The truth is churches—on a whole—struggle to retain volunteer leaders. The consequences of high turnover, whatever the cause, have a devastating effect on all involved: the church, the volunteer, the ministry leader, and ultimately the Kingdom.

When you consider that online companies like Google, Facebook, etc. likely know more about the volunteer leaders in our ministry than we do–something has to change. In this age of algorithmic segmentation, customized marketing appeals, and instant information, how much more sustainable would our ministry efforts become if we adjusted our ministry approach and focused on retaining the leaders we depend upon?

"It’s our job to discover and develop volunteer leaders so our ministries can continue to expand, advance, or enhance the Kingdom."

Implemented properly, these five steps will significantly increase volunteer leader retention in ministry and will give you the single most important advantage in advancing the Kingdom—longevity!

1. Know them.

This is where everything has to start. There are three things we should pay attention to: personality, preferences, and prickle points. Thanks to companies like Google and Facebook, knowing our people has never been at the premium it is today. The better we are at this, the more likely we are to have a happy, healthy, and a reproducing leader.

2. Position them.

Once you know them, you need to position them in their area of strength. What are they superb at naturally? Set them free to lead in their area of giftedness, not your desire to check all the boxes and cover your bases.

3. Platform them.

Once positioned, you should build a platform unique to their gifts and abilities. When you know someone and have positioned them well, success will follow. With their success, give them more and more opportunity to multiply and grow new leaders; which adds leverage to your ministry.

 

4. Pay them.

Monetary compensation is one of the most over-rated types of pay. The simplest and most universal is appreciation, that is a personalized “thank you.” My wife still has a personal note from a pastor from more than twenty years ago thanking her specifically for what she did and the impact it had. The note means the world to her. Appreciation dinners are predictable and impersonal. Find ways to pay your volunteer leaders, or you could find yourself with a negative relational bank account very quickly.

5. Promote them.

I’m not talking about a new title and a big corner office. I’m talking about the type of promotion where you praise your leaders in public to others. Tell others both inside the church and outside the church about the great work a leader is doing for you. Compliments always seem to find their way back to the volunteer leader and comes back to you in the form of commitment, creativity, and loyalty


The good news is this process is completely scalable whether you have five, fifteen, or five thousand volunteer leaders. If you will invest in this process, your church would only lose volunteer leaders when God truly calls them away (which is a Kingdom win) rather than the typical migration due to frustration, stagnation, or lack of attention.

It’s our job to discover and develop volunteer leaders so our ministries can continue to expand, advance, or enhance the Kingdom. We, as pastors and church leaders, have been given that responsibility, not anyone else. No formulas or short cuts here. Just the hard work of engaging with people and doing life together.

What steps are you taking to ensure you’re retaining the very best God is directing to your church to build the Kingdom and multiply your ministry capacity?

There's always a next step:

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