Volunteer Strategy for Your Ministry

HOW TO STRATEGIZE YOUR VOLUNTEER INVESTMENT

WHAT YOU'LL LEARN

  • The 7 ways you can invest in volunteers.
  • How to strategize a year of volunteer training and investment.
  • How to create a healthier volunteer culture.
  • PLUS: What’s included in Grow Curriculum and Strategy to help you lead your volunteer teams more effectively.

We once asked a whole bunch of youth workers this question: “What’s your biggest struggle in youth ministry?” We got hundreds of responses back, but do you know what one of the most common answers was? VOLUNTEERS.

As we read through those responses, we saw some variation of the same questions over and over again, like . . .

How do I recruit more volunteers?
How do I train the volunteers I already have?
And how do I get them to stick around for more than a few months?

We’ve been there.

RECRUITING VOLUNTEERS IS HARD. No matter what you do, asking people to serve sometimes feels like pulling teeth. 

TRAINING VOLUNTEERS IS EVEN HARDER. Once you’ve got volunteers on board, what exactly do you do with them? What do you teach them? How do you help them grow?

RETAINING VOLUNTEERS IS THE HARDEST. Imagine if every volunteer you had ever recruited was still serving with you today – you’d probably have way more than enough volunteers for your ministry. But instead, people cycle in and out of our ministries so fast that it seems like we’re constantly recruiting new volunteers. It can be kind of exhausting.

Whatever your biggest volunteer problem is, we can all agree – we all want to grow our volunteer teams.

But here’s what we’ve learned about growing our teams: if we want to grow our volunteer teams (in numbers and effectiveness) simply recruiting more volunteers won’t solve our problems. In most cases, a lack of volunteers isn’t really the problem. A lack of volunteers is often a symptom of a much bigger problem. So if we want to grow our volunteer teams, we need to start by identifying, and solving, that bigger problem.

The secret to growing a volunteer team isn’t a quick fix, a great marketing campaign, or a series of guilt trips. THE BEST WAY TO GROW YOUR VOLUNTEER TEAM IS TO CREATE A CULTURE WHERE VOLUNTEERS LOVE TO SERVE.

But how? Just like you work hard every week to create programs that connect with kids or teenagers, you need to focus on creating systems and strategies that connect with your volunteers. In the Grow strategy (which you’re welcome to steal), we do that in seven ways.

1. VOLUNTEER EVENTS

An event is a major vision-casting opportunity − an environment you’d want every volunteer to attend. Your volunteers need to be trained on, and inspired by, the big picture vision of your ministry. That’s where an annual kick-off event comes in. At this event, you’ll have the opportunity to help your volunteers get off to a great start. It’s an opportunity for you to share your vision, cover important procedures and expectations, provide tools to make your volunteers’ jobs easier, and help your team get to know each other. We suggest doing this once each year.

2. VOLUNTEER MEETINGS

A meeting is an opportunity to teach your volunteers about a very specific topic. When planning your volunteer meetings, remember that, while communicating your big picture vision and procedures is probably pretty important to you as a ministry leader, your volunteers need some help navigating the issues they’re facing with kids and teenagers right now. That’s where these meetings come in. They’re an opportunity for you to address the specific issues your volunteers are dealing with, when they’re dealing with them. We suggest doing this 3-6 times per year.

3. VOLUNTEER DISCUSSION GROUPS

A discussion group is a gathering with a small group of volunteers who all serve in a similar role. The purpose of these groups is to engage in collaborative conversation, coaching, and problem-solving. That’s because your volunteers need more than just vision and principles to help them do their jobs well. They need some practical ideas! That’s where these discussion groups come in. These discussion groups are pretty different from other methods of volunteer training you may be used to. You see, most of the time, we train our volunteers as though we’re the experts. Of course, we’ve got a lot of great information to share… but so do our volunteers! So think of these discussion groups as an opportunity to get your volunteers talking so they can actually train each other for a change. These discussion groups are an opportunity for your volunteers to share their own specific stories, ideas, and best practices so that other volunteers can learn from them and steal their ideas. We suggest doing this a few times each year, or as many times as needed in order to invite every volunteer to one discussion group.

4. VOLUNTEER TOOLS

A tool is any resource you provide to help your volunteers make their jobs happen. Maybe it’s a volunteer handbook, or a set of goals for the semester, or a small group leader business card they can hand out to the families of their small group. We suggest doing this at the beginning and midpoint of every year, or whenever you find something useful you want to pass on!

5. VOLUNTEER CONVERSATIONS

A conversation is a one-on-one meeting with a volunteer for the purpose of building relationships and giving feedback. We’re big believers that meeting regularly with your volunteers one-on-one is pretty important for your volunteers, for your ministry, and for you. It’s important for your volunteers because they need to know you care about them – and spending time building relationships with them is a great way to communicate how much you value them. It’s important for your ministry because it will give you an opportunity to evaluate how well your volunteers are doing in their roles. And it’s important for you because it will give you an opportunity to hear how you and your ministry can better help and equip your volunteers to do their jobs better. We suggest having a conversation with a volunteer every week, or as often as required in order to invite every volunteer to have a conversation with you once or twice a year.

6. VOLUNTEER COMMUNICATION

Communication is anything you do to let your volunteers know about the important stuff they need to know. It may be by email, text messages, social media posts, or phone calls, but it should be on your calendar every single week. Sometimes when we think about training our volunteers, we think about in-person meetings or big events. But if we want to keep our vision in front of our volunteers all year long, we have to think about training in a bigger way. That’s where communication comes in. Whether you prefer to communicate with your volunteers through email, text messages, social media posts, or phone calls, the point is that you stay in touch with them regularly. We suggest doing this every week.

7. VOLUNTEER CELEBRATION

We’re big believers that the things you celebrate in your ministry will be the things that get repeated. That’s why celebrating your volunteers and their wins is so important to your training strategy. We don’t always think about celebrating or appreciating our volunteers as a form of training, but maybe we should! Because here’s the thing: what we celebrate gets repeated. So when we celebrate our volunteers for being awesome and following through on the vision and expectations we’ve set for them, we’re reminding our whole team about what matters most. Oh, and a little celebration can make our volunteers feel pretty awesome too. We suggest celebrating individual volunteers every week, and then celebrating your whole team with something fun each month.

Maybe that seems like a lot to do, but it doesn’t have to be! Like you, we know that our time each week is limited, and no one has endless hours to spend on volunteer investment. But here’s the good news: there is a way to structure your volunteer investment so that you do the least amount of work for the biggest impact. That’s what the Grow strategy is all about.

In case you missed it, check out this article about planning an entire year of ministry in order to see how all 7 of these methods for investing in volunteers might look on your annual calendar.

And hey, if you’re using Grow Curriculum, we’ve already done this work for you. For everything we talked about in this article, we provide you with everything you need to make it happen — supply lists (with handy links to purchase the supplies), instructions, graphics, training content, and more!

WHAT’S INCLUDED IN GROW CURRICULUM

Although the strategy stays consistent every year, each year in Grow Curriculum, we provide new resources to help you invest in your volunteers, like…

VOLUNTEER KICK-OFF EVENT:

  • An event guide with instructions for you, the ministry leader
  • Editable event graphics in PSD format
  • Title and background slide images in horizontal, vertical, and square formats
  • Planning timelines in PDF and DOC formats
  • Suggested schedules in PDF and XLS formats
  • Shopping lists in PDF and DOC formats
  • Event flyers in PSD, PDF, and DOC formats

 VOLUNTEER MEETINGS:

  • A meeting guide with instructions for you, the ministry leader
  • 15+ meeting guides each year to help you train your team
  • Editable meeting graphics in PSD format
  • Title and background slide images in horizontal, vertical, and square format
  • Planning timelines in PDF and DOC formats
  • Suggested schedules in PDF and XLS formats
  • Shopping lists in PDF and DOC formats
  • Flyers in PSD, PDF, and DOC formats

VOLUNTEER DISCUSSION GROUPS:

  • A discussion group guide with instructions for you, the ministry leader
  • A discussion guide for each of your volunteer teams
  • Title and background slide images in horizontal, vertical, and square format
  • Invitations in PSD, PDF, and DOC formats

VOLUNTEER CELEBRATIONS:

  • A celebration guide with instructions for you, the ministry leader
  • Weird holidays you can use for appreciation
  • Shopping lists in PDF and DOC formats

VOLUNTEER CONVERSATIONS:

  • A conversation group guide with instructions for you, the ministry leader
  • A conversation guide for each of your volunteer teams

VOLUNTEER COMMUNICATION:

  • A communication guide with instructions for you, the ministry leader
  • 50 pre-written editable emails in HTML, MailChimp, and plain text formats
  • 12 volunteer tip videos and scripts in case you want to film new versions on your own

VOLUNTEER TOOLS:

  • A volunteer tool guide with instructions for you, the ministry leader
  • An Annual Volunteer Survey in PSD, PDF, and DOC formats
  • An editable Volunteer Handbook in PSD, PDF, and DOC formats
  • Editable Volunteer Goals in PSD, PDF, and DOC formats
  • Editable Volunteer Business Cards in PSD and PDF formats
  • Volunteer T-Shirt Designs in PSD and PNG formats
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About The Author

Kenny Campbell

Kenny Campbell

Founders of Stuff You Can Use and Grow Curriculum

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