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4 reasons your church is losing volunteers after COVID-19

Thom Rainer headshot

One of the most common challenges we are hearing from church leaders is the unexpected loss of volunteers. It is always a challenge to get and keep volunteers, but the problem seems exacerbated since the pandemic.

The challenge is real. Here are four of the most common reasons your church is losing volunteers. 

  1. Some members are in their own phased-in plan to return to church. These members are hesitant to return to in-person activities. They are still concerned about exposure to COVID-19. They may be participating in socially-distanced worship services, but they are not quite ready for next steps. The good news is that these members will likely return to active volunteerism.
  2. Some members were already phasing out before the pandemic. Your church was likely to lose them anyway, not only to volunteer ministries, but to the church entirely. They were headed toward dropping out; the pandemic accelerated the process.
  3. Some members have lost sight of the vision during the pandemic. They were motivated to volunteer as they captured the vision for the church. But it has been difficult for pastors and other church leaders to articulate a clear vision during the pandemic. Most leaders were doing everything they could just to hang on during these unprecedented times.
  4. Some members have moved away from volunteering since their small groups were not meeting in person. Many church members in small groups are motivated to volunteer together with fellow small group members. That motivation obviously diminished during the pandemic when the groups were not meeting in person.

A number of church leaders are doing a commendable job of holding on to volunteers during these tenuous times. Here are four best practices that are being implemented to counter the four common reasons volunteers are dropping out of their positions. 

  1. Stay in touch. Even if your church has begun regathering, stay connected to church members and volunteers through multiple touchpoints. Encourage small group leaders to connect regularly with others in the group. Volunteers can fade away when they aren’t hearing anything about and from the church.
  2. Keep the vision in front of the church. Remind the church members of why God has called them to do ministry together. Use multiple and creative ways to communicate the vision. While the pandemic may have moved the church to do the vision differently, it has not made the vision go away.
  3. Emphasize gathered groups more than ever. Yes, we are all grateful for technology that allowed our groups to continue meeting digitally. But the in-person connection just can’t be replaced. As soon as it is wise and safe, encourage your groups to resume meeting in person. Most volunteerism comes from group members.
  4. Move quickly to bring new persons into volunteer positions. We are following a fascinating trend in many churches. The mix of those attending in-person services includes more new people than before. While churches are losing some of their existing members, God is bringing new people into the congregation. They represent key opportunities for new volunteers.

We at Church Answers will continue to monitor the developments in church volunteerism. I would love to hear from you. What is your church experiencing in this key area of church life?

Originally published at Church Answers 

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.

Rainer has written over 30 books, including three that reached number one bestseller: I Am a Church Member, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, and Simple Church. His new book, The Post-Quarantine Church: Six Urgent Challenges and Opportunities That Will Determine the Future of Your Congregation, is available now.

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