7 Things Your Volunteers Really Want

Think back to the days when you weren’t on staff at a church.

You were a volunteer.

For some of you, that’s a long trip down memory lane.

For others, it’s a bit shorter.

Either way, if you’re working in full-time ministry now, you were a volunteer somewhere along the way.

I want you to think back to those days because I want you to remember what you wanted as a volunteer.

What made you say yes?

What made you show up week after week?

What made you feel like you were making a difference?

Understanding what you wanted as a volunteer will help you understand what your volunteers want. And understanding what your volunteers really want will help you lead them better.

7 Things Your Volunteers Really Want

Get the bonus content: What Volunteers Want (audio training)

1. Fun

Your volunteers want to have a good time. They want to laugh. They want to enjoy what they’re doing. Life is too short to waste time with things that are boring and lame. Volunteering should feel more like fun and less like work.

Action Step:

Help your volunteers have fun when they serve.

2. Team

Your volunteers want to feel like they’re part of a movement. They want to be on a team that’s shaking things up and reaching students for Christ. Volunteering is a great way for someone to meet new people and feel connected to your church. That sense of team is the reason why some of your volunteers stick around year after year.

Action Step:

Help volunteers get to know other volunteers.

3. Spiritual Growth

Your volunteers want to grow in their relationship with Christ. They’ve said yes to an opportunity to grow in their own faith while contributing to the faith of others. Andy Stanley says, “Ministry makes people’s faith bigger” (Deep and Wide, 130). As they prepare, learn, and lead, your volunteers are walking with God in a way that is not accessible to people who don’t volunteer. Maybe that’s what keeps them coming back.

Action Step:

Identify some ways your volunteers have grown in their faith as a result of being a volunteer.

4. Sense of Purpose

Your volunteers want to feel like they’re making a difference. They have a sense that they were made for more than a life spent commuting to and from an office or staying at home all day. Binge watching shows on Netflix isn’t nearly as satisfying as the advertisements make it seem. Your volunteers crave a sense of purpose. Serving can give it to them.

Action Step:

Share stories that highlight the difference your volunteers are making in the lives of students.

5. Care

Your volunteers want to know that you care about them, not just their performance. The people who feel disconnected at your church are usually the ones who show up for the service and then leave. This week, I visited two of my volunteers. One has breast cancer. The other had a knee replacement. Those visits are important because they communicate my care for those people beyond what they’re able to produce in our ministry. When you care for volunteers, they will care for students.

Action Step:

Send a thank you card to two volunteers this week.

6. Consistency

Your volunteers want to know what they can expect from you. They have their own lives and families to keep up with, so you need to do what you can to eliminate the guesswork for them. Send the lessons out on the same day every week. Hold your meetings on a regularly scheduled date. Don’t change things over and over again. Make a decision and stick with it. Don’t be super-positive one week and super-negative the next. Do what you say you’ll do. Be consistent.

Action Step:

Create a schedule and stick to it.

7. New Opportunities

Your volunteers want the chance to advance. Be willing to hand off more responsibility to your high-capacity volunteers. When you were 14, it was exciting to drive your parents’ car around the cul-de-sac. When you were 16, you wanted to take that car out of the neighborhood. Leaders want to feel like they’re making progress. If they don’t, they’ll find something else to do. Increased responsibility is a sign of increased trust.

Action Step:

Identify someone who is ready for more responsibility.

Get the bonus content: What Volunteers Want (audio training)

Your Move

Do you remember the things that you wanted when you were a volunteer?

Your volunteers value those same things today.

They want to have fun.

They want to feel like they’re part of a team.

They want to experience spiritual growth.

They want to connect with a sense of purpose.

They want to know you care.

They want to have consistency.

They want to be presented with new opportunities.

When you offer your volunteers those 7 things, you’ll see a lot less turnover and a lot better results.

Suggested Resource:

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Trevor Hamaker (DMin, McAfee School of Theology) is an author, adjunct professor, and youth ministry coach. He helps youth pastors see their potential, develop their skills, and reach their goals.

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