5 Methods for Recruiting and Keeping Church Volunteers

I’ve been a Sunday School church volunteer in kid’s ministry for a long time. (more than a decade)

I’ve seen really great volunteers join, and I’ve seen some really great volunteers leave.

So what gives? Why did the good people leave and what could’ve been done to keep those volunteers around for a longer period of time?

While I certainly don’t claim to have a magic formula, I do think there are some key considerations most church staff members miss when working with volunteers. I think if more staff would focus on some of the following strategies more good people would stay and your ministry could grow to it’s full volunteer potential.

1. Volunteers don’t join because of a Sunday morning announcement.

The best way to recruit great volunteers isn’t to make more announcements in church. We have all heard the announcement 17 times anyway. The people who are going to volunteer, have already joined.

The best way to recruit volunteers is the slow-poke method, one-on-one, and face-to-face.

I know that is not a popular answer, but it’s the truth.

The best volunteers, the ones who stay around the longest, are the ones you get to know at church and then invite to serve at a special event.

That means, volunteer recruitment requires lots of getting out and meeting church members, finding out about their interests, and then…eventually…asking them about serving. (Notice I said EVENTUALLY…no one wants to talk to a salesman the first time they meet you)

2. Volunteers don’t naturally connect

Your volunteer community is made up of all kinds of people from all different walks of life. There are grandmothers, and there are singles in their early 20’s. People like this, from radically different parts of life don’t naturally connect and create community.

And so what happens, is your volunteers don’t feel like a part of a team, instead they feel like a cog in a wheel that doesn’t ever get noticed or appreciated.

Connect your volunteers to each other and watch them flourish and commit to your ministry for the long term.

How do you connect them? Start by inviting them to well-planned / well-organized trainings on how to teach kids / lead a small group / lead worship, etc…

Connect the disparate parts of your volunteer base around the 1 thing they all have in common…serving in your ministry.

3. You get what you give

Why do the best volunteers quit?

In my experience, when the trainings / meetings are ill-planned, when the week-to-week program seems hap-hazard and thrown together, and when it feels like the volunteer is more invested in the ministry than the actual church staff…yeah…peace out brother!

If you want excellent service from volunteers, than serve them excellently. This means:

– When you have a volunteer meeting, don’t go long and don’t pontificate. Keep it pithy and powerful. Respect them and they will respect you.

– Serve them. Volunteers are on the front lines of ministry more than any other people. Your #1 priority should be to love and care for them. Think of things they might need before they do. Prove to them they are as important as you SAY they are. Actions speak much louder than words.

4. Recruit busy people

Reach out to the busy people in your church, the ladies and men who seem to have a lot going on, but yet seem to handle it all well.


Because busy people value TIME and appreciate excellence.

You want people who understand how important it is to show up on time and to be prepared.

And guess what group of people know that best? The people who are already busy. The people who already have a full schedule.

We tend to think that busy people are overloaded. That’s not the case. Busy people are just productive and efficient. They want their time to be valuable so whatever they commit to, they typically follow through on.

Just because someone is busy doesn’t mean they have no interest in your ministry. It might simply mean, they haven’t ever been asked.

(fyi…recruit these people when you are ready, they are the least likely to put up with a lack of leadership or organization)

5. Surprise volunteers – in a good way

You know what most volunteers think of when they think of being surprised?

Getting a call on Saturday evening asking if they can volunteer tomorrow morning.

That is the all-too-typical “surprise” that a volunteer gets.

So what I know works a lot better is if you find ways to delight them with GOOD surprises:

“Hey I know you have been faithful every weekend for 3 months. I have a volunteer willing to step in if you’d like to take a break for a month.”

To some of you this may sound PREPOSTEROUS, but I know it can be done, especially if #1 is being done at a high level.

These are some of my ideas for keeping volunteers around for the long-haul. I believe the best volunteer strategies are more difficult than the ones we often read about elsewhere. I do not believe any number of gifts or cards or announcements will ever keep a volunteer team strong. I believe it takes hard work and a commitment to the excellence that people want to be a part of.

So…now it is your turn…what do you think keeps volunteers around, for the long-haul?

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