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Releasing Volunteer Staff to Increase Your Church’s Impact with Jeremy Jernigan

Welcome back to the unSeminary podcast. Today we’re talking with Lead Pastor Jeremy Jernigan from Abundant Life Church in Portland, Oregon.

Every church out there would like to engage more people, but it’s tough when you’re working with finite resources. Listen in as Jeremy talks about the limits Abundant Life Church encountered when it came to hiring, and how it forced them to get creative about empowering more volunteers to do ministry.

  • Opportunities for volunteers. // Churches don’t have unlimited budgets, nor the ability to hire new people for every need in the organization. This challenge forced the staff at Abundant Life to get creative, and they took a close look at the opportunities that could be given to volunteers. This led to the creation of a system with four different levels of volunteer commitment and responsibility. Level one, for example, gives people the opportunity to try out serving and see how they like it. They don’t have to agree with the church doctrine or be a believer and there isn’t a ton riding on it. Levels two and three have increasing levels of commitment and responsibility and it’s important the volunteers’ beliefs align with the church’s. Finally, level four has the highest level of commitment and responsibility and belongs to Volunteer Staff.
  • Volunteer Staff. // If there is a seasoned leader who has made it to level three and is pouring into others, and helping the church to do the ministry, they may be approached with a Volunteer Staff job offer. These volunteer positions are considered staff in every way – they have job descriptions, staff emails, access to databases, are required to attend staff meetings, and have an office where they can work. They have the same onboarding experience as other staff, attend the staff Christmas party and even have staff evaluations. The only difference is they don’t collect a paycheck. Rather than apply for these positions, the staff at Abundant Life creates them when they see someone with the right potential, or when they see a need that they believe someone is uniquely qualified to fill.
  • Look for untapped potential. // One huge area of untapped potential at your church may be in your retired leaders. Retired individuals may have more time for a role like a staff volunteer, which requires ten hours of work a week at Abundant Life Church. These individuals may have had amazing careers that give them a wealth of expertise and experience in an area that could help the church. Jeremy has found that volunteer staff love having a seat at the table and are honored that the church is elevating their roles.
  • Create key positions. // In addition to exponentially multiplying the ministry that Abundant Life has been able to do, volunteer staff have also brought a certain energy and excitement with them because they are volunteering their time and skills to something they are deeply passionate about. In turn, this positive attitude boosts morale for the whole staff. Don’t create a volunteer staff position that is for small tasks on the side, but rather seek people who bring unique skillsets and experiences that could be key in helping the church.
  • Volunteer policy document. // We have a free download Jeremy has offered to our listeners which explains the volunteer policy and levels used at Abundant Life. The document talks about positions needed in the volunteer system as well as what to look for in filling those needs.

You can learn more about Abundant Life Church at and Jeremy’s blog is located at

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Thank You to This Episode’s Sponsor: Ministry Grid

Ministry Grid makes it simple to train every volunteer and leader in your church. With a library of over 3,500 videos and 850 courses, you will find training for every ministry area and leadership level.

To get unlimited access to Ministry Grid for just $597, just go to​​

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.