Creating a Positive Volunteer Experience
Creating a Positive Volunteer Experience
3 Tips for Making Your Ministry a Place Where People Love to Volunteer
By Wendy Berghane, Hearts Alive Curriculum Specialist
I have been in the field of children’s ministry for two decades in all sorts of different roles and capacities, and the one question that has never changed is:
“How do we recruit and hold on to volunteers?”
This is a loaded question, and there are all sorts of theories on why volunteers can be hard to come by and even harder to retain. I don’t believe there is a magic formula, as in my experience so much of volunteerism is based on the overall culture of the church. If the church doesn’t have a focus on plugging people in, then it is an uphill battle for one ministry to try to create that culture on their own. So much of volunteerism also depends on the size and needs of the program as well. A large church is going to have a much different volunteer experience than a smaller one. But at the end of the day, no matter the size of the program or the overall culture of the church, I have seen a few specific principles that run through programs that have had more success than not with their volunteers.
So how can you get volunteers in the door and make it an experience they want to come back to? Here are three ideas that will help you build a better volunteer base:
The job needs to feel purposeful.
Cast the vision in a way volunteers can get on board. You don’t want to make things too complicated, but you also want to present a purpose and make them feel part of something bigger, that they are being asked to do more than just babysit. A volunteer’s time is valuable. Let them know you understand how valuable and important their time is and so is this purpose you are asking them to be a part of. Build a mission statement for your children’s ministry program, cast a vision and purpose, and enthusiastically spread that vision among the church and with volunteers.
Make sure volunteers have the resources they need.
So many volunteers are overwhelmed by not feeling adequately prepared. This could be with actual physical materials, or it could be a feeling of lacking enough knowledge. Help volunteers feel prepared and confident in whatever job they are taking on by making sure they have all they need. If they are doing arts and crafts with students, gather those material for them beforehand, taking that stress away of where to find items or coming up with ideas on their own. If they don’t feel they have adequate Bible knowledge to teach a lesson, help them gain confidence by sending them a little Bible background of the lesson, or better yet, call them to talk through the lesson and answer any specific questions. Plan quarterly or yearly workshops that cover things like classroom management tips. Make resources readily available so volunteers feel confident in what they are being asked to do.
And finally, probably the most fruitful piece in recruiting and retaining a solid volunteer base is simply:
Build relationships with your volunteers.
And the great news is, any size program can do this well. Creating a space where volunteers can grow in community and lean into each other for encouragement and support as they are working together is so valuable. The opportunity to connect with others as you all are working towards a common vision or mission is truly what keeps most people coming back. Without that sense of being a part of a community, volunteers tend to drift off fairly quickly. When thinking about your program, how can you create opportunities for volunteers to come together for activities, workshops, and even just to enjoy each other’s company? Remember, their time is valuable, but with some purposeful planning and conversations I am sure you can bring people together to work towards the common goal. This is what truly helps build the culture of volunteerism in your ministry and church. Establishing a place where people feel loved and valued. Where they are known and appreciated. Where they are prayed for. Jesus tells us repeatedly how important it is to love others. Your children’s ministry can be such an amazing reflection of that call. This culture won’t happen overnight, but I encourage you to stick with the purpose of building community among the volunteers, and the fruit will grow.
There is no perfect formula for building a volunteer team. And the journey will certainly be filled with peaks and valleys. Working to incorporate these ideas will not magically make volunteers come knocking down your door, but it will help begin to establish a culture and a place where volunteers know what to expect and feel valued.
We at Hearts Alive are covering your efforts in prayer and asking God to help mold your volunteer program into one that reflect his love and helps build his kingdom! We would love to send you a free sample of our curriculum. Sign up today!
Hearts Alive Sunday School and Children's Church provide liturgical congregations a highly-anticipated children’s curriculum that combines captivating content, lectionary alignment, and Gospel focus for children ages 3-12. For those seeking to engage children in a fun, age-appropriate application to the Revised Common Lectionary, Hearts Alive is a three-year course of study to give children a strong overview of the story of salvation and how it ties to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Hearts Alive supports and elevates liturgical traditions and the church calendar while using clear, contemporary learning techniques to present the Word of God. Learn more in our online community.
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