Volunteers are a critical part of our ministry. Sometimes volunteers serve in a more long-term capacity, for example those serving as Bible class teachers, members of the praise team, or in leadership positions. Other volunteers work behind the scenes and perhaps for a shorter period of time. No matter how they serve, we want volunteers to feel that we celebrate the gifts they bring to our ministry. We also want to retain them from year to year. Here are three A’s to help you do that.
Assess – This step is key. Help your volunteers evaluate their potential before they begin volunteering, while they are serving, and also when they complete their service.
Before volunteers begin serving, have them complete a spiritual gifts inventory. While few of these inventories are very scientific, they can help volunteers ask the right questions as they explore the areas of service in which they are interested. On the flip side, these inventories can help you identify people who might fit volunteer positions you hope to fill.
While volunteers are serving, especially in long-term positions, meet with them at least once each year. This will help them assess how they are using their spiritual gifts in their current role. Celebrate their continued service. Invite them, as that might be appropriate, to serve in other ways. For example, one of my spiritual gifts is teaching. My current volunteer positions allow me to teach both young children and adults. I am thankful to be using my gifts in this way. However, since another one of my gifts is shepherding, I may want to consider serving in ways that allow me to develop this gift further.
Finally, when volunteers complete their service, it is appropriate, respectful, and affirming to sit down together to assess how they have used and developed their giftedness during their time of service.
Align – When we consider alignment in ministry, we want not only to align people with their spiritual gifts, but with the mission and ministry of the organization and with the tools required for their position. When the volunteers’ spiritual gifts and involvement are aligned, they will likely find greater joy and satisfaction as they serve. When volunteers have a clear understanding of the mission and ministry of your church, school, or agency, the work in which they are involved will more likely reflect that mission and ministry. When volunteers are trained and given the resources they need for service, they will more likely feel successful and empowered. Alignment creates a powerful climate for volunteer retention.
Affirm – Another important “A” for retaining volunteers is consistent, ongoing affirmation. Say thanks. Write a note. Send a text or E-mail message. Acknowledge individuals in your monthly newsletter and in other public ways. This, too, will affirm them for their service. Never take your volunteers for granted! Give affirmation priority and volunteers will keep coming back.
Blessings to you as you assess, align, and affirm in these ways, helping your volunteers know that they are making a difference for God’s kingdom!
Editor’s note: CTA makes helpful tools and many appropriate thank-you gifts available to help you express appreciation to volunteers. Several of these are free and downloadable. Check them out on our website.
Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.