The #1 Way to Keep Your Volunteers Coming Back

And just like that, it’s time for Back to School.

BUT – Didn’t you just kick off summer? Wasn’t VBS like, two weeks ago? Didn’t you just do all the mission trips and all the camps and all the fun days at the pool??

In all my years of KidsMin and Youth Ministry, I’ve learned that “summer break” is anything but a break. Ministry folks – do me a favor and take a breather for a sec. Even if it’s just a little bit of time – take it. Catch your breath. You’re gonna need it for the Fall.

Blessing of the Backpacks. Bible Presentations. Sunday School. Midweek Programming. Here. It. Comes.

Round and round the year goes, over and over and over. And we all know that any good Kids or Youth Ministry requires planning, budgeting, curriculum, and most importantly, PEOPLE.

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Ever tried recruiting volunteers? It isn’t as easy as you’d think it is.

Everyone’s just as busy as you are, so to ask for one more thing, one more commitment, one more slice of their time could very well just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

But what if I told you it didn’t have to be? What if I told you that it is possible to find folks to serve in your ministry? What if I told you that not only could you successfully recruit a team of volunteers, but you could actually retain them for next year?

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You can have all the flashy stuff – a fun facility, top-notch technology and curriculum, a fantastic director with all the organizational skills in the world…But if you don’t have volunteers who know what they’re doing, it ain’t gonna work.

That’s it. That’s the way to retain your volunteers. Make sure they know what they’re doing.

Well, it’s a little more nuanced than that.

People who give their time without pay in Kids Ministry or Youth Ministry are there for a reason – sometimes it’s because someone talked them into it, but most of the time, it’s because they love kids or youth. They love connecting and teaching, and they want to pour into kids, youth, and their families. But if these wonderful human beings don’t have a clear goal, purpose, or direction from you, they’re gonna get frustrated. And when folks get frustrated, they lash out, shut down, or ghost. None of those things are good things.

I’ve heard the script too many times. I notice someone has clear gifts in teaching and relating to kids, so I ask them to serve as a Sunday School teacher for the upcoming year. I see the sparkle in their eyes for a split second – then it goes dim. “You know, I would just love to. But I don’t have the time to go through all that curriculum and figure out what to do in the classroom. I just can’t make it work.”

You know what that’s code for? I tried this once, but somebody didn’t train me, so I felt like I had to do this on my own with no guidance, and it was the absolute worst and now I’m burned out.

When ministry leaders leave our volunteers out to dry, we’re robbing them of a call God has placed on their lives.

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No pressure or anything.

Y’all – TRAIN YOUR VOLUNTEERS! BEFORE THE SCHOOL YEAR STARTS!

Here’s what works for me:

It’s the summer. Before school has started. I approach the person I’m going to invite to serve in Kids Ministry IN PERSON. Not a text, not an email, not a phone call, if I can help it. I find this person at church or some other third space I know they’ll be. I say something like this: “Hi ____! I’ve noticed that you’re just so good with kids – I can tell it’s a gift that God has given you, and I’m wondering if you would be interested in serving as a Sunday School teacher this school year?” I let them respond. They’re usually hesitant because of the time commitment. Then I say something like: “Yes, I know it sounds like a lot, but what if I could find a couple others in your age group and you could create a teaching rotation so it’s not so much work just on you? Also, I’m hosting a training for all volunteers on __(DATE)__. We’ll go over all the curriculum and expectations for the year, and you’d also get a chance to meet with the other teachers and come up with that rotation. By the end of the training, you’ll have everything you need to be successful this year.”

That’s the pitch. Promise them you’ll be there with them along the way. You’re here for them – ready to answer questions, ready to brainstorm and help, and ready to equip them to make a difference in kids’ lives. Then follow through. Actually train them.

Every church setting has its own expectations for what it means to serve in a KidsMin or Youth Ministry, but I’ve put together some common expectations in this KidsMin Volunteer Training Guide.

Download it. Copy it. Adapt it. Share it. It’s yours to use.

Inside, you’ll find recruitment tips, a training outline, follow up tips, and sample handouts you can use at your Volunteer Training Event. It’s not too late to put it on the calendar – and trust me, it’s worth your time and energy.

Leaders identify and invest in other leaders. Make sure you’re leading well into the new school year!

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