For Use with Engaging Volunteers in Ministry, a series of webinars to prompt the better stewardship of volunteer time and energy

Engaging Volunteers in Parish Ministry:  Working with Your Team  

Establish a small group of people who, like you, believe that volunteers in your parish could be engaged more fully, so that their ministries are more meaningful to them and more effective in the parish community. The group should be about five at the most, but should always include a priest.  If no clergy are present, you can be assured that this initiative will fall apart eventually.  Similar advice to clergy – you cannot do this alone!  (A sample terms of reference outline is here) If you can identify in your parish someone who is a professional volunteer administrator in their day paid or volunteer life, ask them to be part of this group.

Book time with the team for four meetings to start with, fairly close together. It’s often quite easy to recruit busy and talented people for one meeting a week for a month. Work with the team to get the best dates so, if at all possible, all will attend all meetings. The meetings should be about two hours in length.

First Planning Session: Introduction

**Have copies of these handouts ready to go (Volunteer Leadership Cycle, Worksheet on Significant Learnings, Reflection Questions).

**Set up a computer in advance (and a projector if you have one) so that all can see the webinar.  Test it out before people come.

  1. Begin with a short prayer.
  2. You as the leader should thank them for making this a priority and then outline briefly what you hope this work will help bring about in the parish as a result of their commitment.
  3. Make sure all introduce themselves and say why this initiative matters to them.
  4. Indicate that the plan will be to watch the webinar uninterrupted and then spend another hour responding to what they have learned or had affirmed about engaging volunteers in churches.
  5. Introduce the webinar Session 1. Mention that this is about the stewardship of people’s time, talents and energy, offered by two experts in this profession, and especially designed for churches. Brought to you by the Anglican Church of Canada.
  6. Watch the webinar together.
  7. In silence after the webinar, give people time, perhaps five minutes to record their learnings on the Worksheet on Significant Learnings.
  8. Open discussion on what grabbed each of the team (about 10 minutes).
  9. Then focus on the Reflection Questions, using the Volunteer Leadership Cycle. Don’t let the group become too determined on one solution or another – simply ask them to focus on what they see being done well in the parish (and where, in what task group or committee, for instance) and what is done less well. This is designed to get a pretty accurate sense of the “present”, not the answers for the future. Come to consensus about the top three areas that the team will need to keep high on their list of potential areas to work on as they move forward. Take a few minutes to celebrate what is going well. You may want to let the leader of that group know that you are pleased with their efforts.
  10. Conclude with a prayer and a confirmation of the next date with everyone.

Second Planning Session

**Again, get the handouts ready (Readiness ChecklistWindows of Work sample; Windows of Work Form; Sample Ministry Position Descriptions: Coordinator of Volunteer Ministries; Chair of Leadership Development) and ensure all have with them their Volunteer Leadership Cycle and Worksheet on Significant Learnings handouts from the last session.  Bring extra copies of the Worksheet on Significant Learnings.

**And get the computer and projector set up in advance, and test its capacity to work!

  1. Begin with a prayer.
  2. Have a brief team discussion on any thoughts that have occurred to them since the last session, something that hung around and got stronger, or something that is new to them, an aha! thought. Don’t let this go on too long – just over five minutes at most.
  3. Watch the webinar Session 2, Getting Started.
  4. In silence after the webinar, give people five minutes to record their learnings on the Worksheet on Significant Learnings.
  5. Open discussion on what grabbed each of the team (about 10 minutes at most).
  6. Suggest that each of the team, including you, take the Readiness Checklist and quickly fill it in (3-5 minutes).
  7. Discuss together not the results from all the questions, but what stands out as signs of readiness that will definitely make things easier, and then barriers that will need to be taken into account as the team plans this initiative to improve volunteer engagement in the church. Be sure to discuss any areas where there are wide differences in opinion about readiness.
  8. Move the discussion to the preparing of position descriptions/ministry opportunities. Ask:
  • Do position descriptions currently exist that have been prepared for screening purposes?
  • Have position descriptions been recently updated or are they outdated?
  • Do they contain the kinds of information that the webinar has indicated need to be thought through and written down?
  1. If all this information is readily available, you are in a very strong and unusual position. If there needs to be some careful assessment of the ‘state of the union”, ask if there are a couple of people who would take on this discovery task and report to the next session. This is not asking them to do all the job descriptions, but to assess just what is already available and what work needs to be done.
  2. If there is time, test the Windows of Work by having each person use the blank window and fill it in for themselves personally.
  3. Suggest that those who haven’t been assigned the job description discovery role read the two position descriptions of roles that are designed to promote volunteer engagement in a church. Ask them to come back next time ready to report on these roles and whether they see any possibilities for adapting them for the parish. Sample ministry position descriptions: Coordinator of Volunteer Ministries; Chair of Leadership Development (a year-round replacement for a nominating committee).
  4. Conclude with a go-round where each member of the team can summarize what they are seeing at this point, which might be an area where work should start on the volunteer engagement initiative.
  5. Conclude with a prayer and a confirmation of the next date with everyone.

Third Planning Session

Get the computer ready in advance. Have a few extra copies of the Worksheet on Significant Learnings.

  1. Begin with prayer.
  2. Ask for updates from the “homework” assigned. These are simply reporting in times, not decision times, so give this about 10 minutes:
  • What is the state of position descriptions in the parish? Who is in charge of screening and doing the position descriptions that are available already? What state are they in? What more work needs to be done on them?
  • What are your thoughts on the two position descriptions (coordinator of volunteer ministries, leadership development committee) in terms of whether they might be helpful for us to consider in the parish?
  1. Watch Session 3, Recruitment and Interviewing.
  2. In silence after the webinar, give people five minutes to record their learnings on the Worksheet on Significant Learnings.
  3. Open discussion on what grabbed each of the team in this webinar (about 10 minutes at most).
  4. Take a few minutes to go over the worksheets where you have outlined from all three sessions the significant learnings.
  5. Discuss: What is beginning to emerge as the short list of areas where we need to provide strong recommendations?  (Note that there is a full cycle to consider, not just the areas covered by these webinars.)
  6. Conclude with a prayer and a confirmation of the next date with everyone. Note that the next meeting will be when we write our report, so some praying and thinking over the week will be useful.

Fourth Planning Session

** Bring copies of Suggested Table of Contents, Implementation Plan Template and Draft of Terms of Reference for an Ongoing Volunteer Ministries Committee for each.

  1. Begin with prayer.
  2. Go over what you have written together on the Worksheet on Significant Learnings.
  3. Discuss and try to come to consensus about your recommendations for action for the parish. Some advice here: don’t assume that, if you decide to recruit a volunteer coordinator, all will be solved – you need to undergird that position with some strong supportive and ongoing work.
  4. Develop an implementation plan for your recommendations to the parish using the Implementation Plan Template.
  5. Decide on who in the group will write the report and, using and adapting the Suggested Table of Contents, what the table of contents will be. Include the formation of a volunteer ministries committee to monitor and support ongoing development of this initiative.
  6. Agree on when you will get the draft report electronically and how you will each provide input; and who will present the report to the Parish Council. (It will be good if all members can be there for the presentation.)
  7. Conclude with a prayer and a bit of celebration for the work you have done and will do.