In ministry, it can be hard to recruit and train new volunteers. Every youth leader’s worst nightmare is having amazing volunteers who walk away for your ministry and leave large shoes to fill. When you find great volunteers it is worth your time to invest in them and treat them well because volunteers who stay throughout the many seasons of ministry are the best kind of volunteers to have. Here are 6 ways to keep your best volunteers in it for the long haul:
1. Support their Families
Your volunteers will sacrifice quite a bit of family time to be there for your ministry. In just one year, leaders who show up to volunteer for one hour a week will realistically devote well over 52 hours to volunteering for your ministry. Some will be sacrificing Wednesday dinners with their families and others will miss Sunday morning soccer games to teach your Sunday school class. Their dedication to the ministry should be honored but it is also a reason for you to continue to be their pastor. Treat their children as you would any member of your own youth group. Find time to attend sports or band activities and show up to big events like birthdays, if you are lucky enough to be invited. Show your support for the family group as a whole and make a commitment to be a pastor to their entire family.
Encourage Them in Small Things
Ministry can be hard and teens often don’t say thank you. If you are feeling particularly discouraged during a season of ministry, it might be time to encourage your volunteers as well. You don’t have to make a large financial commitment to send them a handwritten thank you card. Let your leaders know when you see them working hard to build the Kingdom of God. Thank them for going the extra mile or just continuing to show up week after week. A small act of kindness may just remind them of the heart behind their work and encourage them to hang on even when things get frustrating.
3. Equip Them With Tools
No one wants to show up for a job unprepared and the youth ministry world is always changing. If you have great volunteers share your vision with them and then give them the tools to accomplish goals. Start a resource library for your teachers, spend personal time with small group leaders, offer help finding curriculum for the next Sunday School series, or just give volunteers a budget for donuts so students show up to their class. Talk to your leaders enough that you know the areas that they would love for you to help them with. Ask them about their dreams for their classes and small groups and do your best to help them serve students well.
4. Have Fun Together
Spend quality time with your volunteers. Develop deep friendships with your volunteers and try to find moments to laugh together. I promise you that if your volunteers can have fun together, it will change your ministry for the better. Your volunteers can create an environment of love and excitement in your youth ministry or they can create an environment of awkward silences and sideways glances. You get to define the culture of the ministry by the way that you interact with your volunteers. Spend time throughout the year doing small things to have fun together with your volunteer team.
5. Love Them Well
Each Christmas, I spend hours planning a top-secret gift for my volunteers. I usually spend about $10 a person and get our volunteers something with our youth group logo on it that they will use year round. I’ve gotten my volunteers coffee mugs, hats, t-shirts, and jackets. Every year my volunteers are so excited to unwrap a personalized gift from the youth ministry and it makes them feel appreciated by all of our students. Most of your budget should be going towards ministry to your students, but don’t forget to take the opportunity to take your volunteer team out to lunch or buy them a gift once a year. They work hard and the least we can do sometimes is spend a small portion of our budget to make them feel loved and invested in.
6. Pray For Them
It should also be fun for you to pray for your volunteers. Pray for your volunteers by name and thank God for the reach that they can have with your students that you would never be able to accomplish alone. Your volunteers should have a special place in your prayer time where you are praying for them by name at least once a week. Pray for your volunteers like you would hope someone is praying for you and ask them about personal prayer requests. Your volunteers are on the front lines of ministry and we shouldn’t forget to cover them in prayer at all times