Now that you have a place to do ministry, how do you get volunteers to help? This is a critical issue, unless you want to do it all by yourself (which goes against the "two adult" rule--check out the Training Manual for After School programs).
My strategy for reaching our cities for Christ is simple. "Take the Church, to the People." The North American Mission Board has confirmed that 95% of the residents living in apartment are unchurched. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to see that's right. You can go to a complex on any Sunday morning and you can't find a place to park. And Americans aren't walking to church! So how do we reach these people for Christ?
It is important to "Keep the bar low."
Let me give you an example of how a church proposes a new ministry. Normally a church will call me and say, "We're interested in starting English as Second Language classes and we need your help. What we'd like to do is have beginning, intermediate and advanced levels. We'll offer child care, provide a small snack and we're planning on three nights a week. We figure it will take about 15 people to do this." I then reply, "Do you have any idea how many people want to get involved?" At this point they go back to their congregation and take a talent survey. A few weeks later they call me back and say, "I'm sorry but we only had four people sign up and none of them on the same day. So we decided it must not be God's will for us to do this ministry at this time." This is a very common scenario. Instead of offering a beginning class one day a week they do nothing. I believe this is spiritual warfare. The evil one delights in foiling a church's best intentions. They make the critical mistake of making it too hard for a volunteer to get initially involved.
I have people come up to me and say, "I really want to minister in this area. When are your classes?" To which I reply, "When are you available? Let me know what you want to do and we'll base the program around you!" Most people assume that the two schedules could never match up. Basing the class around them forces people to really evaluate if they want to do the ministry or just think they want to do ministry.
It is important to offer short term opportunities. The potential volunteer may not be able to teach a class once a week till the Lord comes back but they may be able to help out one Saturday for a couple of hours.
It is important to follow protocol within a church's organization. If a church has a Minister of Missions he is the logical first stop. Keep your presentation brief. Tell him about the ministry you're involved in, your background and how his church can help and also benefit from partnering together. The best of all possible worlds would have you come back and also talk to the Missions Committee. The next step would be for you to make several short presentations to different Sunday School classes.
I use a phone log where I write down the name of everyone I call with a brief description of what was discussed. Just take a few seconds and jot that information down. I realize it's one more thing to do, but this one habit has proven to be invaluable over the long haul. I regularly look back through that book and re-call people that were not available at the time or to confirm something they said they would do.
The best way to mobilize church members is through their Sunday School classes. These are ready made groups many of whom want a service project. Ask for a few minutes to share a need in the community.
Once the group gets on site and gets a chance to meet folks at the mission, a few really fall in love with it. I've found that about 1 out of 20 people that have an initial mission experience get involved long-term.
Therefore it's very important to keep getting new people on site.
People who are called to outreach ministry are the Special Forces of God's army. We don't understand why everyone doesn't get involved in this life changing ministry. It can be frustrating when your pastor or staff at your church isn't interested in community work in apartments. They see these residents as transitional and poor. "What good can they be to our congregation?"
Churches today are frequently about establishing and running programs. If the family doesn't fit into the mold they are not targeted as potential church members. Everyone is busy and in an evaluation mode. If they think there's no benefit to working in these apartment communities they won't. Therefore it's important to keep the ministry location close to your church. With persistence many of these families do get involved with church---but it takes time. The more families get join the church, the more value the pastor puts on this ministry!
Americans generally want instant everything. They want to "make the sale" and "close the deal," right now. It's hard for church staff to see the benefit of their time spent doing community missions. . . because it takes time. You have to earn the resident's trust and respect before they give their life to Christ. That doesn't happen overnight.
Therefore, don't get too frustrated when your church doesn't rush to come help you. The majority of the members are regular army and are not called to help. Which means you have to expand your base of potential volunteers. High schools are a good place to look for a couple of reasons: they know how to do the homework (when's the last time you had to do a quadratic equation?) and the honor societies are required to do community service! Why not with you?
Most college campuses have denominational groups such as Baptist Student Union, Campus Crusade, and Youth For Christ just to name a few. The University will have a list of the on campus organizations. Call the registrar for that information and for the leader of the group. Contact that leader and let them know that you have a ministry opportunity in their area. Mention the after-school program but start out by asking if you can come make a brief presentation to their next meeting. Tell the leader that your long-term goal is to have students come and help at the mission regularly, but that you'd like for them to participate in a one time event where they help you cook hot dogs and have a party. Remember the 20/1 rule, it takes about twenty volunteers coming on site to get one person that really gets committed to the mission.
Once you have established a relationship with the leader, tell them, "It's up to the leader to set the date for this. Like Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, 'If you wait for perfect timing you'll never get anything done,' so when can you come?" Try and get a commitment for a couple of dates.
Perhaps they can help you pass out the bags of food around Thanksgiving, or they can help you have a Christmas party, or help with the Easter Egg event. Give them a LOT options and as always fit into THEIR schedule!!
Motivating and mobilizing volunteers is a full time job. You need to be systematic with your efforts (call all the schools in the area) and follow up with your contacts.