Four Reasons it is tough to keep volunteers

Written by Aaron Helman

Four Reasons It’s Tough to Keep Volunteers (And How to Fix It!)

For a youth minister, there’s nothing more discouraging than losing groups of volunteers over and over again.

The struggle to identify, recruit, train, and develop new leaders every year starts to become a full-time job. Volunteers should be a priority, but they also can’t be your only priority.

But imagine if you could regularly hang on to volunteers for years at a time. It would take some time, but you’d have a well-developed veteran team of leaders…

…and you’re energy could be spent investing in those leaders instead of begging for new life to show up.

Most youth workers lament the loss of volunteers, but most of us don’t look in the mirror to figure out what we can do to keep that from happening.

Turns out, there are at least four things we can do. Start right here:

Fix these four things. Keep volunteers longer. Sound good?

Our volunteers do too much.

If you’re asking volunteers to spend more than 3-4 hours a week in ministry, it’s going to catch up with them and their families. Burnout is not a pretty thing.

Similarly, sometimes volunteers take on more responsibility than we ask. Even then, it’s our responsibility to keep an eye on the health and balance of a volunteer.

Regularly check in with volunteers. Ask how things are at work and at home. If things are getting out of whack, deal with it now…

…or be prepared to find a new volunteer later.

Our volunteers do too little.

This is a bigger deal than we think, but when it’s put simply, it makes sense:

If someone thinks their volunteer role isn’t making a difference, they’ll stop doing it.

Because we don’t want to burn anyone out, we often ask them to do the bare minimum. No one feels good doing the bare minimum and people who don’t feel good about volunteer roles usually quit.

If you’re asking for less than an hour a week, you might be asking too little.

We’re selecting people who can’t possibly have longevity.

I see this most often in college towns. College students and single young adults can be absolutely tremendous volunteers, but the nature of their situation means that they can’t be around for very long.

They get jobs. They move away. They start families.

I am not saying that you shouldn’t use these people as volunteers. But if you want to add some longevity to your team, start by finding a few more people with jobs, kids, and mortgages. They’ll almost certainly be around longer.

We invest volunteers into programs instead of students.

It’s much easier to outgrow a programming role than it is to outgrow a particular group of students. It’s also much easier to say goodbye to a programming role than to a group of students.

If your volunteers are invested in people, they’ll stick around longer. That’s how humans work.

So your tech team leader? He’s not invested in the computers as much as he’s invested in the students who run them.

Your worship leader? Less concerned about the music than the students in the band.

How would your ministry change if you kept volunteers 2-3 times longer than you do now?

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Aaron-HelmanAaron Helman is on a mission to end youth worker burnout by providing the training and resources that you haven’t been taught… until now. Smarter Youth Ministry exists to help you learn how to manage their time and resources better so that you can do more ministry with less frustration. All of that having been said, you most likely know him as the creator of “Lamentation or Taylor Swift Lyric.”