A Volunteer Group for Every Parishioner
St. Michael Catholic Church
St. Michael, Minnesota
Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis
For more information, email Monica Madsen.
A time-tested way to ensure volunteers and to involve otherwise passive parishioners in parish life.
"Whenever an individual or family signs up as a new parishioner(s), we put them on a group list for volunteering at our Fall Festival. There is a certain expectation that each would give of their time and talents in some manner, to make the Fall Festival successful and enjoyable. Though each is expected to join our common effort, participation is not stringently enforced. It does give some relief to chairpersons, that every year they do not have to find hundreds of volunteers simply by their own persuasion.
The overall approach sends a positive message to every parishioner that sharing our gifts and time for the sake of building the Kingdom of God is a natural part of Christian living. It also provides a yearly conduit for parish leaders to contact members of the parish who are both active and inactive, inviting them to a greater share in our common mission.
We have never heard a complaint from any parishioner regarding this expectation."
Fr. Michael Becker
The need it meets
Eliminates hassle and worry whenever planned or unplanned needs and events come up - the list of volunteers is already prepared and efficiently organized
Offers an authentic, organic method for getting passive but well-intentioned parishioners more involved in parish life
Where it came from
This idea of placing each parish family into a group started twenty-five years ago as a brainchild of the local pastor.
How it works
- When new families or single parishioners join the parish they are automatically placed into a group.
- Each group has a number and can be called upon to fill volunteer spots when needed throughout the year, but primarily they assist at the spring and fall fundraisers. (There are a total of 33 groups at St. Michael's each with 68-70 families.)
- For the Fall Festival, every parishioner receives a mailing to remind them of their group number and inform them which event or activity their group will be responsible for; assignments change on a yearly rotation.
- The letter gives contact numbers and any pertinent information: what times volunteers are needed, supplies that need to be donated, etc.
- Groups are also asked to donate food items like pies, or money to purchase dinner items. In this way every person is invited to participate in parish events and the chairs of each activity have a list of volunteers whom they can call upon.
The groups have successfully met the volunteer needs of the parish Fall Festival for many years. Over 600 volunteers come forward to make the Fall Festival a success.
Parishioners benefited as follows:
- they felt more involved in the parish
- they felt more part of the parish family
- they ended up becoming more involved in their faith
- Keeping a mailing data base of all the groups up to date.
- A mailing detailing the needs of the event; it must be sent early enough for a response and follow-up by its organizers.
- Tracking which groups have been asked to help throughout the year and for which activity.
- There is also a seniors' group (numbered 0), and people may ask to be placed in this group if they are unable to volunteer for any reason.
How to implement it
- Determine how many groups you would like to start with and how many families should be in a group.
- Assign the families to groups, distributing them evenly..
- Build a database of the addresses and phone numbers according to group numbers. By mail, inform each family of its group number and what it signifies.
- A few minutes to introduce the program at Mass helps get the program off to a good start. New groups can be added at anytime if they are becoming too large.
- Finally, when the need arises for volunteers, pick some groups and mail them a letter. Supply the chairperson of the event the group phone list.
Submitted by Nichole Chang on February 27, 2008.
Fr. Michael Becker is pastor of St. Michael Catholic Church.