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10 Ways to Lose a Volunteer


These 10 recruiting missteps
can cost you new volunteers. Here’s how to avoid

Remember that person you had such a crush on in high school? Maybe
you flirted and worked overtime to impress your crush, delighted
when your efforts resulted in a first date. And things went
beautifully on that magical evening; the two of you set a second
date and leaned in to say good night. Then it happened: You said or
did something that sent your date running to the next county, never
to be seen again. Maybe you mentioned something about kids, or
perhaps you revealed a personal idiosyncrasy even your mother would
cringe at. Whatever happened, you closed your front door that night
with the gut feeling that you’d blown any opportunity for a
relationship with your crush.

So it goes with potential volunteers who are hesitant about whether
to commit to your ministry. As a volunteer recruiter, you think
you’ve done what’s necessary to win and impress, only to discover
that your words or actions sent the potential volunteer running for
the exit — never to step forward or show interest in your ministry

Here are 10 ways not to lose a new volunteer — and tips
to transform those flirting with ministry into dedicated and
enthusiastic volunteers.

Misstep #1:

Failing to Recognize the Person in a Crowd

So often children’s ministers make this plea from the pulpit: “Just
drop your name in the offering and we’ll contact you to help.” So
Mary drops her name in the plate, she likes kids and would like
more information — maybe children’s ministry is where she can
finally plug in. But a week goes by, then two, and still no one’s
contacted her. Then, there’s hope. Her email inbox has a message
from you, but when Mary reads it, she realizes it’s a mass email to
everyone who responded to the plea. Yes, position openings are
listed with a contact number, but Mary hits delete and decides to
pass on volunteering if this is the experience she can

Sweep ‘Em Off Their Feet: Always follow up within
48 hours of an announcement from the pulpit or in the church
bulletin — and make the contact personal. Call potential
volunteers personally or meet with them face-to-face to go over
your needs, their interests, and to answer any questions they have
about the ministry. People appreciate the personal attention from
someone who’s currently a leader in the ministry.

Misstep #2:

Asking People to Help As a Favor

Nothing can ruin a relationship, new or seasoned, faster than
asking someone to help in your ministry as a favor to you. Of
course it’s difficult for a person to turn you down if you’re
positioning your volunteer need as a personal one. Friends may fill
your volunteer needs out of obligation to you, but their volunteer
experience will be unsatisfactory and unfulfilling if they’re
serving in an area that’s not a good fit for them and is done out
of guilt.

Sweep ‘Em Off Their Feet: If you have friends or
acquaintances who want to serve in children’s ministry, you already
have a recruiting advantage because you’ve got an established
relationship with them. But don’t assume that children’s ministry
is a good fit for your friends. Have all potential volunteers —
regardless of your relationship with them — fill out an interest
inventory or spiritual gift assessment to make sure the volunteer
opportunities available are a good fit on both ends.

Misstep #3:

Throwing Newbies to the Lions

A potential volunteer has filled out all the paperwork and passed
the background check — and you desperately need someone in the
preteen class, which hasn’t had a consistent volunteer leader in
weeks. So you hand over the materials and send your new recruit
into the trenches, only to get the materials back at the end of the
service with a polite, “Thanks, but I think I’ll pass,” as your new
recruit exits the building — and your ministry.

Sweep ‘Em Off Their Feet: Make sure potential
volunteers can observe different areas of service under a seasoned
volunteer’s leadership. People considering volunteering in
children’s ministry may want to shadow a current volunteer for a
time, or maybe they’d prefer to volunteer with classroom prep or in
the kitchen rather than in the classroom. Provide new volunteers
with entry point opportunities — or “ministry in small bites”
opportunities — especially if they’re inexperienced. Serving pizza
at a preteen event may result in a person realizing that he or she
likes kids that age and wants to be more involved in that ministry
— or it may be an eye-opener and solidify that the nursery is a
better fit.

Misstep #4:

Giving Potential Recruits a False Impression

A cardinal rule of dating is to be yourself because the truth will
eventually come out. The same can be said about courting someone
for a volunteer position in your ministry. If you paint a picture
of the ministry or volunteer position that isn’t accurate, your new
volunteers will feel they were recruited under false pretenses and
won’t be in it for the long haul.

Sweep ‘Em Off Their Feet: Describe your ministry
accurately. Don’t say you have classroom ratios of six kids for
every one leader and then stick a new volunteer in a room alone
with 15 kids. Develop a volunteer manual for potential volunteers
to read that includes your ministry values and mission. Let
recruits know what each job’s time commitment is each week and what
their role would be on the team, including who they’d report to and
what team they’d serve on. Have ministry descriptions available for
every service opportunity, from small group leaders to clean-up

Misstep #5:

Talking the Talk, But Not Walking the Walk

As a leader you may give a great first impression, presenting your
ministry with enthusiasm and passion. But after chatting with
current volunteers and observing you in action, a potential
volunteer sadly realizes that you’re not that excited about the
ministry — and actually feels sorry for you because you’re
obviously in a job you dread.

Sweep ‘Em Off Their Feet: If you love what you’re
doing, it shows. Your enthusiasm about the ministry is contagious.
Your attitude goes a long way in converting interested people into
committed volunteers, so check it when you’re having a tough time
getting volunteers to commit. People may be hesitant because you
are, too.

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10 Ways to Lose a Volunteer

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