Attracting and Maintaining Volunteers
Volunteers are vital to the life of the Church. Without them, many important ministries and services would not exist. Careful selection and training of volunteers helps to ensure a safe environment for all.
To ensure the best for the volunteer and ministry, take care to select volunteers whose skills and interests match the position you are seeking to fill, and be sure to set clear expectations. Conduct interviews and provide a written description of the volunteer position. Include the following in the position description:
- Skills and qualifications for the position
- Expected time commitment
- Duties and responsibilities
- Screening procedures
For more information on volunteer job descriptions, as well as other volunteer resources, please see the Volunteer Management section of our website.
If a person volunteers for a position and you do not think he or she is a good fit, rather than turn the person away, try to suggest another position within the parish or school that would be more appropriate.
Background Checks and Safe Environment Training
Once a volunteer is signed on, the next step before the volunteer begins his/her ministry is to conduct a background check and, if they are working with or in the vicinity of children, volunteers must complete the safe environment training program. Remember that forms and information pertaining to the volunteer are confidential and should be kept on file in a secure location.
If the scope of their volunteer work includes driving, then additional requirements apply. Volunteers must comply with the following:
- Be at least 21 years old
- Complete the “Volunteer Driver Form” and the “Volunteer Acknowledgement Form”
- Be made aware that their insurance is primary
- Be informed of cell phone use policy: no use of cell phone or other hand-held device while driving
- Complete the “Be Smart-Drive Safe” training
Enriching the Volunteer Experience
Good communication is essential. Maintain an open door policy by providing the volunteer with contact details for the coordinator or supervisor in the event the volunteer has a question or concern.
Provide opportunities for volunteers to get to know one another. This is especially helpful if you have volunteers who are new to the parish, and it helps foster a sense of community.
Sometimes a parish has a few good volunteers who seem to do everything. As reliable and enthusiastic as a volunteer may be, take care not to call upon the same person or people over and over. Not only may this result in volunteer burnout, but it may also give other parishioners the impression that the parish does not need their help. Frequently reach out to parishioners via bulletin notices and announcements after Mass and ask for volunteers for specific roles. There may be some in the congregation who are waiting for an invitation to offer their services.
Stress the importance of maintaining a positive environment. Give constructive feedback and positive reinforcement when possible. Remember that volunteers are giving of their time and talent to support the mission of the church. Don’t forget to say thank you. A simple thank you for their efforts goes a long way.
If a volunteer decides to leave, be sure to ask the reason – feedback is important. Conduct an exit interview, if applicable. It will give the volunteer an opportunity to express feelings and concerns he or she may have.
Offer relevant training when possible. If you are offering a first aid course to staff, for example, think about extending the invitation to your most reliable volunteers. If a volunteer will be working with children with food allergies or special needs, be sure the volunteer receives the appropriate training. Having a well-trained volunteer force helps maintain the safety of the church or school environment and shows volunteers that they are valued.
Safety and Security
Help to establish a culture of safety and security at your parish or school by encouraging everyone to keep an eye out for safety concerns. Encourage volunteers to report any and all concerns to supervisors.
Be sure the volunteers know what to do during a drill. They should be made aware of the location of fire alarms, first aid kits, and AEDs (if applicable). All volunteers should be briefed on what to do in the event on an accident or injury.
Always promptly respond to any complaints regarding your volunteers. Bring any concerns you may have to the attention of the pastor or school principal.
The proper placement of volunteers and consideration of their interests can ensure that the pool of people willing to contribute their time and energy remains abundant. The process begins with reducing the risks to volunteers as well as to the organization. Although the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 protects an individual from liability for negligence committed while acting within his or her scope as a volunteer, this protection does not extend to the church parish or other organization. Therefore, it is important to follow best practices in risk management to order to conduct each ministry safely, while minimizing liability.
The Diocese of Lafayette provides volunteer accident insurance for those volunteers who are injured while working in their capacity from a participating school or church parish. For more information, please see the Volunteer Accident section of this website.