Why are my volunteers leaving? (Part 1)
Volunteers are a vital part of every ministry; they can't function without a solid team. With that being said, volunteers can either make or break a ministry. I believe that volunteer-related issues are among the top two frustrations that cause kid's pastors/directors to quit. It can feel like perpetually riding on a roller coaster of emotions when it comes to keeping our volunteer teams staffed, equipped, and appreciated. You finally fill every position in all of your kid's ministry rooms for Sundays, and your best volunteer quits the following day. You decide to start a brand new ministry on Wednesday nights, and three volunteers stop showing up out of nowhere. You get a new family to say yes to volunteering, and another family leaves. Does any of this sound familiar to you?
I wish I could tell you that I have a magical formula for recruiting and keeping all of your volunteers forever, but I can't. If I had that formula, the title of this blog post would be "Stop recruiting volunteers forever!". That's the dream isn't it? Come back to reality with me. Here are two statements about volunteers that we must come to accept as true:
- We can NEVER stop recruiting new volunteers.
- Volunteers will NEVER stop leaving our ministries.
Both of those statements will always be true. It doesn't matter how many books we read about training volunteers, or how many workshops we attend about recruiting volunteers, or how many blog posts we read about having the best volunteer team ever. Volunteers will still leave our ministries. We have to learn that it's not always personal when a volunteer leaves our ministries, in fact most of the time it's not about the leader at all. When I first got started as a Children's Pastor, I took everything personally. As soon as a volunteer would quit, and I would automatically assume they had an issue with me or something I did. That was an unhealthy way of thinking that made having relationships with my volunteers very difficult. In the last few years, I have come to realize that while volunteers leaving my ministry does affect me, it is not always my fault. I have learned that there are many reasons that have nothing to do with me or my leadership abilities that might be causing volunteers to leave my ministry.
4 reasons your volunteers might be leaving your ministry:
- They are moving away.
We have had several families who were amazing volunteers in our kid's ministry move out of the state in the last couple of months. We were very sad to lose them, but their decision to move away had nothing to do with our ministry.
- They are transitioning into serving in another area of ministry.
Sometimes people will volunteer to serve in our kid's ministry, and after a few months or even years of serving they realize they would like to serve in another area of the church. This can be a harder transition to swallow as the leader of the ministry, but it important to remember the bigger picture of the church as a whole. The person who is leaving your ministry is not quitting serving all together. They are simply serving in a different capacity. We must remember that we want people to serve in the ministry that is the right fit for them.
- They are leaving the church because their theology doesn't line up.
We have had a few families leave our church recently because their personal theology didn't line up with the theology of our church. If that is the case, we would want them to find a church that fits their beliefs and theology.
- They are burned out.
Sometimes volunteers get burned out because we allow (or ask) them to serve too often. Other times, we receive volunteers who have been burned by a previous leader or ministry. Whatever the reason, if a volunteer is feeling burned out, it's time for them to take a break. It might only be a temporary one, but we need to let them take the time they need to heal and rest.
This is certainly not a comprehensive list of reasons volunteers leave, but they are some of the reasons I have noticed in my time in kid's ministry.
What are some of the reasons you see volunteers leaving your ministry? How do you handle losing volunteers?
Stay tuned for Part 2 as we look at how we can handle losing volunteers and rebuild our volunteer teams.