Every ministry in the church needs volunteers. They are the lifeblood of a healthy church.
When I first started out in ministry, I could get people to try it out and serve. Lots of folks would serve for a few months, but they would drop off as quickly as they jumped in.
Just as churches talk about having a back door where people leave their churches … I had a huge back door with volunteers leaving sooner than expected. They weren’t leaving the church; they were just leaving my team. I had to figure out why the volunteers I had recruited weren’t sticking.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was good at courting them, but horrible at building a longterm relationship with them. I basically would “ask them out” and once they said “yes” I stopped working on the relationship. I didn’t add value to them after they joined my team. As you would expect in any relationship that operated this way, they eventually walked away. And looking back … I don’t blame them.
Luckily, over the years, I’ve learned the importance of adding value to volunteers AFTER I’ve recruited them to serve. Here are some practical ideas to foster a relationship where people will want to serve for the long haul.
1. Communicate Often.
All relationships are built on consistent communication.
Send weekly emails. Make monthly phone calls. Remind them what they mean to you and to the church. Verbalize the difference they are making in the lives they serve. Keep them informed of their connection to the greater vision of the church.
Provide feedback of a job well done or areas that need improvement. Keep the channels of communication wide open with your volunteers.
2. Build a Family.
You have to think of volunteers as family members, not employees. Employees fulfill a duty, but family builds a bond.
Lean into the fact that people serving together build a deep connection with each other. Provide opportunities for community and connection. Hang out with your team socially as much as possible. Create a space in your ministry area for volunteers to grab a cup of coffee before your services.
Families are messy, they have their ups and downs, but they stick together through thick and thin … and this is how it should be with our volunteers.