How to Provide a Clear On-Ramp for New Volunteers

Carl Barnhill

You have to know and be involved in how new volunteers get into your ministry. You have to be the most passionate about getting new people onto your team. You’re the leader. Everyone is going to feed off your energy.


In a little over a year at the Columbia campus of Newspring Church, we saw over 100 people come into our ministry. We consistently had one of the highest percentages of those coming to our team, sometimes more than any other ministry at the campus. Was it a competition? Not really- we wanted to see every ministry succeed. We wanted every ministry to having a thriving volunteer culture. It was a win for the whole church. But why did the production team get a lot of the numbers? I attribute that growth to a few things. I think we were very intentional and poured energy and time into the following areas:

Ownership Class
Newspring calls its church membership class “Ownership”. For good reason- they believe that members have rights and owners have responsibility. If you went to your local gym and saw a piece of trash on the floor or a machine that was broke, you’d tell the manager. If you were the owner, you’d pick up the trash or fix the machine.


Ownership Class was held on a weeknight or Sunday afternoon to those interested in the church. The class covered the core values of the church, an invitation for salvation, and a strong push to serve.

Opportunities Tours
Out of Ownership Class, unless someone knew exactly where they wanted to serve, they were scheduled for an Opportunities Tour. These tours were scheduled on Sundays and would tour every ministry in the church where someone could serve. One thing I noticed in regards to Production is that these tours were only going by front-of-house, they were not coming by the control room. So we made that change and had tours come through backstage and tour our control room.


Another thing I noticed is that the hosts of the tours were not as passionate about production as I hoped they would be. So we implemented our own team of Tour Hosts that would meet the church-wide tour when they came by the control room.


Our host would greet them and give them a quick 90 second vision of production, tell them quickly some of the areas they could serve in and tell them that if they were interested in Production, their next step would be a “First Look”. They also gave them business size cards listing every area of Production they could serve in as well as contact information for scheduling their next step.


Some times we would give them a piece of candy also- we would pass out Nerds candy and tell them they “didn’t have to be a nerd to serve in Production”. Cheesy, but memorable. I found that we were the only area that gave them anything as they came through. We poured energy into this. I got the volunteers involved in this process- who would be more passionate about our ministry than those who were in the same shoes just a few months earlier? I did get some pushback occasionally- some ministries got a little jealous that we were getting so many people, or would see it as a competition.


It was and it wasn’t- I wanted to see our ministry thrive, I wanted to use the system that was in place to its fullest extent. But I also wanted to see other ministries succeed. What would happen to volunteer numbers if every ministry in your church poured time and energy into recruiting and getting new volunteers passionate about serving? Think of how many next steps and opportunities could be provided to people!

Production First Look
After the Opportunities Tour, we would check on the numbers each week to see how many people out of the tours signed up for Production. We got a list of these people’s names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Someone from our Production Team or myself would contact them during the week. I would tell them how excited I was that they were interested in serving in Production. I would also make sure they knew when they were scheduled for First Look, where to go and what time to be there.


A Production First Look was a Sunday morning experience where a volunteer (a “First Look Host”) would know the people who were scheduled for a First Look, go pick them up, tour them around front of house, then bring them back to our control room. The new volunteers would hang out for a few minutes (usually we had breakfast or something to give them).


Then they would sit on a couch in our control room and observe the service. We installed headphones on a rack above the couch they could use and listen to Comm while watching a service. It was a really cool behind-the-scenes experience for them. When we got into the message portion of the service, the First Look Host would take the new volunteers to another room with a table. They would walk through a First Look Packet.


This packet included:
-the vision of our team
-a quick list of the positions they could serve in
-the time requirements for serving on our team
-our training process
-a longer description of every position on the team


Before leaving First Look, each new volunteer had to choose which position they wanted to start learning. They also had to give us a tentative date for their first training session. The First Look Host would also make sure we had their correct contact information. After First Look, they could stay and hang out for the remainder of the service if they wanted to. They could even stay the next service and knock out their first training session (their “BASICS 101”).

BASICS Training
After First Look, they went through a Training Process before they were ready to be put on a rotation to serve on a Sunday.
The training process for new volunteers was structured like college courses: BASICS 101, BASICS 102, and BASICS 103.
BASICS 101: they just observed a veteran volunteer running the position they were interested in, for one service on a Sunday.
BASICS 102: they were asked to attend a Monday night training experience where they were teamed with a veteran volunteer for an extensive one-on-one training. They also had the opportunity to do a run-thru with a full live band. The run-thru had no one in the audience. This was intentionally for training only.
BASICS 103: they served on their position on a Sunday with a veteran scheduled with them as a safety net for them.


So to be clear, here was our On-Ramp for New Volunteers:
1. Ownership/Church Membership Class
2. Opportunities Tours
3. First Look
4. BASICS Training

Your On-Ramp for New Volunteers may be a more condensed process. It may be more extensive. Either way, it needs to be put to paper, very clear, very simple and easy to understand. It also doesn’t need to be just in your brain- you must share it with your volunteers. They can and will help you! We had people serving in each one of these areas – we had volunteers help with Ownership Classes, and teams of volunteers for Opportunities Tours, First Looks, and BASICS Training.

We poured energy into these areas and got veteran volunteers to help us with the recruiting and training. It wasn’t always perfect and it takes a lot of work. But we did see some success. I hope these ideas may spur some thought about how you recruit and train new volunteers for your teams.

What’s the method in which new volunteers join your ministry?

About Carl Barnhill

Owner, Church Visuals

Carl Barnhill is a creative entrepreneur, motion designer and author. He is the Owner of 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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