How to Recruit & Retain Volunteers


This blog was written by Sarah Meggers, an Executive Search Recruiter at Vanderbloemen.

So much happens in the church throughout the year. Small groups, weekly worship services, mission work, outreach, youth and children’s events… the list could go on forever. But without one thing, none of this would happen. Volunteers.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of the church. They help on every level to get things done and make it great. So knowing that volunteers are such an integral part of every church, how do you recruit them and keep them coming back?

1. Start with the why.

Your task won’t draw them in, the purpose of the work and how it makes an impact will. I hate to break it to you, but your task of preparing the snack for VBS or running the computer for worship or greeting people isn’t what’s compelling. It’s why it matters that is. What difference does it make to have a snack at VBS? How does running the computer for worship draw people closer to Jesus? It’s the answers to these questions that are why people say yes, so invite them into the impact, not the task.

2. Give them real responsibility.

While your volunteers may not be ministry veterans, they are absolutely capable of doing complex work! And they want to make a difference! Remember that the person you are asking to help you is a high school teacher or a retired engineer or a high-capacity executive assistant or a stay-at-home parent – all that have amazing gifts and are fully capable of handling big things that need to be done. They want to make an impact, so give them impactful work to do.

3. Equip them well.

Once they’ve said yes, make sure they know they’re not going to be thrown into the deep end and immediately expected to know how to swim. It’s your job as a leader to make sure they have the knowledge and the resources to complete whatever it is you’re asking of them. As you do this, they also need to know that they aren’t alone. Remind them and show them that you are there for them however you can to help them succeed.

4. Trust them to do the work, and encourage them at every turn!

One of the most frustrating things for volunteers is when they make time and commit to helping with something, and they show up to find you’ve started without them or are mostly done, or you do the work and have them watch. They want their contribution to be significant and make an impact, and that can’t happen when you don’t let them do the work! Be present, be supportive, but trust that they can do it and be there for them to encourage them in the work they’re doing. No one should leave wondering if the work they did mattered or if their contribution was appreciated.

5. Lead with relationship.

At the end of the day, the main thing that keeps volunteers coming back is connection – to you and to each other. Make sure when you see them, you see them as a person first before you see the task they are there to complete. We see examples of this from Jesus all over Scripture. Before he gets to the business of the day, he sits with people. He listens. He’s present for people simply because they matter. And we should do the same. Not only that though, but we should do our best to help our volunteers create relationships with one another. God created us to do life in community with one another, and a great place to find that is with the people you are serving next to.

We hope these tips will help you to better recruit and retain your top volunteers. At Vanderbloemen, we know how critical it is to have the right people in the right places when it comes to ministry. If we can help you align your people to further your mission, let us know. We would love to help!