Are you frustrated that your volunteers aren’t meeting your expectations? Do you struggle to recruit talented, dedicated volunteers? Do you feel like you are about to collapse from exhaustion from all the work required you are doing to keep your ministry running well? Often, the problem is not your volunteers or potential volunteers. It’s that you aren’t using best practices in how you recruit and manage them.
So what are these best practices?
- Making it clear that serving children or teens in ministry is not a chore, but an honor, privilege and incredibly important responsibility. So often those recruiting for ministries serving children and teens are practically apologetic that they are asking someone to volunteer. They act as if they are filling slots for cleaning up after a potluck rather than molding the hearts and minds of young people towards who God wants them to be.
- Dividing responsibilities by giftedness. Often people hesitate to volunteer because we ask them to fill roles that are too large and require gifts they may not have. Instead of expecting a Bible class teacher to teach, decorate, plan outside activities, find their own substitutes, etc., trying breaking it up into smaller roles. A teacher who isn’t artistic may not volunteer because she is expected to decorate the classroom and feels inadequate, while an artist believes the church doesn’t need his gifts because decorating classrooms isn’t a volunteer role in your ministry.
- Asking for volunteers face to face or at least by telephone. It’s too easy to ignore a blanket announcement or even a personal email. By talking face to face, you also get other clues as to what the person may not be saying.
- Recruiting by gifts and speak to everyone qualified instead of only recruiting from your friend or small group. Most ministry leaders would be shocked to find out how many people in their congregations are highly qualified to fill their volunteer roles and would even be passionate about it. Why? Because they recruit from the same handful of people. Make it a goal to speak to everyone in your congregation at least annually. While not all may be gifted to teach, those subdivided roles will allow lots of other people to get involved.
- Providing weekly volunteer training. Don’t panic! You don’t have to organize weekly training workshops. Every week though, your volunteers should receive something from you that encourages them to grow in their role. You can sign them up for our weekly newsletter that includes our weekly posts, send them links to articles, etc. When planning workshops and seminars, make sure the content is practical and reinforces best classroom practices. Some churches have even developed online learning units all volunteers are required to complete.
- Listening to volunteers and being responsive to their needs. If you show your volunteers love and respect, they will follow you anywhere. Take their suggestions seriously, even if you can’t implement them all. Help them problem solve. Provide a substitute teaching team to cover them when they have to be away. Honor their requests for specific age groups or time off. Send notes and texts that are personal and specific. Remember birthdays. Reach out when they are struggling.
- Delegating and empowering. It is easy to get in the bad habit of doing everything yourself, because it seems easier and you can do it “right”. Lack of delegation is not only the quickest way to burn out, but it also prevents your volunteers from growing. Remember there may be more than one way to do things well. Just remember to give deadlines to make sure things are done in a timely fashion.
- Encouraging volunteers to partake in spiritual disciplines like Bible study for their own growth (rather than just to teach), prayer, fellowship, etc. Spiritually healthy volunteers are the best volunteers.
- Providing regular times for fellowship and team building. We often forget ministries are a team. Spending time together in ways that encourage supporting one another will strengthen your team.
- Expressing gratitude in specific, personalized ways on a regular basis. Those cute volunteer appreciation things are fine, but nothing will make your volunteers feel loved like a personal thank you that also mentions a specific thing they have done deserving praise.
Are you using best practices in volunteer management and recruitment? They may take more time initially, but will eventually save you a lot of time and energy.