Encouraging Volunteers to Step Up - What Works for You?

Help wanted!

Help wanted!

I had an interesing email from a mom last week. The topic she brought up is timeless — she could come from any state in the union, any diocese, and still struggle with the same issues:

I wrote you about a year ago, and told you that we would be starting a children’s program in our parish.  We we did and the children get up after the Gospel and during the Homily we go into the rectory (attached to our church) We use Catholicmom.com for all of our lessons and I love it.

I am a young Catholic mother of 3 and myself and only a handful volunteer to lead the groups.  We have on average 25 children which is quite large considering our location.  We are a small rural community.

My question is do you have any advice to help possibly encourage other moms or parish members to volunteer? The church members love  the program but no one is willing to help…I see people smiling when the children return to the pews with their coloring pages and craft project that goes along with the Gospel.  I love knowing that we are “teaching” backward…sometimes to get the adults to understand and to learn more about their faith the lessons come from the children, I do feel this is important and very beneficial to our church so any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Can you help out by offering your thoughts, opinions and strategies for how to inspire volunteerism in our parishes? If you’ve got a program that’s working well, I’d especially like to hear from you today! And on the flip side, if you find your parish’s tactics to be a turnoff, please share (anonymously) what drives you crazy.

Copyright 2013 Lisa M. Hendey


About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at www.LisaHendey.com for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.


  1. After 12 years of being a DRE and needing catechists, I found what truly worked best is an invite from the pastor or a beloved priest. Sometimes it is hard to get them to ask (I often had to wait two weeks before classes were to start before he would agree to it), but always someone would step up if Father asked. With children’s liturgy, many times people are intimidated because they do not feel qualified. Personally invite a mom or dad to join their child just to see what you do and how. Then you may be able to rope them in. Good luck. It is always the most challenging part of any job thst requires volunteers.

    • I found out similarly: people respond, when asked personally, when shown how to do things (I find, they are afraid because they think they have no expertise) – and if they don’t think they will be in it forever. Blessings for your work and good luck.

  2. Sadly, community involvement is somewhat generally on the decline, as people live “busier” lives, and live their lives online rather than in real life (as a generalisation)
    I’ve found to be honest that incentives in the forms of dessert nights out to be great. People come along for the social side and build friendships which then encourages them to be more involved and to help each other out. Recently used this tactic in getting people signed up to help run a Catholic Playgroup and worked well. People are too scared to take the first step.

  3. Sarah Reinhard on

    As a long-time parish employee, here’s what works the best in my experience: asking people face-to-face. It’s also far harder.

    It involves:
    1. Getting to know people.
    2. Figuring out where they might fit best and be most inclined to help.
    3. Taking the time to actually talk and interact (or email).

    A few tips:
    – Try your best to only ask when there’s a good chance of a yes. I know, I know: I’m not making this any easier. But the more people tell the parish no, the worse they feel about it.
    – Do not pressure. Ask, and encourage the person to pray about it, and then let it go. If you need to (and I do), state a clear “I need to know by such-and-such date/time.” And leave them alone until then.
    – Ask people who to ask. Ask for introductions. Involve people’s friends.

    Good luck!

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