I don't know what you all do in your ministry, but we have our adult volunteers sign a covenant. It asks them to commit to the ministry for a year. We communicate that if "life happens" we understand, and they can take a season off and return when they are ready. So, it's not ironclad. But it communicates how important their role is. We didn't always do a covenant. The reason? I was afraid to ask people if they would want to return for another year. I know it sounds crazy, but I had my doubts.
I didn't know if people were serving out of guilt, or some obligation to their child.
And rejection stinks! No one wants to invest himself or herself in someone only to be pushed away. So, I didn't ask if they were staying or going. I just assumed (and I don't have to tell you all what assumption does). The covenant has helped me at least know I have people for a year. In that way, it's helpful. But there are some much more substantial things you can do to keep adult volunteers around. Here are a few tips to ensure that your adult volunteers stay around forever . . . or at least a long time:
Start By Investing In A Few
In my first year of student ministry, I tried to meet one-on-one with everyone on my team, which was about 16 people. This doesn't seem like a huge number, but to empower, equip, and move them with a high level of attention was unrealistic. Right now I pour into 5 people because I know that's my limit. That's the largest group of people I can truly give all of my attention. By investing in a few you will have the ability to invest in many, because those you invest in will want to pass it on.
Build Community And Camaraderie
I use to hold monthly meetings where I would just go over the agenda of an upcoming series, answered questions, and talked about my needs and wants. It was unproductive and it drained everyone. You go the distance with the people you know best, the people you love, the people you grow and share life with. As youth ministers, we need to spend the majority of our time getting to know the people who serve alongside us. When you gather your team make it about going deeper relationally.
Feed Them Vision Constantly
How long would you ride in a parked car? A youth ministry without vision is a ministry going nowhere. If your ministry lacks vision, your volunteers will have a difficult time pulling through when serving gets hard. In many cases, vision is the incentive to why adult volunteers stick around. They want to be a part of something big, something that has purpose and something that will bring them closer to God. If all you need are chaperones or one-time volunteers all you need to do is ask. But to have the people who are going to carry you when ministry gets hard, to have the people who are going to invest in the students, the ministry, and the church, you need to think long term.
Contracts and covenants are great way of showing others how serious you are about ministry, but they do not guarantee that the person signing them has the persistence and perseverance needed to walk with teens through their adolescence. So invest in your adult volunteers, make them a part of the team, and show them where you are going.
How do you build longevity in your ministry teams?