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Metrics That Matter – 6

Why don’t more people get involved in ministry at church?

That’s a question that has confounded virtually every local church pastor at some point. Indeed, the challenge of “raising up” workers nearly always tops the list of stressors that weigh most heavily on a pastor’s shoulders.

Of course, the local church is somewhat unique among organizations in that it is almost entirely dependent on the willing efforts of volunteers, and managing such a work force is one of the key reasons why pastor lands on nearly every list of high stress occupations.

Many of us have daydreamed of the day that everyone would help out in some way. But is that realistic? Is that the way it is supposed to work? Surely, every individual has gifts and abilities to be used to strengthen the local church, but is it possible that every one of these good folks might discover that at the same time. Imagine what we could do if…

6. The Volunteer Ratio

As someone has wisely observed, numbers don’t lie. And when you look at the volunteer ratio–a percentage of local church attenders that have begun to help the local church in some way–a fascinating reality emerges. Some of our newest metric research in the U.S. Assemblies of God reveals that approximately 1 in 4 people volunteer at their church, no matter how large the church!

That’s right! Big churches, small churches, country churches, suburb churches, older churches, newer churches, Anglo churches, Hispanic churches–they all report remarkably similar numbers. Now, first we should say that this reporting is relatively new (two years of data) and it’s possible that the numbers could shift as we have more churches reporting in the future, but it remains fascinating that a 25% Volunteer to Attender ratio is typical of virtually every local church.

In fact, this similarity begins to raise the question of whether or not it’s realistic to expect something much different. We do know that in a typical local church, about 2/3 of the people have a “consumer” relationship with their congregation. They come to receive, to be encouraged and helped, and we know that a large part of our mission is to deliver on such need.

It also makes sense that the more workers we have, the more people we can minister to, so one wonders if more workers means more consumers, will the ratio every really change much? These are questions that will require a lot more data to fully answer, but pastors need to understand that if 1 in 4 are helping in some manner, that seems to be NORMAL, at least for now. Of course, a lesser level of involvement would identify a health need for us to target.

One way we’ve found to impact our volunteer ratio is to encourage serving opportunities outside of the local church. When people get involved in their community, they begin to see the benefit and impact of such efforts more clearly. So coaching at the local YMCA actually increases the likelihood of someone serving as a greeter at church. When I begin to experience the personal growth that serving generates, my outward focus increases and I become more likely to look for additional opportunities to make a difference.

So, do a little math and see if your church’s volunteer team approximates 25% of your local congregation. If it does, maybe knowing that your living at such a common threshold can lower your anxiety a bit. After all, if that’s where most of us live, perhaps we can alter our expectations a little and find some joy in those who are already on our team.

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