10 Ways to Lose a Volunteer

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Misstep #6:

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Making Assumptions

Isn’t it obvious? We have a need in children’s ministry for
volunteers — everyone knows that. But maybe not. You may
assume that parents see the lack of help in your ministry (which is
obvious to you). In reality, though, parents may be willing to
help, but they assume you have it all covered. After all, you’d ask
if you needed help, right?

Sweep ‘Em Off Their Feet: Clearly communicate your
needs with everyone — not only potential volunteers, but also
other ministry leaders, current volunteers, and individuals at the
church who work with new members or gift assessments. Keep
up-to-date volunteer needs posted on your church Web site and in
your bulletin or newsletter. If a position becomes available and
you know someone who’d potentially be a good fit, personally make a
call and explain why you feel he’d be perfect for the job. And
don’t be afraid to ask for help — people can’t respond to a need
they don’t even know exists.

Misstep #7:

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Failing to Share the Mission

People want to feel they’re part of something important; they want
to know they’re making a difference. If you talk to potential
volunteers and fail to communicate the mission of your ministry,
you’ve probably failed to win them over or convince them of the
vital role of your ministry.

Sweep ‘Em Off Their Feet: Share your ministry’s
mission with everyone you speak to because often the person you’re
talking to may be a potential volunteer. When people realize that
changing a diaper isn’t just ridding the room of a stinky
substance, that it’s actually an act of caring for a little one as
Jesus would, it suddenly becomes a job that matters. Or playing a
guitar as kids worship is modeling that it’s cool to love and
worship God. Potential volunteers need to know there’s a reason
behind the job you ask them to do — so share it, and share it
often.

Misstep #8:

Offering No Options

“We only have one opening right now, so if you can’t help in the
4-year-old room then I’m sorry, we can’t use you.” Or maybe you
shut the door on a 15-year-old because you think teenagers are too
young to volunteer in your ministry. Inflexibility will definitely
result in a potential volunteer’s quick exit.

Sweep ‘Em Off Their Feet: Create many entry points
into your ministry for potential volunteers. Even if every teaching
position is filled (Hallelujah!), find an opportunity for potential
volunteers and grow them into other positions as they become
available. You can often hook a volunteer with a clearly defined,
short-term task. Never turn people away who are willing to give
their time and talent to your ministry. Have opportunities for
people to serve in some capacity so they feel connected with you
and the team.

Misstep #9:

Not Equipping People for the Job

Volunteers won’t last long if they don’t feel they’ve been
trained or equipped to do the job. And volunteers who’ve been
around awhile will quickly become bored if they don’t feel they’re
growing in skill and expertise.

Sweep ‘Em Off Their Feet: Be clear with potential
volunteers about how you’ll equip them for the job. If they’re
leading a small group, provide training on the curriculum and group
facilitation techniques. If you want someone to supervise a craft
station, make sure they have all the supplies and instructions to
do the craft. Offer ongoing training for all volunteers to help
them stay fresh and equipped to minister to children.

Misstep #10:

Being Void of Gratitude

If your current volunteers are invisible to you, chances are new
volunteers will notice the lack of appreciation for those who serve
in your ministry. If potential volunteers feel that you expect
participation rather than welcome it, they’ll likely pass on the
opportunity.

Sweep ‘Em Off Their Feet: Be generous with
gratitude, thanking volunteers often. Always speak positively about
current volunteers and demonstrate how important they are by
showering them with praise and appreciation. Remember that happy
volunteers often serve as your best recruiters.

The next time you make a big push to fill volunteer needs, keep in
mind the things you say and do that could turn off potential
volunteers. Remember, those flirting with your ministry might just
be a match made in heaven when it comes to impacting kids for
Jesus. Don’t lose them!

Carmen Kamrath is the associate editor for Children’s Ministry
Magazine.

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