3 Steps for Connecting a New Volunteer into the Right Role

It can be tempting, when you’re faced with lots of open volunteer roles and not enough people to fill them, to just plug open roles with warm bodies. And the truth is, we’ve all done that on occasion. But anyone who’s managed volunteers for a long time understands that successfully connecting a volunteer into a long term (1 year or more) role requires connecting them into the right role for them. Doing that requires more of your time and attention on the front end but will save you (and your volunteer) a lot of stress in the long run.

This is the second in a four-part series of posts on fundamentals of volunteer management. Check out the first entry from last fall on Volunteer Recruitment.

1. Find the Right Fit

The first step to effectively connecting a volunteer into a church service role is to find the right fit. This means considering the volunteer's gifts, talents, skills, experience, personal style, interests, and availability.

Here are some specific things to consider:

  • Gifts/Talents/Skills/Experience: What are the volunteer's natural abilities and interests? What skills and experience do they have that could be valuable in addressing a need?
  • Personal Style: Does the volunteer prefer to work independently on tasks, or do they enjoy interacting with people? Do they prefer a structured environment where they do predictable tasks following a set of specific instructions, or do they like unstructured environments where they have less predictability and more flexibility?
  • Interests: What are the volunteer's interests and passions? What are they most excited about doing?
  • Time Commitment: How much time is the volunteer able to commit to volunteering? Putting a volunteer who’s available an hour a month in a role that requires an hour a week will be frustrating for you both.

Once you have a good understanding of the volunteer's unique fit, you can start to match them with service roles that are a good fit. It's important to remember that it's okay if the first role isn't the perfect fit. You can always work with the volunteer to find a better fit or adjust the role to better meet their needs.

2. Make It a Date, Not a Forever Commitment

When you connect a volunteer with a service role, it's important to be clear it's not a forever commitment. Both the volunteer and the church should have the opportunity to evaluate the fit and make changes as needed.

It's a good idea to start with a three-month trial period. This gives the volunteer enough time to experience the role and decide if it's a good fit for them. It also gives the church enough time to assess the volunteer's performance and determine if they are a good fit for the role and the church’s needs. Set the expectation that you’ll meet with them again in 90 days to discuss whether the role is working out or if a different role might be a better fit.

3. Three-Month Follow Up

At the end of the three-month trial period, meet with the volunteer to evaluate the fit. Ask them what they are enjoying and what they would like to change. Also, ask them about their time commitment and whether they can continue volunteering in the same role. Share with them where they are excelling and provide coaching on any areas in which you want them to improve.

If the fit is good (they’re both enjoying it and meeting your expectations), continue with the volunteer in their current role. If the fit is not good, work with the volunteer to find a better fit or adjust the role, if possible, to better meet their needs. It's also important to be prepared to redirect the volunteer to another role if necessary.

Here are some tips for redirecting a volunteer:

  • Be honest and transparent with the volunteer about why you are redirecting them.
  • Focus on the volunteer's strengths and how they can be used in another role.
  • Be willing to work with the volunteer to find a role that is a good fit for them.
  • Be supportive and encouraging.

By following these steps, you can effectively connect volunteers into church service roles that are a good fit for them and meet the ministry needs of the church. This will help to maximize their impact and ensure a positive experience for both the volunteer and the church. Volunteers who are succeeding in their role tend to be happier and stick longer in their service position.

Getting Started:    Which of these steps, if you began to use it today, would make the biggest positive impact on your volunteer management?

Yvonne Gentile is our Guest Experience & ShareChurch Lead Director, a former retail industry executive, and co-author of four books. She and her husband Frank have been part of Resurrection since 1996. Together they enjoy movies, road trips, and spending time with family.