You Asked for Volunteers, and Nobody Stepped Up. Here’s Why.


Feel like your church is unresponsive to calls for engagement? Could the problem be in the way you’re calling? Discover how shifting your focus from information to inspiration and celebration can transform your church's communication.


Let’s talk about church communications for a moment.

When it comes to communication, most church leaders internally focus on information. This information includes department or ministry updates, financials, and/or metrics.

Externally, most churches talk about themselves while communicating about their programs, services, and upcoming events.

Then, we wonder why nobody is engaging. We wonder why people aren’t excited to participate. We feel this never-ending requirement to recruit (guilt and shame) attendees into volunteer roles.

Communicating ministry updates and metrics to our teams is smart. Sharing about programs and events is fine.

The problem is that information rarely elicits activation.

Informaiton Versus Inspiration

I certainly realize the necessity of communicating information to internal and external stakeholders. But I also learned along my leadership journey that information rarely creates motivation.


Let’s take a church example: Small Group engagement.

Most churches have some version of small groups. When new group seasons are pending, church leaders use time in the church service and on digital channels to promote groups.

The problem is that all this communication typically centers on information. What is a group? When do groups begin? How can you join in?

These what, when, and why questions are essential and must be answered. However, we’ve reduced our communication to information if we only offer what, when, and how.

Then we wonder why more people aren’t taking a step into groups.

This dynamic happens in every church, every week. Pastors share information about baptism, generosity, volunteer service, and more. And the needle rarely moves. Why? Because information alone is insufficient to engage people in a new step.

Information supports people who’ve decided to move forward, yet it does nothing to reach undecided people.


Inspiration answers the “why” of the information.

When a pastor or leader answers “why” something matters, people are more apt to take the step. And this is when we offer the information.

Giving information without inspiration doesn’t lead to maximum application.

It’s akin to putting the cart before the horse.

As a pastor, think about what you typically communicate to your church.

    1. Upcoming events.
    2. Group registration is open.
    3. How to give through our app, website, or today in the giving kiosk in the back of the room.
    4. You should invite a friend next Sunday.

Information, information, and then more information.

Inspiration Through Celebration

To engage people in church participation, we must learn to inspire people before informing people.

Here are 4 ways you can incorporate celebration in your church:
  1. Celebrate stories that connect the dots to the mission and vision. This should be a priority in service and via digital channels.
  2. Don’t relegate stories to the age group of the story. Empty nesters need to see and hear what their church is doing for the next generation. Parents of younger children need to know the power of student ministry. Share every story with nearly every segment of your church.
  3. Begin every meeting with this one question: “What have you seen lately that makes us feel we are accomplishing our mission?” This is a great way to begin a staff meeting, but I’d suggest you ask this question before any meeting. Possibly any conversation.
  4. Don’t limit stories to your church. When your community wins, we all win. Share all stories with your church.

Honestly, that’s the easy part. Mining and sharing stories is easy. The real challenge is to A.B.C. every celebration.

Always Be Closing a Celebration

A.B.C. is a sales and marketing term for Always Be Closing.

Celebrating with your church does two things:
  1. It serves to prove the mission and vision are coming to fruition. I’ve written about this before, but just as a reminder: People don’t give to vision. They give to executed vision. Talk is cheap. If you want to really engage your church, you’ve got to show them results.
  2. Celebrating creates the perfect emotional conduit to inspire others to join the movement. When you celebrate a story in service, follow the celebration with an opportunity to take a step. Stories paint the best picture of what happens when people give, serve, etc.

It’s the activation of the disengaged that too many pastors miss. They share the story and then thank people for what they did.

A.B.C. means we must always offer an easy, obvious, and logical next step. Every celebration creates an opportunity for people to take action. A discipleship-driven pastor sees moments as opportunities to create movement.

If you celebrate a small group story, offer a clear step to join a small group. If you celebrate a student ministry story, offer an obvious step to give for an upcoming student camp. If you celebrate a children’s ministry story, offer a compelling volunteer opportunity.

What Are You Celebrating This Sunday?

If you’re like most churches, celebration is an afterthought. But the opposite should be true.

Celebration sets the perfect context for engagement and active participation.

Here are a few final tips:
  1. Create a system to mine for stories.
  2. Engage every person in your church as story seekers.
  3. Use moments that currently exist beyond the moment.
  4. Plan a minimum of 3 months in advance. Margin is our best friend.

I hope celebration is a normative element of your church.