Do you have challenges when it comes to keeping volunteers? In some case, it may be just fine to have a volunteer leave (see this post for why that might be true). But in most case, we want to do everything we can to retain the volunteers we have. In fact, I’ve always said that the second best recruiting method is to retain the volunteers you already have (click here to see the best method).
Keeping volunteers is essential to successful Children’s & Family Ministry. But how do you do that?
4 Ways To Retain Volunteers
1. Make sure they enjoy their role.
Everyone does better – and stays longer – when they are enjoying what they are doing. And ensuring a volunteer enjoys their role begins with the invitation process (notice I didn’t say “recruiting process”…here’s why). As you invite a new volunteer in to your ministry, you want to:
- assess their abilities, gifts, experiences and preferences in order to get a sense of where they might fit best
- adequately orient them with how the ministry functions (policies, procedures, expectations, etc.)
- ensure that they understand the specific role you are asking them to fill
- equip them with basic skills to adequately serve where they are being placed
These things alone will go a very long way toward retaining volunteers. Why? Because you’ve done your homework on the front end to try and get them in to a role which, more than likely, they will enjoy and excel at. If they step in to a role that they don’t enjoy and excel at, it’s far more likely they will step out of your ministry altogether rather than communicate their dissatisfaction and accept a role somewhere else. Usually by the time we realize their unhappiness, it’s too late.
2. Get them connected.
I’ve said it before (many times!) and I’ll say it again: ministry always happens best in the context of relationships…period! So get them connected with new relationships which will help them feel like they are part of the family. These relationships should be with:
- the children and families they serve
- other volunteers
- key children’s and family ministry leaders (paid or volunteer staff)
- you, as the ministry leader
- other leaders in the church (other ministries, staff, etc.)
Every church is different, so how can you facilitate these relationships for your team? It might mean having a regular get together with one or more of these groups. It could be equipping and challenging your key leaders to own this responsibility and engage volunteers to connect relationally. It could be a system that includes a number of “connecting points”: a monthly enewsletter introducing new volunteers and highlighting veteran volunteers; a quarterly event that’s just for fun, designed to serve families in the church but required for volunteers; creating a coffee station just for volunteers to connect at on Sundays… be creative and think through each group intentionally.
I would encourage you to identify at least 3 to 5 practices that you can systematize in order to facilitate connecting of volunteers with these key groups (and if you’ve already done that in your church, please share in the comments below!).
The more your team is connected, the more likely they will stay on board.
3. Make them proud of the ministry they serve in.
When my youngest son was about 7 or 8 years old, he was assigned to the “Yankees” in Little League (much to my chagrin, being a Yankee hat…er…disliker!). He was ecstatic! Why? The “real” Yankees were one of the few teams he knew of, and he knew they were winners. And the Little League Yankees (his new team) were known as winners. And he loved the symbol on the cap and the look of the uniforms. In other words, he was proud to be a part of the team.
What can we do to help our volunteers be “proud of the team” they serve with?
- have a big vision that they are pursuing together
- find ways to make ministry fun
- help them “win” as volunteers
- create clean and engaging environments for them to serve within
- represent your ministry well to rest of the church
- promote and protect your ministry and your volunteers
These are just a few ways to make your volunteers proud to be part of what you are doing. Create your own list and get to work making them proud! People who are pleased with the group they serve with are far less likely to leave.
4. Provide the support they need.
When my son joined the Yankees, he wasn’t very good. Oh, he has some natural talent, but he had no idea what he was doing. He needed some support in order to do what he wanted and needed to do on the field.
And that’s where his coaches came in. Every week the whole team would practice together a couple of times. They would get better together.
But that’s not all. The coaches would work with each individual player to help them improve their hitting, their fielding, and their overall knowledge of the game.
We need to do the same. We need to coach (equip) our team:
- as a team, where they hear the vision, have fun, and learn general skills everyone needs to know (like policies, etc.)
- individually, where we help them improve in the areas they are serving, and in the areas they are weak in
Additionally, we can support our volunteers through:
- helping them in their service (like stepping in to provide assistance with that especially demanding child who constantly disrupts the class)
- showing appreciation (see 9 Ways To Say “Thanks” To Your Team for ideas)
- understanding their needs personally (like being more flexible with the volunteer who is going through a family crisis)
- communicate regularly that we are here to serve them as they serve children and families
Too often our volunteers feel like they’ve been recruited, told where to serve, and abandoned. When we show a willingness to support them, and back that up in tangible ways, they are far more likely to give the extra effort sometimes required when it would be easy to walk away.