Without volunteer labor and ministry, our churches would not exist. The recruitment and retention of volunteers should be one of the highest priorities of church leaders.
While we typically honor our paid labor force on Labor Day, I want to take the opportunity to focus on volunteer labor in our congregations. Specifically, I want to share with you ten ways the most effective churches are recruiting and retaining volunteers. In many cases, they have more than doubled the success of those churches where these approaches are not taken.
- Tie their work to the vision of the church. First, the church must have a clear and compelling vision. Then leaders should redundantly express how different volunteer ministries tie to that vision. Such a clarification gives purpose to the work of the volunteers. And without purpose, volunteer ministries struggle.
- Consider recruiting with specific end dates. If possible, recruit volunteers with a definitive term. They are much more likely to say “yes” if they know they will have a time when the work is done. At that time, they can renew their commitment or move to another area of passion.
- Recruit toward a member’s passion. Find out areas where members are already passionate and gifted. If not, you will have to recruit with compulsion or guilt. Volunteers recruited in that manner are not only likely to quit their work at the church; they are also likely to leave the church altogether.
- Honor your volunteers at least once a month. A number of churches have annual ministry appreciation banquets. That’s not sufficient. Leaders should find ways, even if it’s as simple as a phone call or email or letter, to honor volunteers at least monthly.
- Volunteer recruitment and retention should be the priority of the pastor. While pastors should by no means do all the work, they should make certain it is a priority focus of their ministries.
- Get your best leaders to oversee volunteer recruitment and retention. It’s just too important to hope oversight happens without strategy. Your best leaders should have the responsibility of oversight of these ministries.
- Communicate openly and frequently with volunteers. Indeed, a clear strategy should be in place for such communication. That is one reason why number 6 is so important.
- Recruit through relationships. Strategically ask people who already have healthy established relationships to work together in a ministry. Those relationships will be vital in keeping people motivated. After all, we all prefer to work with people we like.
- Provide periodic checkups. A critical part of the communication process should be a checkup to see how each volunteer is doing. It should be open, transparent, affirming, and non-threatening.
- Allow volunteers to quit honorably. Burnout is always a possibility. Members may discover that their ministry is actually a bad fit for them. They should have the prerogative of quitting, taking a break, or finding a new area of passion.
On this Labor Day, I honor all those church volunteers who give, go, and serve sacrificially. You are truly the heroes of our congregations.
Let me hear from you about your church’s approach to volunteer recruitment and retention. We all can learn from both your successes and failures.
How do you honor your volunteers? What methods of recruitment work best in your ministries?