Volunteer Management


Once an individual’s gifts are held up within the community, it is imperative they be deployed. Ministry vocations can range from administrative functions such as property management to social justice tasks such as working with a food bank or housing agency. The range of ministry is restricted only by our imaginations.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his glorious light” (I Peter 2:9).

The key to vibrant ministry is:

  1. For the community to discern and affirm the gifts of an individual. See Discerning Our Gifts.
  2. Matching those gifts with the required ministries.

Lay Ministry Empowerment Cycle

Leaders must plan for and support lay ministry as carefully as they do for paid positions. There are simple and proven principles that help to make intentional lay ministry work. They are grouped into a model known as the lay ministry/volunteer management cycle. The acronym PROSE offers a simple way to share and remember the principles.

  • Plan
  • Recruiting
  • Orientation and Training
  • Screening and Support
  • Evaluate and Recognize


1. The Big Picture. Leaders must know the community, the church and its mission to the world. With the use of the Planning Study and Benchmark data and the Visioning process, begin asking yourselves: What are the greatest needs in the community and the world? What are the strongest gifts in the congregation? Which needs can the congregation meet? What resources do we need?

2. The Specific Ministry. Think through the specific ministry you want and write down the particular tasks and responsibilities you need fulfilled. Consider the importance of the function, why you want it done, the personality characteristics, competencies and skills needed. Then list the qualifications required, the training needed and the support and supervision you will provide. Last, but in no way least, figure out the benefits this ministry will bring to the person accomplishing it and how it would fit into their sense of call, ministry or faith journey. Put this all together in the form of a ministry description. Sample Ministry Descriptions may be found on the screening section of this web site.

Recruiting and interviewing

Matching gifts and skills to appropriate ministry opportunities is a bit of an art. Begin with a search process which may range from an informal invitation to a structured job posting. When you find a possible candidate, invite them to meet with you to discuss the position. Many have found the process and form known as the Glad Gifts Profile very helpful.

Take time to sit down and discuss the position with the person. Remember: if you are casual about the invitation to minister, you may unwittingly be communicating that the ministry is not important. Be clear about what you are asking for and use the ministry description. Discern in the conversation if this person is a good match for the position in terms of skills, abilities, time commitment and personal qualities. If you discover that this person is not a good match for the position but would be suitable in another role, suggest that they consider something else. During the interview, you both have an opportunity to see where those gifts can best be shared. Never twist people’s arms, but do promote the benefits of the ministry. Give people time to think about the position and graciously thank them for considering the request. Encourage them if they are hesitant but interested, and offer opportunities to try it out.

Orientation and training

Schedule time with the person at the beginning of the ministry so that they can be oriented to the position. Learning on the fly is neither satisfying to the individual nor effective to the organization. Offer training for the position, which may be in the form of formal or informal workshops, books or articles to read, on-the-job training, or written instructions. Offering on-going training is a great way to renew lay ministers.

Screening and support

A diocesan screening policy has been implemented to ensure that the church is a holy place where the love of Christ can be modeled and learned. We have a fundamental obligation to the welfare of all members of our community, but especially to those who are vulnerable through age, infirmity or particular circumstances of dependency. The degree of screening reflects the level of risk in the volunteer position. Risk includes financial responsibilities as well.

It is essential to support the ministry of the volunteer once they are in place. Help solve problems, recognize their efforts and accomplishments and coach and guide them. Never take a person’s gifts for granted. You can never say thank you too often. Where appropriate, offer tangibles such as certificates or small thank you gifts. Provide adequate supplies and resources. Ensure they know who they report to and where to go for organizational approval. Be on the alert for over-functioning behavior and burn-out which can be destructive forces in ministry.

Evaluation and recognition

Check in from time to time to find out how things are going. It’s a good way to recognize the work as integral to the life of the community. A more intentional evaluation can be done through a one-on-one conversation or in a small group, using a series of prepared questions. Provide immediate feedback. Evaluate both the job and the lay ministry volunteer. Include the lay ministry volunteer in the evaluation process.

Based on the feedback of the evaluation, adjust the job description if necessary, clarify misunderstandings, develop goals and celebrate accomplishments. If it is not a good fit, discuss a re-assignment to a more suitable ministry. Conduct exit interviews when people leave a position and, as appropriate, celebrate the service in a way that is meaningful to the lay ministry volunteer.

Recognition is a way of turning work into worship. It is an opportunity for the faith community to reaffirm how this particular ministry is connected to the wider mission of the church and how the role of the lay ministry volunteer contributes to its accomplishment.

Recognition is as informal as a well-timed thank you and it should also be formalized. Formalized celebration of ministry has various forms: a thank you note, a gift certificate for a family outing, a liturgy of commission, a liturgy of covenant for the ministry of all the baptized at the beginning of the church year, pins, certificates and dinners are just some recognition ideas. Find out what is important to the lay minister and then be creative to find an appropriate way to recognize that individual. Celebration enhances relationships and fosters community, when done well.

Please read “Adapted from Living & Chosen Stones: A Source Book for Parish Advisory Boards,” (1991, The Diocese of Toronto). For more information, please contact Heather Steeves, Volunteer Management Consultant, 416-363-6021 ext. 226 (1-800-668-8932).

Programs and Resources

  • Sharing the Ministry: A Practical Guide for Transforming Volunteers into Ministers, (Morris Trumbauer Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis, 1999.) This resource gives further assistance in supporting or implementing an intentional lay ministry program for churches based on sound volunteer management principles. It uses a systems approach to shared ministry whose aim is to involve the gifts of all the baptized. It contains guidelines, suggestions and sample plans about how to implement this new model in traditional church structures. The manual is full of training outlines, sample forms, hand outs and fresh ideas about volunteer management or support for “volunteer ministers” for various size congregations. It is a three-ring binder laid out in seven sections, is easy to read and use and, above all, it really is practical.
  • Natural Church Development is an assessment resource for congregational health and focuses on the strength of the lay leadership within the parish.

Diocesan Volunteer Opportunities

From time to time there will be volunteer opportunities posted on the Diocese of Toronto’s Bulletin Board. You are, of course, welcome to respond to specific opportunities as they arise. But you may also wish to explore volunteer opportunities in the Diocese in a more general way. In that case, Heather Steeves, our Volunteer Management Consultant, would be delighted to speak with you.

For more information, please contact Heather Steeves, Volunteer Management Consultant, 416-363-6021 ext. 226 (1-800-668-8932).