ferrying their children from place to place. They are skilled at their jobs and have professional experience to share.
25-45 year olds
Although this age group may be single, married, and/or raising children, they are the group most likely to be beginning careers, raising families, and otherwise trying to make a place for themselves in the world. This may be the group most in need of feeling like they can contribute to and are needed by their faith community. Their time is most likely limited, but they would like to make a contribution that will be meaningful.
5-25 year olds
Children and teenagers (and young, young adults) are veracious volunteers – when given the opportunity to make a real difference. Youth are often thought of as unreliable, but that is often because we give them jobs that no one else wants. Finding ways to tap into their gifts and giving them real opportunities for leadership can bring out their best.
Let's begin to think differently about who are volunteers are and what we may be able to invite them to do.