How to Create a Culture of Serving





Greg Atkinson
Greg Atkinson (Facebook)

One of the ways I use social media is to keep an eye on other pastors and churches and see what they’re up to. Through the years, I’ve noticed that several churches highlight a Volunteer of the Week (VOW). I first saw Elevation Church in Charlotte, N.C., do this. After keeping my eye on this initiative for quite some time, I was inspired to start it at my own church.

I believe in this idea so much that I actually own it at my church. Eventually I’ll pass it on to another leader, but for now I’m putting all my effort and energy into getting it started. We’ve been doing this for about a month now. Here’s a sample of what we post in my weekly blog and email to the church (and also include in our handout):

Volunteer of the Week

“This week’s VOW is Darin Cooley. Darin serves in a number of ways at Forest Park Carthage, including working on our First Impressions and parking lot teams, preparing Communion, unlocking the church doors each Sunday morning, collecting the offering after the second service and leading a LifeGroup. Darin is a true servant, and we are blessed and encouraged by his cheerful spirit and servant’s heart. If you’d like to serve on our First Impressions team, please contact Pastor Matt.”

There you go—short, sweet and to the point! We always end each writeup with a call to action (e.g., “If you’re interested in our First Impressions team, please contact Pastor Matt.”)

Why did we start this feature at our church? We saw no negatives and all positives. It highlights great servants in our church and allows us to brag on them. It gives them a shot in the arm and fires them up to keep serving. And it reinforces our culture of serving.

After people in our church see these types of notices multiple times, I’m confident the idea will be part of what God uses to bring new volunteers to our teams. Here’s how we made it happen:

  • I asked all our staff and team leaders to send me a list of 10 volunteers they’d like to see highlighted and recognized and why.
  • We asked a volunteer photographer in our church to go around on Sunday morning and take pictures of all the people on the list I compiled.
  • We looked through the pictures and list and considered how these volunteers serve and then laid out our future VOWs. (Note: We try to rotate between male and female volunteers as well as among different ministries, such as Kid City, students, worship, tech, First Impressions, cafe and so on).

In addition to featuring volunteers, here are a few other ideas for making sure volunteers are recognized and appreciated:

  • Send a personal thank-you note from the pastor.
  • Set aside preferred parking for the VOW.
  • Film a video highlighting a volunteer.
  • Assign a strong volunteer to represent the church for a community event.
  • Develop "Volunteer Sunday," and use it to acknowledge all volunteers.
  • Post a thank-you note in a volunteer’s work area before he arrives for his shift.
  • Create a photo wall in a hallway recognizing volunteer years of service.
  • Plan an annual volunteer appreciation dinner.
  • Take advantage of National Volunteer Appreciation Week (usually the second or third week in April). 

Try these easy ideas in your church as soon as next week. We’re seeing positive takeaways as people feel appreciated and more people start to ask, “How can I serve in my church?”

Greg Atkinson has been in ministry for two decades and has been writing, speaking and training thousands of church leaders since 2000. He now serves as the campus pastor at Forest Park Carthage, a multisite church in Southwest Missouri.

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