Stop Taking Volunteers for Granted


No other organization depends as much on volunteers as the church.
We’ll pay for a preacher, an organist, and a sexton. If there are resources, we’ll shell out for an additional pastor, a secretary, an education director and a choir director. Beyond that members are expected to volunteer — and pay for the privilege.

Back in the days of small-town America, we were the only act in town. We began to take members for granted. 

Today, for every church there are dozens of non-profits vying for the attention of your members—and their donations. Many of them are church agencies and institutions—already funded by church offerings! Churches are competing with organizations that take volunteers so seriously they create offices to nurture the giving of time and money. Congregations need to foster membership just to keep up.

Businesses are well aware of that it costs more to find new customers than it does to keep old customers. They regularly address and measure CUSTOMER RETENTION.

Similarly, churches need to address MEMBER RETENTION. Too often, churches act like if when people leave, it’s their problem. We are wrong. Remember that Bible story—the one about the lost sheep? Today’s churches willingly watch dozens leave without doing a thing to stop them.

Today, I read a post addressing VOLUNTEER RETENTION.

VOLUNTEER. Doesn’t that describe the church population facing the altar?

Start using data.
Church life flows like a lazy river. People come and go. No one pays close attention. Start keeping track. Are your most loyal members drifting? Find out why!

There is a tendency in church life to let the disgruntled leave. We concentrate on keeping key people happy. Talk to those who feel disconnected before they leave entirely. Churches cannot fix problems they do not acknowledge. If the people who have been most loyal are upset, it is likely to affect your ability to reach others in your community.

Illustrate their impact.
Charities are pretty good at telling the story of how monetary donations aid mission. Churches need to remember that every volunteer hour donated by members is worth more than $20. Regularly tell the story of your volunteers. Let them know they are making a difference.

Show them you appreciate them.
Have a plan for engaging volunteers. Create a follow-up process that thanks and encourages them to volunteer again. Thank you cards, an annual banquet, and special events should become part of church life.