Volunteers: How to Gain 'em, Train 'em and Retain 'em

Date Posted: 2/28/2013

It’s been said that volunteers believe in ‘all work and no pay.’ But, the good news is that volunteers are often paid in six figures: S-M-I-L-E-S.

Since volunteers are the lifeblood of churches, it is always good to brush up on ways to actively engage them as a key strategy in building vibrant congregations. Longtime volunteer coordinator Carol Jones provided these tips at a recent session at the Texas Ministry Conference in Houston.

“When you are casting the net for volunteers, it is critical to have a clear and compelling vision of the ministry being helped,” Carol shares. “Line up your volunteers needs with your vision and know what you need, who you will need and how they will do what needs to be done. Job descriptions and an ‘end date’ are always comforting to people who might otherwise resist a never-ending ambiguous request to volunteer.”

Gain ‘em: Adjust your thinking, vocabulary and methodology

·         Volunteer coordinators should consider themselves the facilitators of a grand event that others will want to be a part of. “It’s important to adjust your vocabulary and avoid telling someone you just need a warm body, because that does not make them feel very essential.”

·         There’s more than one way to ask. A “mass ask” will work some of the time, but the best method is the personal invitation, that is preceded with thought as to their spiritual gifts and interests.

Train ‘em: Make volunteer training easy, relevant, and part of a community

·         People usually enjoy learning something new, especially when it involves a little care and feeding along the way. So, pick a time when volunteers are already at church, provide childcare and a meal if possible and start/end on time. “If you make it fun by giving out silly prizes, or playing silly games that facilitate friendships, your trainings will be well attended,” adds Carol.

·         Make the trainings valuable by teaching what they will need, and possibly skills they can use elsewhere in their quest to be lifelong learners and givers. Provide resources if possible, or resource people.

Retain ‘em: Show them you know them, appreciate and value them

·         Get as much personal information as you can to help you remember names, contact them regularly (with a birthday wish, if possible) and an occasional handwritten note or personal call.

·         Send home prayer cards or emails that keep the volunteer group on each other’s minds, and celebrate milestones with the project – or individuals.

·         Have the pastor or other ministry leaders impacted by the volunteer work thank them in person or in a note.

Appreciation is key in the volunteer world. Facilitating connections is also a winning strategy, bolstered by shared vision and a campaign theme. Carol shared several theme ideas for widespread Volunteer Campaigns:

 We rock the flock!

 Will you be the One?

 Touch the Future!

If you have a winning concept or volunteer success story to share, send it to acanik@txcumc.org!