We all know the feeling when we see something online that we want or agree to fill out a survey only to find out that the short form we were expecting to fill out actually has 12 steps and multiple paragraph essay questions. Often when I find myself in this predicament, I lie to myself and say something like, "I don't have time for this right now, but I will get to it eventually." I am still waiting for that perfect moment when I have hours of free time and a desire to fill out endless forms, but I am beginning to think that moment will never come.
This is how we all feel. If the first step is too large, we never take it. This is one of the mistakes many churches make in trying to help their church engage in mission. In trying to make things simple, we might be making them too hard. Often people looking to serve with their church are presented with one of two options:
Option 1: Fill out a long survey and one of our staff will find a place that fits
Many churches, seeking to have a personal process, ask potential volunteers to fill out an interest form, telling them when they are available, what things they are interested in, what gifts or talents they have, eye color, pet names...the list goes on and on. While this is often well intended as a way to get as much information as possible so that the staff can find a good fit, it is actually setting up a barrier to entry that most of your church will not overcome. They may be initially interested in serving, but the barrier to entry is too high so they stop before they even get started.
Option 2: Here is a link to visit the non-profit page and figure it out
The problem with this option is that most non-profit pages were created to raise money, not make the volunteer signup process simple. It is can be a long and painful process to figure out how to signup to serve with a non-profit on their website and people are often asked to fill out a long form with very little information as to what they are actually signing up for. Ironically, most non-profits use option 1 on their websites asking volunteers to fill out a long application as the first step, so if you think you are simplifying the process for your church by referring them directly to the non-profit site, you are simply adding more clicks to the same barrier to entry while eliminating the personal connection from staff.
This is why we try to make the first step that anyone takes in local mission to be small. The first step should always be a short form with a few fields at most. This gives you their contact information and gets them moving. There is something psychological that happens in us after we take a first step that causes us to take more steps. Once we are in motion, we tend to remain in motion. If you are asking people to do something that requires a long application or multistep process, make the first step as short and simple as possible. This might seem like an extra step at first, but once a person is in motion, they are much more likely to stay that way. Because you have their email, you can also start communicating with them to encourage them to complete the process. Keep things simple at first to ensure that people actually start the process. Otherwise, your local mission form or link will just be another half-finished form that people will get to....someday.