Last Update 11th October, 2016.
People power is essential to the successful running of most churches and without motivated church volunteers we simply wouldn’t be able to do what we do.
This is why it’s so important that we learn not just how to gain volunteers, but how to retain them too.
The challenge for us as church leaders is to learn how to keep our church volunteers motivated, and this can be challenging at times.
Each church volunteer is an individual and they may respond differently to a range of motivating factors.
Whether you need Sunday school workers, youth helpers or welcome staff, Volunteer Rocket is my #1 recommended training resource on how to gain, train and retain church volunteers.
You can check it out here.
As Christians we are called to serve no matter the cost. However, that does not mean the church should treat people with disrespect or disregard. In fact, quite the opposite.
We must be more sensitive to and considerate of those who are giving of their time and talent to help the church advance its mission and to serve others.
Now let’s take a quick look at nine smart strategies to motivate your church volunteers:
1. Say “Thank you!”
As obvious as this sounds, when was the last time you said thank you to your volunteers?
Even though their volunteering comes from a real passion and good heart, your volunteers still want to be appreciated for what they do.
If their efforts are not being recognized, they’re more likely to ditch the cause and become less and less available.
How can you show your appreciation?
Get creative – praise them publicly, throw a volunteer appreciation evening – go overboard with your appreciation and you’ll be surprised at the results.
2. Show your church volunteers how they’re making a difference
There’s no better method of topping up the motivation tank of your volunteers than by letting them see the results of their hard work.
We all want to make a difference don’t we?
Hearing a child who after months of attending Sunday school dedicating his whole heart to the Lord is something no volunteer will ever forget.
Whatever role your church volunteer undertakes, ensure they know how they fit into the bigger and how their contribution makes a big difference.
Is it your church’s birthday? Seen new believers get baptised? Just had a brilliant Christmas outreach event?
Celebrate milestones with the people who helped make it happen.
Let them see how their contribution is translating into real results.
Remind them why they joined up in the first place.
3. Does it fit well?
I love preaching and leading small groups but give me the job of keeping accurate accounts of the church’s finances and I’ll die inside.
Sometimes volunteers struggle to feel motivated, not because they don’t love the church or see the vision of what you’re trying to accomplish – it’s just that what they’re doing right now doesn’t fit right for them.
Sit down and talk to them about where their passions, talents and skills are.
Perhaps it’s time for a change.
Knowing you’re playing to and growing in your strengths is a great motivator.
4. Encourage development and training
You can motivate your church volunteers by giving them training and development opportunities.
Do they have all the resources and skills necessary to do their job well?
Give your volunteers the knowledge they need to succeed at their task. Send your worship team to worship leading seminars, sign your sound man up to sound technician training, take your greeting team and visit other churches to see how they do it.
Almost everyone wants to maximise the contribution they make to their church, yet many receive little or no training for the role they’ve been given.
If volunteers are saddled with tasks beyond their capabilities, they may become frustrated or burn out more quickly.
Providing training opportunities not only shows them that you value them enough to invest in them, but it motivates them to better themselves.
More experienced volunteers can also be a great resource for training and support.
5. Volunteers will do whatever it takes to get the job done when there is flexibility
For years we struggled with finding people who would make a commitment to teach Sunday school for twelve months.
When we finally opted for a rotating schedule (one month on/one month off) we had more than enough people to draw from.
Church volunteers will feel more motivated when we show we are sensitive to the hectic lifestyles they lead.
From my experience, when we work to accommodate them at the level of their availability, they are more willing to accommodate us.
6. Treat church volunteers the same as paid staff
Work really hard at removing the gap between your paid and unpaid staff.
Treat your volunteers like professionals.
If you offer early Sunday morning coffee and doughnut to your staff, do the same for all of your workers.
Remember that the people are working for you free because they believe in the cause and they believe in you as the leader.
7. Keep the communication open
A lack of communication is like kryptonite to a motivated church volunteer.
Whether church-wide or at a departmental level, regular meetings are vital as they will give your volunteers a sense of direction, especially at the beginning of their service.
Make sure you give volunteers a chance to have their say and provide support and supervision when it’s a new area of responsibility for them.
Have an open door policy: try to be accessible and approachable; volunteers should feel comfortable coming to you for advice and if they have any questions or concerns.
Also, you or a staff member should attempt to “check-in” with them from time to time.
8. Connected volunteers are motivated volunteers
As soon as a member steps up to serve, introduce them to other volunteers and staff so they get to know everyone.
As they feel settled in the organisation, ask their opinions or involve them in the decision-making process when possible, so they feel personally invested in the project.
Why not invite your workers for a meal every so often?
Does each department have their own nights out?
Even the most mundane of tasks is so much more fun when you feel like you’re a part of a team. If you want to have motivated church volunteers, ensure they feel like they belong.
9. Volunteers need time off
However passionate, enthused and motivated someone might be, there comes a point when all of us just needs a break.
Church work is people work and people work leaves people pooped.
Sunday school teachers, who are encouraged to take the summer off from teaching (because they teach nine months straight for ten years in a row), are more inclined to return in the fall refreshed with their emotional elastic replenished.
Whether it be gardeners, greeters, or worship leaders – sometimes giving them a breather can be the best investment we can make for a refreshed, re-energised and re-motivated church volunteer.
There you have it! Which of these nine smart strategies will you implement today?
How do you keep your volunteers motivated? Please share your comments below.