One of the top stressors for leaders in children’s and youth ministry is recruitment of volunteers. It seems most struggle with finding enough volunteers to work with the children and teens in their congregations.
What may be even more difficult is retaining great volunteers once you find them. It’s not uncommon to find wonderful volunteers who seem to burn out and disappear after only a few months.
Changing just three things in how you approach volunteers can radically improve your volunteer recruitment and retention.
- Have a meaningful face-to-face conversation with potential and current volunteers. General announcements really aren’t your friend when it comes to recruitment. You need to have one-on-one conversations with the people you have identified as being possibly impactful volunteers for your ministry. Face-to-face conversations work best because you can see their body language and better understand when you need to be asking additional questions. You also need to actively listen as they list their preferred boundaries or concerns. If someone tells you he or she can only volunteer in the summer months, calling them constantly to volunteer the rest of the year will only begin to annoy them and cause them to walk away from your ministry.
- Only use volunteers in the areas in which God has gifted them. Yes, there are some “chores” anyone can and probably should do from time to time. However, in teaching and mentoring roles, you want people who have been gifted by God to fill them. Which means you have to do some work on the front end helping identify and develop those gifts in the members of your congregation. You may even have to help “free” them from the tasks they are currently doing which they really weren’t gifted to do, but have been guilted into serving in that way. People who are not gifted to teach and mentor children and teens will burn out and quit much more quickly, in part because God probably has something else He really wanted them to be doing.
- Break tasks into gift sized pieces. Part of the reluctance to serve and the eventual burn-out people experience is because they are asked to take on too many roles for which they were not gifted by God to do. For example, we often ask teachers to decorate, shop, organize, create amazing activities from scratch, write lessons and teach. Rare individuals will be able to do all of those things well. Those tasks they don’t do well will exhaust them and lead to burn out. Ironically, in most places, there are other people who aren’t using those gifts anywhere because they don’t know there is a need for them. Breaking those tasks into smaller gift sized pieces ultimately involves more members and increases their connection and fulfillment as they serve the Church in the ways God created them to serve.
Try using these three tips for a few months and see what happens. Of course, there are other things you can do to make volunteers feel more supported and appreciated. Just these three changes though can make a huge difference in your ministry volunteer recruitment and retention.