Set Your Volunteers Up For Success

calsıssWhat is it like to be a volunteer on your team? Gather your team together, put up a creative board, and start describing what it’s like to serve on your team. Better yet, invite some volunteers to the meeting and listen to what they have to say.

Every year, we gather our team together to talk about our volunteers’ experience. Then, we create a plan to improve the experience. We try to paint a clear picture of a win, and we go after it.

Here are four questions to get you started:

  1. What do they need to know to do their jobs?

  2. Once you’ve made a list of everything they need to know, prioritize it. You shouldn’t tell them everything at once. Don’t create a volunteer manual. Most will never read it.

    Tell them a few things at a time. Create several ways to communicate information. Give them some details in an orientation, ask another volunteer to give them hands-on training, send them an email, or record a CD.

  3. What tools do they need

  4. We found that when we gave our coaches clipboards with a few simple questions on them, we were much more likely to capture the information we needed at the end of Sunday.

    We found that we needed to provide several Bibles for every small group of children with the verses highlighted to make it easier for Small Group Leaders to facilitate activities with younger elementary kids.

    What about providing a printout with the monthly birthdays of their kids and a stack of birthday cards?

  5. What obstacles can we remove?

  6. We survey our volunteers every other year. One of the things we ask is what would keep them from continuing to serve. This is an obstacle.

    This is why we serve simple breakfast food for volunteers and their families to make it easier for them to arrive on time. And why we provide a leadership room for volunteers’ children so the kids can have a good time while their parents serve. This is also why we help volunteers find subs when they need to be out.

  7. What would make it more fun?

  8. People are attracted to laughter. If you can create a place of joy, even better! They want to feel like they are more than a team. They want to work with their friends. Turn up the fun, and you’ll create a volunteer opportunity that’s hard to resist.

Your volunteers are attracted to more than a job; they are attracted to an experience. They want to make a difference. They want to do important work and to like the people they are serving with. With some focused attention from your team, you can have the most appealing volunteer gig in town.

Please share with us the questions you ask to shape a better volunteer culture.


  1. Love all of this – Great stuff – Thanks for sharing! Would love to see pics up your Pajama Jam setup and what all you did! Saw some pics on FB – looked like a Fun morning

  2. One more…regularly ask for their input on what could be done to make it better – then involve them in the process of making it best (maybe even use the 3-month / 1-year check-in as you do for new employees)! NPCC does a great job of this – model for other organizations to follow! #VolunteerEngagement #BuckheadChurch

  3. Hi, I am a Children’s Church Director for your church and would like to know ways that you discipline or deal with unruly children? The age group I am over is from 5 years old to 12 years old.

    Thank you.

    Joanne Martins
    Living Word World Outreach Church

    • Maria Harman says:

      Hi Joanne,
      Thanks for your comment. Since we’re only with the children for an hour, we do our best to make it the best hour of their week. We give a lot of positive reinforcement, redirection into something else, and if they need a little more help we would try giving them a buddy to help them. That’s the quick version, but I hope it helps.

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