I recently asked a new subscriber to this site what her greatest challenge as a ministry leader was and she replied “getting and keeping volunteers.” It’s something we all can relate to, right? I don’t know anyone who doesn’t need more volunteers. However, there’s a very interesting relationship between getting and keeping volunteers. I find that we’re usually better at the getting and because we’re not always good at the keeping, we have to keep on getting. Know what I mean?

I recently read a pretty amazing volunteer book from my friend Darren Kizer, “The Volunteer Project: Stop Recruiting. Start Retaining.” I’ll unpack this book more in detail next month, but it’s worth picking up if recruiting/retaining volunteers is something you’re interested in. The main idea of the book is that if we did a better job retaining volunteers, we’d not have to recruit nearly as many volunteers. Interesting concept.

Here’s what I’ve recently learned. My team, like most teams, is constantly recruiting. We onboard hundreds of volunteers every year. This year, we’ve been doing a lot of research around how we recruit and retain volunteers. The biggest find for us was this. What helps us recruit volunteers is very different from what helps us retain volunteers. Let me explain.

When we recruit, we cast compelling vision. We talk about the opportunity to change the future of a child or student. We talk about making a difference. This is compelling to people. They want to matter and they want their life to mean something. This is huge and we can’t forget it. However, we’ve found that this vision is no the primary reason why people continue to serve. Yes, it helps to continually cast vision so that people don’t forget why they signed up – but it won’t be enough.

We surveyed our best volunteers, those who have been serving for 3+ years and more than any other reason, they told us why they continue to serve year after year.


Being known and knowing others. People want to make a difference, but sometimes a more immediate felt need is reconnecting with people you know and love. Sometimes this community is found within a group of kids/students they lead. We have volunteers who serve for years and years because they can’t imagine stepping out of the lives of their group of boys or girls. Most volunteers find deep and meaningful connections with each other.

Notice that I didn’t say that we are doing great at this. We’ve seen that where this is happening, our volunteers are serving for a really long time. This new understanding is helping us to see where we can make community easier for all of our volunteers. We’re currently in the works of developing new strategies to make community in our NextGen environments a priority.

How does community happen in your kidmin environments? What things have you done intentionally to make it a priority?