Church Volunteer Scheduling Tips

young woman church

Volunteers are an essential part of church ministry, making events and Sunday mornings run seamlessly. Here are some time-tested tips to help you fill those important spots in your church volunteer schedule. 

General Scheduling Tips 

Establish a scheduling philosophy. After you decide who you will ask, then you can determine a framework for your scheduling. Questions to ask yourself:

  • How often will you ask a person to volunteer? How much is too much?
  • How often will you ask a person to sub? If they say no, will you ask again in the same month?
  • Will you ask on-going volunteers to also serve at one-time events or give them a break?
Determine communication best practices.

  • Be specific about your needs. Give volunteers choices of available positions and times and let them choose.
  • Communicate early. Many families start filling up their summer calendar in March. Be sure to get your scheduling request in the mix early.
  • Communicate often. Reminder emails or postcards are a scheduler's best friend. SignUpGenius makes it easy with automatic reminder emails!
  • Respond to a volunteer's "yes" within 24 hours, if possible. Nothing is more frustrating than deciding to help and not getting a response that your help has been accepted!
Avoid "hearing no" burn out.
Most people in ministry grossly underestimate how much time and effort will be spent on recruiting and scheduling. It does get easier with time. To avoid burn out, keep it in perspective. It's not you they are saying "no" to, so keep your emotions out of the equation.

Scheduling Tips for One-Time Events

(Examples: Mission Trip Fundraising, Church-wide Picnic, Outreach Events, etc.) 

Consider two roles for one event.
Start recruiting the "ahead-of-time" volunteers two to three months ahead of your event to make sure they have the time and tools needed to get their job done. "Day-of" volunteers can be contacted up to a month ahead to make sure they save the date and to clarify the job they'd like to do. 

Keep your schedule organized.
Giving volunteers choices about when and where they want to serve is easy with an online organizing tool like SignUpGenius. Remember that some volunteers may be attending with their families or want to enjoy the event, so keep time slots manageable. Consider scheduling families for things such as set-up or clean up times so they can serve as a team. 

Have volunteers that can’t be there? Organize a donation sign up! SAMPLE

Schedule and release.
Once people are on the schedule, empower your ahead-of-time volunteers to answer questions and take ownership of their part of the event. If you give the day-of volunteers plenty of information to do their job, you can manage your event with confidence. 

Reminders are your friend.
Even if you have given volunteers the date a million times, send out a reminder right before the event. Ask a quick question that they need to respond to so you know they are still planning to attend. A tool like SignUpGenius will actually send reminders for you via text or email.

Scheduling Tips for On-Going Ministry

(Examples: Children's Ministry, Women's Ministry, Worship Ministry, etc.) 

Provide a “see-if-it-fits” opportunity.
People may be more apt to be put on the schedule if they understand what they will be doing. Consider offering an interest/training session on, for example, leading a small group, or being an effective teacher, or running the soundboard. This will give both you and the volunteers a chance to see if the job is a good fit.

Keep your on-going schedule organized.
An online sign up provider, like SignUpGenius, makes it easy to manage a seasonal or yearly schedule. Benefits include:

  • Easy set up and group member sign up.
  • Bulk email capability to send invitations to your group
  • Volunteers can sign up 24/7
  • Automated email or text reminders ensure no one forgets their tasks
  • Swap feature allows group members to handle changes

 Scheduling on-going volunteers has never been easier! SAMPLE

Schedule people in a pattern.
If it suits your ministry need, schedule on-going volunteers in a pattern, such as the second and fourth Sundays of every month, or first, third, and fifth. Tell volunteers that if there is no fifth Sunday, they get the day off! Patterns are easier to remember, so they never have to wonder if they are on- or off-duty. 

Maybe "no" isn't your final answer.
For a one-time event, a "no" may not be a big deal. If you are trying to fill lots of spots in an on-going ministry, you may want to get creative if you get a "no" answer.  

  • Saying, "I understand," but then throwing out other opportunities that might be a good fit is one way to get volunteers to rethink their no.
  • Saying, "I understand. Thank you and goodbye" means you must decide if you will call or ask again next month? Next year?
Think through this ahead of time to help you have a plan and navigate a "no" with the finesse of a pro. 

Determine who will be finding substitutes.
Volunteers are more likely to say yes if the burden of scheduling a substitute is off their back. 

Establish a "sunset clause."
This is an agreement between the volunteer and the scheduler that after a certain amount of time (it can be 6 months to a year), the volunteer will have an opportunity to either renew or be released from their commitment. It gives everyone the opportunity to go in a new direction, if needed. 

Never underestimate the power of kindness when asking people to consider being a church volunteer. You will reap great rewards in your scheduling efforts if you use these tips to get the right people into the right places for your ministry needs.


Julie David is married to a worship pastor and after 20 years in ministry together with three daughters, she is still developing the tender balance of thick skin and gracious heart. She currently leads a small group of high school junior girls.