Written by: Barbara Graves

When it comes to recruiting and retaining volunteers, we strive to find the best way to make sure everyone knows the opportunities available to serve. But sometimes it’s not what they know, but what they don’t know that hurts you.

They don’t know the potential of what they will do.

When we have opportunities for volunteers to serve in our ministries, we often present them as needs. “We need six small group leaders” or “We need two nursery attendants.” Those appeals for help simply convey the spaces that are currently unmanned in our ministry. No one dreams of one day being a space-holder.

However, if we will share the vision, what can be accomplished if others will join the team, our opportunities take on a new dimension. “Our preschool team is ready to launch a new level of ministry to our little ones and their families. We want to connect, support and equip families with resources and relationships as we grow and serve together.” Help them see the potential to accomplish something significant if they will join the team.

They don’t know what to do.

“We need volunteers in our children’s ministry.” But, volunteers to do what exactly? Provide a written job description. Tell them what you expect them to do in this position. Let them know how they will be trained, how they will be resourced and when and where they need to be to serve. Help them see how their unique gifts and talents fit into this opportunity and how they can take this and make it even better.

They don’t know how long they have to serve.

No one wants to volunteer for eternity. So, often, they simply don’t volunteer at all. Set a time frame for your volunteers from the beginning. Consider offering a 30 or 60-day trial period. Let them know if it doesn’t turnout to be what they were expecting, after 30/60 days, they can let you know, and you can find them a different place to serve. (This also works well in case you, as a leader. realize this isn’t a good fit and you need to move a volunteer to a different position.) A yearly opportunity to step-down, or to reenlist, takes the guilt factor out of serving because no one has to “quit” if they feel they are starting to stress or burnout; they simply don’t “re-sign” for the next year.

They don’t know if anyone cares.

Recruiting a volunteer is much like adding a member to your family. You are now responsible for their care. We need to know our volunteers. If we merely plug them into an empty slot on a serving team and stop there, we are simply using them. We need to pray for them, encourage them, develop and lead them. We do that through relationships; making sure each volunteer has a team leader who is connecting with them weekly, who knows what’s going on in their life, and who will help them see what a difference they are making by serving. Someone who is cared for and encouraged is much more likely to continue to serve because they see the value in what they are doing and they feel valued in doing it.

The more your potential volunteers know about the opportunities they have, the more likely they are to find a place where they are excited to serve. And, the more excited they are to serve, the easier it is to recruit others to join the excitement. And the more excitement, the easier it is to retain the volunteers you have on the team.

Recruit and retain the best volunteers. Download our free Volunteer Recruitment Guides to learn how to identify and connect with the people who have the potential to make an impact on your ministry.