It’s rare that I talk to a pastor who says, “We’re actually fine with our current number of volunteers.” Unfortunately, when it comes to finding, training, and retaining volunteers, most churches and organizations fall victim to the “Revolving Door Effect.”
If you’ve ever watched a kid use a revolving door for the first time, you know that it can be somewhat confusing! The same feeling can overcome many of your volunteers as they enter into service for the first time, and that confusion can prevent them from getting through to the other side of steady, long-term service.
Sometimes volunteers show up once or twice and never show up again. We’ll call them the “quick exiters.” They come in, take a few turns around, and exit out the other side without committing to long-term service. Other volunteers enter and stay in the rotation, going around and around. Because they never fully catch the vision for steady service, they spin about until they are dizzy and get burned out. We can call those volunteers “the go-rounders.” Either way, churches have voids in their volunteer crew and must recruit and train new ones.
What we need is some advice from the revolving door experts—hotels. Here are two lessons we can gain from hotels to solve our Revolving Door Effect in the Church:
1. Communicate why volunteers should step in.
Hotels have to convince people to choose them over competitors. Churches have to fight the same battle over competing time commitments and interests. One of the most important things your church leadership can do when training volunteers is to help them grasp the vision behind performing the service. By doing so, you will not only help them take the first step inside, you’ll also give them a greater understanding if any problems arise or they get burnt out.
2. Help volunteers step all the way in.
Most hotels that have revolving doors employ bellmen to stand out front and assist users with anything they might need. These people make sure you have everything you need to make check-in simple and easy. They also train you in anything you should know about the hotel, your room, or your stay. Heck, they can even help you figure out the revolving door if you have trouble! You need to have people (either staff or other volunteers) who are able to guide and assist new volunteers with any questions, problems, or concerns as they step fully into service.
3. Make sure volunteers are enjoying it.
In the same way that hotels work to get repeat guests, churches have to work to get repeat volunteers by ensuring they are having a good experience. If, for some reason, they’re not connecting with a particular ministry, it’s your job to do everything needed to find them “another room” in the same “hotel.”
If we want to stop the Revolving Door Effect on our church’s volunteer teams, we can take these lessons from hotels and start implementing them. You can find more tips and insights on increasing volunteer engagement with our resource The Challenge of Leading Volunteers.
How has the Revolving Door Effect impacted your church or ministry? What systems have you put in place to help volunteer retention?