Your Volunteers Are Either Growing or Going

The most important aspect of your children's ministry is not your building...not your curriculum...not your programs...not your big events...not your budget. 

The most important aspect is your volunteers. 
The success of your children's ministry rises and falls on the strength of the volunteer team.
And a key part of building a great volunteer team is keeping them...long-term.  It is next to impossible to build a strong volunteer team if you have constant turnover.  A great volunteer team has a balance of new volunteers and veteran volunteers. 

When it comes to keeping your volunteers long-term, here's a simple, but powerful aspect to keep in mind. 
Your volunteers are either growing or going.
Here's what that means.  If you want to keep volunteers long-term, you have to provide them with long-term growth opportunities.  Opportunities to grow in their spiritual gifts, responsibilities, leadership, personal spiritual growth and impact.  Often we think volunteers will leave if they get tired, burned out or we expect too much from them.  While this can happen, the truth is they leave just as much, if not more often, because we are not challenging and stretching them enough.

This is especially true with Millennial volunteers.  They want to make a difference.  They want to be empowered to grow as spiritual leaders.  They want opportunities that will stretch them.  If they don't see this in your ministry, they will move on.

When volunteers become disenchanted and disengaged, they leave.  To keep volunteers they must not only feel valued, but challenged as well.  They must have the opportunity to pursue the next step in their leadership.  They must have the opportunity to make a difference and growth themselves. 

Here are some keys to seeing volunteers growing rather than going...
  • Create a growth pathway for all of your volunteer roles.  Here's an example in the preschool world. 
    • General helper in a preschool classroom.
    • Assistant teacher in a preschool classroom.
    • Lead teacher in a preschool classroom, including leading the other volunteers in the room.
    • Oversee 3 classrooms and volunteers in those rooms.
    • Oversee a hallway of classrooms and volunteers during a preschool service. 
  • Show new volunteers the growth pathway for their role when they sign up to volunteer.  They need to know from the get go, that growth opportunities are in place.
  • Invest in all of your volunteers, but especially focus on the ones you think have the most potential to grow.  Spend 80% of your time investing in these people.  Yes, you are to love all of your volunteers, but invest the majority of your time selectively.  
  • Focus not only ministry skills, but personal development as well.  When you help volunteers see that the growth they will experience can translate into other areas and aspects of their life as well, they will be more likely to engage.
  • Promote a culture of open, honest communication.  If you don't, volunteers who are not being challenged may not tell you and you won't know it until you are hearing the words "I am not going to continue serving."
When you make growth a part of your volunteer culture, people will rise to the occasion.  In a ministry I led, we had a paid children's ministry staff team of over 70 people.  All but 5 of them started as volunteers.  As we invested in them, challenged them and gave them opportunities to grow, they responded with enthusiasm and commitment.

We must remember that the end goal is not to see people grow just so we can get more out of them.  The end goal is to see people thrive and flourish as followers of Jesus and leaders in His kingdom.  Our heart should be to see people reach their full potential and fulfill God's calling for their life.

Here are some questions to think through...

Do I have a growth pathway for all of our volunteer roles?

Am I communicating the potential to grow to our new volunteers?
Do our volunteers feel not only valued, but challenged as well? 

Who are 3 volunteers that I am personally investing in and helping develop?  If I don't have them currently, who are the 3 people I can begin developing?

What is my current turnover rate for volunteers each year?  Am I keeping volunteers long-term?  

What can I change or adjust to keep more volunteers long-term?

Do we have a culture that encourages honest, open communication?  Do volunteers know they will be heard if they express that they don't feel challenged?

Does our team reflect a good balance of new and veteran volunteers?  What steps do we need to take to have an even better balance?

You can get more insight into growing volunteers in my book "The Formula for Building Great Volunteer Teams."