Best Practices for Effective Holiday Volunteer Scheduling

Christmas is right around the corner, and for a ministry scheduler, that means busy days ahead. So much time and effort go into making Christmas services special, and volunteers play an essential role in keeping things running smoothly. But how do you keep your volunteer scheduling in order during the most hectic time of the year? With the right mindset and preparation, holiday scheduling can be the best scheduling experience of the year! As a previous volunteer scheduler at my church, I’ve put together some ideas to help you get started.

Start early

Whether you are assigning roles to your volunteers or letting them sign up to help, it’s never too early to start working on your schedule. Don’t plan on planning in December! You have to take into consideration the fact that your volunteers are going to be just as busy as you are all month long. And while not everyone can commit to helping at Christmas a month in advance, you should aim to have the essential roles filled ahead of time.

Meet with the pastor

Odds are, if you’re starting early, the pastor has not even thought about Christmas yet! Set up a time to meet with leadership to find out if they need extra help for the Christmas services. This is a good time to also do a general check-in to make sure that you are on the same page with holiday service plans. If you can’t meet, consider sending an email to let them know you are prepping for the holidays and you’d love their input! I always found this meeting particularly helpful because the pastor had people approach him and ask to help during the holidays, which proved to be extremely helpful information for me. Meeting with him kept me from double booking volunteers for certain roles!

Set deadlines

A general rule of thumb is to always set a deadline earlier than what you expect to need. Give deadlines for any and all action steps. Consider setting a deadline for yourself on a Monday, but setting the deadline for your volunteers the Friday before. Giving those extra couple of days past the unannounced deadline could give the opportunity for someone to volunteer who hasn’t before! I found that by creating a little wiggle room with deadlines, I’d always get at least one person to volunteer who wasn’t always the best at signing up ahead of time. They were always grateful for an extended invitation to help.

Communicate clearly

Communication with your volunteers is key! Doing it effectively requires effort.

Start by using only one method of team communication. If you’re using Ministry Scheduler Pro (MSP), you can utilize the Emailer as your primary communication tool with your volunteers.

No matter how you get the message to them, be clear on what help is needed and give clear action steps on how they can volunteer to help this Christmas. If you’re sending an email, make it clear how to reply.

Additionally, there should also be one contact person, or as few as possible; it’s always helpful for volunteers to know exactly who that “go to person” is. I often had folks who would see me and that would jog their memory that they forgot to sign up to help. Without my computer in front of me, I found it extremely handy to be able to make changes to the Christmas schedule on the go. MSP’s web terminal was a great tool that helped me!

Find workarounds

When it comes to church services, nothing ever goes exactly as expected — a blizzard rolls in on Christmas Eve and flu season is in full swing. Consider having a backup in place for key roles. For example, before a holiday service at my church, I always asked one of the Eucharistic Ministers if they could double as the Reader if the scheduled Reader couldn’t make it. If there is bad weather and a lot of your volunteers can’t make it, don’t sweat it. There will probably be fewer people at the service, so fewer volunteers would be needed anyway. If you decide to cut back on volunteers before service, be sure to communicate that with the Pastor and volunteers. Text messaging is most effective in a pinch. You’re not always going to be able to predict what will happen, but the best that you can do is be prepared and roll with the punches.

Follow up with a thank you

Once Christmas is over and New Year’s has passed, the bulk of your job as a scheduler is over, but you still need to take care of the most important part of managing any group of volunteers — saying thank you. Your method can vary, but consider sending a card or personalized email —maybe even a small gift. The church could host a get together after the holidays for your volunteers; a potluck meal is a great opportunity for fellowship. You can also share a general thank you to be printed in the church bulletin or have the pastor say a quick thank you from the pulpit. By sincerely showing gratitude for your holiday volunteers, it’s likely that they’ll be willing to help again in the future. When sending a thank you email, you could include an invitation to volunteer again. Easter will be right around the corner!

If you’re wanting to keep your holiday scheduling organized this Christmas, try Ministry Scheduler Pro. You, your volunteers, and your entire parish can reap the benefits this holiday season.