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10 Ways to Lose a Volunteer

Carmen Kamrath

Misstep #6:

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:

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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