Adult volunteers are the backbone of any healthy student ministry.  In my work with both church and parachurch student ministries, I have found that there are three keys to unlocking the potential of the volunteers in your ministry.  Volunteers need to see that their role is manageable, one that they feel competent to perform, and highly valued.

Volunteers have to be able to make a living, and many of them have family responsibilities as well.  So they don’t have a lot of time.  You’ll have better success recruiting and retaining them if you keep the scope of their responsibilities to a manageable level.  Find out how much time a specific volunteer has to give your ministry in a week, tailor their responsibilities accordingly, and be respectful of the rest of their time that they have allotted to work, play, rest, and family commitments.  Over-committed volunteers are usually short-term volunteers.

There is a good chance that your volunteers will have some initial feelings of inadequacy in their role.  If they felt completely competent, they would probably have a job like yours instead of the job they have.  Affirm that each volunteer is competent for their position regularly through training and encouragement.  I started my journey in youth ministry as a volunteer with very little experience.  I wasn’t very much older than the teenagers I was being asked to teach and lead.  Fortunately, I was surrounded by a very talented youth pastor and several mature, seasoned volunteers who encouraged my competence and increased it through mentoring.  Again, it is also important that you maintain respect for each volunteer’s time, and keep training and mentoring within a manageable scope for them.

Finally, it is absolutely critical that each volunteer feel that their position within your ministry is highly valued.  Go out of your way to show them that you appreciate what they do.  Write them notes, send them emails and text messages, remember their birthdays, throw parties in their honor, celebrate every “win” with them. You would not be able to do your job without them, so make sure that they know you realize that.  Remember that they are making sacrifices to serve.  Do not miss an opportunity to recognize them and thank them.

People want to volunteer for leaders who will honor their time, help them feel competent to perform their role well, and value their service to the Lord.  Keep these three keys in mind, and you will be much more successful at recruiting and retaining good volunteer talent for your team.  I’d love your thoughts.

  • What do you do to keep your volunteer workload manageable?
  • What do you do to make sure that your volunteers know they are competent for their position?
  • What do you do to recognize and appreciate your volunteers for the value that they bring to your ministry?

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