Managing volunteers during the holidays

This year has already been unpredictable, to say the least! With the holidays on the horizon, you may be wondering what special needs might need to be accommodated for services that already require extra attention and volunteers. Putting a plan together now for this year's schedule not only reduces the stress of planning and organizing of volunteers in a time of unknowns, but it also creates a process that will help for future holiday scheduling that might look a little bit more like it has in the past.

Curious to learn more? Here are four advantages to having a pandemic-friendly holiday scheduling plan that will set you up for success even if things look different in years to come.

Advantage #1: Being good to your future self

One advantage of implementing a scheduling system for holiday or special service scheduling under normal circumstances is that it can be used over and over. Although services this year may not look anything like it has in the past, you can take elements of what has been done previously and weave in the accommodations needing to be made for the 2020 schedule. Think about what services and ministries were needed in the past, and add in any elements that have been added to accommodate current regulations for gathering. By including elements of the past and present, you will be able to adapt the schedule for current needs and next year all that needs to be done is to simply update the ministry needs or service times when making your schedule.

In these uncertain times, perhaps you're wondering if special holiday services will be postponed again, similar to Easter earlier this year. Come up with a game plan for these unique circumstances now, so you can learn what works and or doesn’t work for your church and your volunteers and be able to adapt your schedule. Do you need fewer ministries for Christmas this year? Do you need to have any extra volunteers assigned and standing by during service? Taking the initiative now to prepare a holiday schedule will ensure if services go on as planned, you'll know volunteers will be prepared to step into their roles instead of stressing in the final weeks before the holiday season to put a schedule together.

Advantage #2: Capturing your volunteers’ attention early

I'm sure your church has already discovered the power of communicating with your congregants clearly and often! Take advantage of these communication channels, and let your church know if holiday services are a go and what the needs are. Even if volunteer positions are limited this year, they will still need to be filled!

Ministry Scheduler Pro has various tools to communicate clearly with the volunteers you want to reach a breeze:

  • Use the poll function to see how many volunteers would be comfortable serving during the holidays.
  • Request updates and send reminders so they know to opt into service times and dates they'd interested in serving on their profile.
  • Email a finalized schedule out, or post last-minute changes to volunteers needs quickly and easily.

Advantage #3: Keeping everyone informed of shifting schedules

We're sure keeping track of volunteer availability and preferences has needed to be more nuanced than merely knowing their availability and service time preference. In the times of COVID, this most likely also includes having to accommodate each volunteer and their family’s needs and comfort levels of returning to church gatherings, which could change at a moment’s notice. The church’s capacity of their preferred service may also vary from week to week.

It's likely that not only will your volunteers’ availability or preferences change between now and December, so might your church schedule! The Web Terminal allows an easy two way street of communication - for the volunteers it allows quick and easy access to update their profile, and for you it opens up the ability to update everyone as often as you need. Ministry Scheduler Pro offers 24/7 access to the Web Terminal for your volunteers to update their availability via the web terminal or mobile app and receive notifications via email or text from you as the scheduler via the Announcements pane.

Advantage #4: Guaranteeing every position will be filled

We're sure your volunteers are eager to get their turn to serve at special events such as Christmas Eve service. Allowing everyone to serve, and making sure the schedule is filled with qualified volunteers can get complicated. For those volunteers who are able and feel comfortable returning, things are probably going to look a little differently! Volunteers might need additional training to get up to speed on any extra roles or responsibilities that need to be done ahead of time, like additional sanitizing procedures that the Ushers need to assume or Communion Ministry constraints. Custom fields can be used to track which volunteers have been trained and allow you to easily follow up with those who need to learn any new procedures by using the filters in the Announcement pane to get your message to exactly who needs to.

Lastly, preparing your volunteers and planning the holiday schedule ahead of time will give you time to communicate with the volunteers you'd prefer to schedule first, as well as ample time to allow the congregation to sign up before the schedule is filled. Consider selecting substitutes ahead of time to ensure your vital roles will be covered, and that they can be trained in advance. Directed sub requests can be used for a direct link if a volunteer needs to bow out of their commitment. Ministry Scheduler Pro gives you the ability to fill the schedule in the best possible way for your church - whether that means manually scheduling particular volunteers first before sharing the schedule widely, or using the auto-scheduler or self signup methods.

Are you inspired to learn more about how to start planning your holiday schedule? Take a look at our Online Knowledge Base to review articles specific to special services. Or, better yet, attend our Holiday Scheduling Webinar on October 28th, where we'll walk you through the different scheduling methods and best practices we've gleaned over the years of helping schedulers make the holidays a little less stressful!