Chris has been a volunteer leader with preteens for 10 years at my first church, the Vineyard of New Orleans. i remember first recruiting him years ago. He was the parent of a two preteens in our group at the time. Chris and I joined small groups together, went to men’s retreats together and planned preteen events together. After his boys graduated out of our preteen ministry, I thought he stuck around because he had three more kids soon to be in 4th grade. When I moved to California a few years ago, we lost touch. But a few months ago I was visiting New Orleans and got to spend some time with him. All his 5 kids had gone through Club 456, the Vineyard’s preteen ministry, but he was still there. Loving and serving preteens for ten years, long after his five kids had passed through the preteen group.
Why? I believe there are three important elements working together to keep volunteers serving in a preteen ministry for the long-haul.
First, volunteers stick when they understand preteens. Preteens are unique and leaders need to understand them. They need to know why boys tend to move around a lot and why girls struggle so much with their appearance. Preteens are constantly changing in every area: socially, physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. They are a unique age group that requires a unique approach. The more the team is educated on those differences, the better equipped they will be to succeed in reaching them.
Second, volunteers stick when connected to their leader. All of the team members who stayed with me long-term were my friends. They started out as volunteers, but became much more. Chris and I shared life together. I invested time in him because he was a friend. If volunteers are connected to their leader, they are more likely to stick around.
Third, volunteers stick when connected to other team members. Chris also felt a part of a team. He wasn’t the only core leader in our preteen ministry. There were others he was connected to who shared a passion to reach preteens. They talked about their successes and struggle. They prayed for each other and spoke into each others lives. They were doing life together, serving preteens and experiencing a sense of awe at what God was doing through them. They were making a difference…together.
Is it possible to keep volunteers forever? I don’t know. But these three elements working together will help leaders to stick around for the long haul.