Volunteers are the lifeblood of most churches. Even the largest churches in the nation depend heavily on volunteers to execute weekend services and activities.
There are times when volunteers leave your ministry for good reasons. There are times where volunteers need to be moved to another ministry or asked not to serve on your team. That happens. But as far as it depends on us as leaders, we need to make every effort possible to keep and retain the volunteers we have.
Here are some reminders for all of us that if we take action on, we’ll see more volunteers stay in our ministry:
Genuinely love and care for them.
By far, the number one thing you can do to retain volunteers on your team is to take care of them, to love them, to pastor them well. Yes, you may be the church tech guy – but our hearts need to beat for people. If you have a mindset of using people to accomplish a task and don’t pastor them well, they’ll eventually leave.
Repeat your vision or your “why” constantly.
It should not be a question in the minds of your volunteers why they serve. Have a clear, concise vision and hammer it over and over. People should get tired of hearing it. The vision for the production teams I led was that we “Created experiences where people met Jesus and took their next steps with Him.” They don’t need to have words memorized, they need to be able to explain your vision to others and own it themselves. If you’re team members aren’t clear on why they serve on your team or why they are performing certain tasks, they will leave. Your vision or your “why” is the foundation in which your team is built on. Start with your why.
Keep them informed.
One of the most consistent improvements I got from volunteers when I surveyed our team was that they didn’t know what was going on or when they needed to serve. We must build systems where everyone is informed about the news on our team – that no one is excluded. Make sure you have a clean roster of your team and that you are consistent in the methods in which you communicate. If you communicate with some team members on one social platform and others with another method, people will start to feel left out and uniformed. E-Mail was the most successful method of communication to my entire team. Everyone had email, not everyone may be on your favorite social media platform.
When keeping your team informed, you must stay organized. Your first step may be to create a team roster like i mentioned above, where you can see every member of your team at a glance. Once you start here, make sure you have solid email addresses, phone numbers and other current contact information. These sound simple, but too many people fall through the cranks because we don’t stay organized and keep them informed.
Don’t take advantage of them.
If the same people on your team serve every week, that is not only a recipe for burnout, its extremely unhealthy. A good rule of thumb is to schedule your volunteers once every 3 weeks on a Sunday and the same for midweek services. If they wanted to come more often and serve in another capacity, that was allowed. However, if I saw the same person serving week after week, I would take it upon myself to remove them from the schedule for a couple weeks or have a talk with that volunteer. Don’t forget – their spiritual life is most important – they need to be attending church and serving their family well. Be cautious of taking advantage and putting too much on only a handful of people.
Take responsibility for the team.
Be a leader. If something goes wrong on Sunday and your leadership asks you about it, take ownership, don’t throw your volunteers under the bus. You bad mouthing or not having the backs of your team members is a sure fire way to have them leave you. As long as you’re in the position you’re in, take the responsibility of and for your team.
Lastly, be grateful. Volunteers are spending time they could be resting, time with their family, time doing other things to come and serve your church. Show your volunteers your gratitude with your words, your actions, rewards, food, treats, giveaways, and more. Think about ways that you can show your team members your are thankful for them.
If we implement these 7 reminders for our teams, they are less likely to leave. Let’s be strategic in how we lead the people under our care.