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5 tips for retaining ministry volunteers

By Natalie Bannon

This is the final video in a three-part series about growing volunteer ministries. We thank The Chapel in Brunswick, Georgia for sharing their tips.

Now that you have a group of dedicated volunteers, it’s important to be intentional about developing relationships. It takes an enormous amount of time and energy, but the privilege of investing in volunteers and seeing God work through them is priceless. Here are five tips for keeping volunteers happy and motivated.

1. Get personal
Good leaders care less about the role volunteers fill and more about developing the person. Be willing to talk to your volunteers about their lives and offer prayer support and encouragement.

2. Show appreciation
Say thank you every chance you get. Send notes and emails. Announce your gratitude on social media. Solicit feedback and listen to their thoughts and ideas.

3. Be flexible
As you get to know your volunteers, you’ll be able to identify seasons in their lives when they’re more or less able to commit to ministry. Be willing to give them time off when needed without guilt. If you’re providing ample on-ramps for new volunteers, there should always be someone else to take their place. Be gracious when someone leaves—even if they jump to another ministry. After all, the most important thing is to help volunteers find their sweet spot in service to God.

4. Embrace humor
Laughter really is the best medicine. Not only does it make people feel good, it also helps teams develop a sense of community and family. Laugh long, laugh loud and laugh often. It will make your volunteers look forward to helping and motivate them to do their best.

5. Divide and conquer
When your ministry tops more than 20 volunteers, it’s time to divide the shepherding responsibilities. Set up a leadership team to lead the volunteers in their area. Develop a structure in which one person is not responsible for more than 15-20 volunteers at a time. When teams get too big, it’s impossible for one person to adequately care for each volunteer. Relationships suffer and volunteers drop out.

When volunteers are valued, they will encounter God and fall in love with Jesus through serving others. If you’d like additional information about any of these tips, download the Volunteer Leadership Training Guide from www.thechapelbrunswick.com under the resources tab or email anne@thechapelbrunswick.com. And if you want tips on other church topics, go to www.umcom.org.