5 Things Your Volunteer Environments Must Have

Carl Barnhill

*This article first appeared on SundayMag.tv on January 12, 2017. Check out the original article here.

For your volunteer environments to thrive, you must be intentional about the culture you’re creating.


Part of your job, whether its in your job description or not, is to help create the culture in which your volunteers serve. I believe volunteer environments need 5 major components in order to be successful.

1. A Training or Equipping Element

Volunteers need to know and be confident in what you’re asking them to do. Sure, some volunteers will take some initiative and find things to do to help, but the bulk of your team needs clear, solid direction on what you want them to do. They crave it. If its clear to your team members what they are doing and why they are doing it, they develop more ownership into your process.


When executing live experiences, the number one fear of volunteers is that they will mess up the service for thousands of people. But, what I’ve found, is that if they are extremely confident in knowing the position or the tasks you’re asking them to perform, a lot of their nervousness goes away.
At the churches I’ve served, we’ve implemented some pretty extensive training processes involving multiple fake worship services where volunteers could make mistakes on the same gear they would use for a live service, but without the stress of people in the room.


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2. Community and Relationships

We all crave a place where we belong, where everyone knows our name. Volunteers long for relationships with people they have things in common with. Your environments will thrive when you have community building elements in your team. When is the last time your team went to lunch after the service on Sunday? When’s the last time your time had a fun event together? You may try implementing an Events Team inside your production team that could work to plan small monthly events and large quarterly events for your team.

3. A Clear Leadership Structure

Your volunteers want to know who to report to and who to get direction from. If your leadership structure is loose and people are unclear who is responsible for what area of your ministry, volunteers will get frustrated with your environment. If you have leaders under you, make sure its clear who is responsible for what and make it clear to everyone.

Suggested Tweet: "Part of your job is to help create the culture in which your volunteers serve. @carlbarnhill"

4. Spiritual Development and Care

Volunteers long to be cared for and loved. Even if you are the Production Team Leader, your role should be your team’s pastor first. Try keeping a spreadsheet with a quick line about where each member of your team is in their spiritual journey. You might be surprised how many people on your team are unclear of their salvation, their baptism, or other parts of their spiritual journey. Don’t assume you know where a team member is in their walk with Christ. Work to develop and care for them, not just as it relates to tasks, but more importantly, as it relates to their spiritual walk.


Your environment should be a place where your team members know that you, and staff and volunteer leaders, care more about them than the task they perform. You should value people over tasks or processes you may have in place.

5. A Celebration Component

You breed what’s celebrated in your team. Do you celebrate numbers? – Are you celebrating salvations? Baptisms? People that are finding community in small groups? Are you celebrating team members that do a great job on your team? Are you celebrating your Team Leaders? Your interns? Your new team members? Celebrate!

Suggested Tweet: "You should value people over tasks or processes you may have in place. @carlbarnhill"

If you are intentional about incorporating these 5 components into any volunteer environment you lead, I promise you that you’ll start seeing results. You’ll start seeing a thriving team that wants to be there and serve, a team that is taking more ownership, and that is more dedicated to your vision.

About Carl Barnhill

Owner, Church Visuals

Carl Barnhill is a creative entrepreneur, motion designer and author. He is the Owner Church Visuals, a company that helps Ministry Leaders visually communicate the Gospel. He is the host of the Your Visuals Matter Podcast. You can find him in Columbia, South Carolina with his wife, Katie and two sons, Jacob and Wesley.

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