Leaders Generate Leads: 3 Types of Volunteer Leads

When I was in college I worked in sales.  I drove all over Missouri and Arkansas selling vacuum cleaners.  I would go door to door following up on a list of leads that some minimum wage employee sitting in some cube farm somewhere generated.   I learned quickly that not all leads are created equal.  Some were good, some were bad, some were just plain scary.  Knocking on a door in the middle of nowhere after dark in Arkansas was a new experience.

The most important thing I learned during my time in sales was how important it was to always keep quality leads coming in.  If the leads ever dried up, I was in big trouble.  I could have a full tank of gas, a trunk full of vacuums, but unless I had someone to present the product to I had no hope of making a sale.

The same concept holds true in ministry.  Every children’s ministry needs a pipeline of new volunteer leads.  Why? Because you are going to have volunteer turnover.  You always need a new batch of volunteers coming up.  Trust me, the time to start generating leads is not when the position opens up.  You need some folks already along in your volunteer process, so that when you have an opening, you have someone waiting in the wings ready to be promoted.

If you want to grow your church, reach more kids, have a greater impact on your city, then you need a clearly defined way to identify and process volunteer leads. Lets look at three types of volunteer leads, how each one is important, and how we can get the most out of all three.

The first type of volunteer lead is the cold lead.

Just like in sales, a cold lead is a contact you make through no introduction; usually by walking up to someone “cold” and giving them your pitch.  Both in sales and in ministry cold leads are the hardest to convert and take the most energy.  In most churches this an announcement in the bulletin or from the platform, the conversation in the hallway or the creatively worded Facebook post.  Sadly, most church leaders only make contact with potential volunteers as “cold” leads; others try to skip this lead completely.  Neither is right.  You can’t live here and you can’t skip this type of lead.  Here are some tips to get the most out of your cold leads.

  • Get a list of everyone who worships in your church.
  • Begin evaluating each person’s involvement, skills, interest, and potential on a spreadsheet.
    • Include information like
      • Name & contact information.
      • Age.
      • Are they regular attenders?
      • Do they attend discipleship?
      • What services do they attend?
      • Are they serving in a ministry? Which one?
      • Have they received any ministry training?
      • What do they do for a living?
      • Does their job provide them a skill that can be used in ministry?
    • Next categorize each individual in one of the following categories:
      • Unemployed – not currently serving.
      • Mis-employed – serving in the wrong ministry.
      • Over-employed – serving too much already.
      • Under-employed – has room to serve.
      • Employed – leave alone, already committed.

Keep in mind everyone’s involvement changes.  Just because someone is employed or over-employed doesn’t mean that will always be the case. Add them to the list, who knows what their availability will be in six months or six years.

  • Another category to keep in mind are the four levels of spiritual maturity.
    • Emotionally unhealthy.
    • Emotionally immature.
    • Emotionally mature.
    • Emotionally giving.

In my experience 80% of the people in the average church fall into the first two categories.  This is where you have to use wisdom and discernment.  Your goal should be to invest the most time, energy and resources into those who will give the greatest return.  Look for opportunities to release the emotionally mature and emotionally giving into ministry while trying to bring the unhealthy and immature along in their discipleship.

That means when your working cold leads you want to go after the 20% who have the most to offer and greatest potential to be converted into fully trained volunteers.  Cold leads are the hardest to convert, so don’t make this your primary method of generating leads, but don’t skip it completely either.

The second type of volunteer lead is the warm lead:

These are people in your church that have given you an indication that they would like to serve. Warm leads are better than cold leads, so it is important to cultivate and mine your cold leads and try and convert them to warm leads.  One way to create more “warm leads” is to have a volunteer interest card and a corresponding online form (Sample online form tci.org/serve) for potential volunteers to fill out.  Every person in your church is a potential volunteer.  Those who take the time to fill out an interest card should be a higher priority than a “cold lead.”TCI Kids Interest Card2015 (3)-page-001

By filling out an interest card they are saying, “Hey, I want to serve in your ministry.” Its your job to take that person and convert them from an interested, potential volunteer to a fully processed, trained, equipped and released volunteer.  That means you need to close the sale.  Remember you can’t close a sale if you don’t have any leads, you must always be generating “warm leads.”

I have learned through the “Law of Numbers” that for every three volunteer interest cards I pass out, I get one completed card back.  That means if I have a goal to recruit 3 new volunteers per week, I need to pass out nine cards.  If I want fifty new volunteers every year, I need to pass out one hundred and fifty cards every year.  If I’m not passing out cards and making them accessible in my ministry booth, in the adult service and in the office, I am not getting the full potential out of my “warm leads.”

The third type of lead we all need to be generating are referrals:

Referrals are my most valuable set of leads.  Just like in sales, they are opportunities referred to you by someone who loves what you are doing.  They might come from your Pastor, another department, an active volunteer in your ministry, through parents who are sharing about what your department is doing.  These are usually the easiest leads to convert into active, serving, volunteers.

There are two key things you can do to generate quality referrals.

  1. Always be sharing the amazing things your department is doing with your Lead Pastor and other department leaders. Talk about what God is doing, give praise reports and testimonies of the things happening.  If you share the good things that are happening so will they.  If your Pastor is talking about what your ministry is doing, it will generate referrals.
  2. Train your volunteers to generate leads. Teach them to go after their friends and family, to share why they love working in your department with anyone who will listen.  Teach them to pass out the volunteer interest cards.  My best leaders are my best recruiters.  They are so passionate about what they are doing in ministry that when they talk about it, others catch the vision and want the same fulfillment, purpose and meaning in their lives.

Keep in mind generating leads is only the first step in the process of growing your ministry team.  Once you have identified potential volunteers you need a process to capitalize on their potential.  (You can view my 9 step process here.)  Your goal is to identify potential volunteers and convert them into ministry volunteers.  You will need to develop a system to:

  1. Quickly respond to leads.
  2. A process to convert leads into volunteers.
  3. The timing to know when to pass a lead to another ministry leader in your department or another department in your church.

Ministry leads are a key piece to having and maintaining a fully staffed, trained, equipped, and released ministry team.  What steps can you take this week to generate more cold, warm and referral leads for your ministry? Join the discussion leave a comment below.

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About the Author

Andrew VanDerLinden

Andrew is the Executive Pastor at Community Church in Eastern PA.

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