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5 Surprising Ways to Drive Away a Volunteer

You’ve read all the tried-and-true volunteer recruiting secrets. You’ve tried all the ways to make your volunteers feel appreciated.

So why is it you’re still losing volunteers? Sometimes losing your leaders might be because of something that doesn’t fall under the “volunteer” category in your mind at all. It’s the way you lead a lesson!

Read on to find out five surprising ways to drive away a volunteer.

1. Use a video-based curriculum.

I know what you’re thinking. Kids love videos! But is it right for your ministry?

Not only can a video-based curriculum remove the relational aspect of your time together for kids—it does the same for your volunteers.

Volunteers want to feel like they’re there for a reason. If all they are is crowd control during a video screening, that doesn’t feel very meaningful. And if volunteers aren’t getting to interact with and know the kids, it’s easy for them to step out. Who will miss them?

One volunteer bemoaned, “I have to get up pretty early to serve—and I’m not a morning person. It doesn’t really feel like it’s worth it when I’m mostly just crowd control.”

Ask yourself these questions: Do the kids in your ministry know the names of your volunteers? Would they notice if they stop showing up?

If you answered no to either of those questions, it’s time to reevaluate your curriculum. Choose a curriculum that’s focused on relationship-building between kids and each other, and between kids and their leaders. Kids and volunteers will be more engaged as they get to interact and experience things together!

That’s not to say your curriculum can’t include a short video here and there. But if the majority of the lesson is screen time, consider how you could better show the community and fellowship of the body of Christ.

2. Only schedule volunteers once a month.

Recruiting may seem easier when you can tell people, “You only have to come once a month!” But once-a-month service is another hindrance to relationship-building.

Your kids are already probably not coming every week. That means if your volunteers each serve once a month—only 12 times a year—they may not even see the same kids more than a couple of times.

If you have someone who’s hesitant to sign up and a once-a-month commitment helps them join the team, by all means, allow it. But after they’ve served a little bit, encourage them to serve more often! Let them know the difference they’re making, and share how they could make an even bigger difference if they really got to know the kids by serving regularly.

3. Put volunteers on the spot.

Nothing is scarier to an introvert than being asked at the last minute to lead from the front of the room.

Ideally, you’ll recruit some great upfront volunteers and some great small-group leaders. Let those volunteers serve where they shine!

Sometimes there’s a mentality that small-group leaders should be “growing” into a more visible role. But their role is valuable! Don’t push them into a role they’re not made for—especially right when they show up to serve and feel trapped!

If you do have a small-group leader you think may be gifted at leading from the front, schedule a lunch or coffee to talk about whether they’d be interested in that. Don’t pressure them or make them feel like that’s a more important role than their current role. Simply listen to what they’re passionate about and how they’d like to serve.

And don’t lose sight of the fact that if you’re using a relationship-focused curriculum, you need those relationship-based volunteers. Value that role just as much as the upfront leaders!

DIG IN curriculum really helps your volunteers fill their sweet spot. The innovative lesson builder tool lets you or your volunteers choose experiences that are just right for their strengths so kids come away with a memorable, God-centered experience!

4. Use a curriculum with fruitless questions.

Part of a good relationship-based curriculum is good questions. If your curriculum is full of questions like “Who did God give the Ten Commandments to?” or “Can you name all the beatitudes?” what are your leaders getting to know about your kids? What insights are they gaining into their lives?

Instead, use questions like “Tell about a time you wanted to disobey your parents. What did you choose to do?” “Why do you think God says obeying our parents will give you a long, full life?” and “Look at this list of the beatitudes. Which best describes your life right now, and why?”

These questions are better for kids anyway because there’s no wrong answer. But for your volunteers, it gives them a chance to talk to kids about their real, personal stories. And that helps your volunteers feel like they’re making a difference.

One volunteer told us, “I don’t feel like I’m getting to know kids, and I don’t feel like I am making a difference.”

On the other hand, if you think you’re making a difference, you want to stick around.

Need some ideas for curriculum options with great questions? Check out DIG IN and Simply Loved.

5. Be the only one to share.

We’ve talked about the need for volunteers to get to know kids. But kids need to get to know the volunteers, too! Not just their names, but who they are!

When your curriculum asks great relational questions, it’s awesome to have leaders share first. This allows time for kids to think about their answers, and it sets the tone for vulnerability. It may be tempting for you (or whoever is leading from the front) to be the one to share your own example. But make sure other leaders get to share, too!

Remember, relationships are not one-way. As volunteers get to know kids and get to be known by kids, their relationship with kids will grow even deeper. In their book, Don’t Just Teach…Reach!, Thom and Joani Schultz remind leaders that, “As people get to know one another, they form friendships, which encourages them to return. They’ll have close connections—and know they matter!”

Those connections will go a long way in keeping your volunteers around!

Keep your volunteers!

We all know it’s tough to get enough volunteers. Understaffing can lead to you going with the “just hit play” option of a video curriculum or grabbing a small-group leader to lead a game. But these kinds of solutions only lead to more volunteer turnover, more understaffing, and a never-ending problem! Work hard to value a culture of relationship, where volunteers feel engaged because they come regularly enough to feel like they matter, and they’re involved in kids’ faith journeys enough to feel like they’re making a difference. A place where they’re known enough so that if they left, they’d know you and the kids would miss them—not just as someone to fill a slot in the schedule, but for who they are.

For a free volunteer resource with more great tips, check out this free e-book! In this e-book, you’ll discover simple and practical ways to find and keep your volunteer dream team. For even more volunteer tips, check out these posts!

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5 Surprising Ways to Drive Away a Vol...

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