The vast majority of today’s pew sitters resist volunteering at their churches.

If your church resembles most, less than 20 percent of your congregation engages in any meaningful or regular volunteer service with the church.

This drives church leaders nuts. “What’s wrong with our people?” they ask. “What a bunch of lazy slackers! If only we had more people stepping up, we could really do some incredible ministry.”

But how does this situation look from the pew sitter’s perspective? Through my work with Church Volunteer Central, LifeServe, Lifetree Café, and my own personal volunteer experience, I’ve compiled a list of things that volunteers and potential volunteers wish their church leaders knew. Here you go:


1. “Know me enough to match my gifts, experience and passion with a volunteer position.” Nobody wants to just fill a slot. If you have something that energizes me, I’m in.

2. “Until I’m personally invited, I’ll just sit.” I ignore the cattle calls such as, “We need 10 Sunday school teachers. Sign up today.” Also, squelch the guilt trips, the threats, and the begging.

3. “Be clear in your expectations.” Give me a position description and a realistic term of service. I fear accepting a murky position that turns into a life sentence.

4. “Listen to me. Let me contribute. Let me lead.” Let us run with it, even if it’s not just how you would do it.

5. “Don’t waste my time.” I’m hyper-busy already. Schedule me only when you really need me. Don’t conduct endless meetings dragged out with long debates.

6. “Let me know we’re making a difference.” Tell the stories of God at work through our efforts. (A Lifetree Café director sends a weekly inspiring email to all volunteers, recounting how lives were touched that week.)

7. “Remember my needs too.” While I’m serving I also want to grow spiritually. Pray with me. Let me experience God. Help me meet and enjoy others. And, make it fun.

8. “Don’t burn me out.” Let me do the one or two things I’m passionate about. Overloading me with other stuff exhausts me, and causes me to look for relief—at another church.

9. “Coach me.” I want to do a good job. I want to improve. I welcome your tactful critique. Let me know what I’m doing well, and how I can get better.

10. “Thank me.” I don’t sign up in order to be thanked. But I’ll leave if I don’t feel appreciated. Just a sincere, personal, little note now and then keeps me going—much more than the annual volunteer potluck.

The volunteers are all around you–sitting, waiting to be inspired to serve.