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5 ways to improve a volunteer meeting

5 ways to improve a volunteer meeting

As I looked around at a volunteer staff meeting three years ago, I stopped talking, completely discouraged. Less than half of our volunteers were present. Several looked painfully bored. Three had come in late and one was packing up getting ready to leave early. I couldn’t seem to keep a good attendance from the volunteers no matter how hard I tried to impress upon them the importance of being at staff meetings. Equipping volunteers can be a challenge when there are no volunteers present to equip. It was time to make some radical changes.

It took several unattended meetings before we made some drastic changes to our volunteer staff meeting schedule and agenda. Those changes started with a meeting to find out what the volunteers wanted from the leadership, what they felt like they needed to do well. Along the way, we discovered several principles that changed our view of meetings and helped us create an environment where volunteers felt cared for, had fun, and left feeling equipped.

We all desire that our Volunteer Staff Trainings are memorable and that NO one wants to miss even one of them, but where to start? Below are 5 principals that have increased our volunteer attendance and participation considerably:

1.     Make them more than another meeting.

Prior to our changes, we referred to our staff trainings as just that…meetings. Who wants to attend another meeting? We started calling our staff meetings, Volunteer Staff Trainings. This small adjustment refocused our equipping times and conveyed to our volunteers that they will be “equipped” or “trained” by attending. We promise our volunteers that our staff trainings are not just updates and event information. They will be equipped in areas of student ministry.

2.     Never let volunteers leave empty handed.

Who doesn’t like free stuff? At our staff trainings we always hand out free items including gift cards, books, candy, key chains, t-shirts, etc. We often hand out materials and books that will assist them personally in their relationship with God OR help them as a student ministry volunteer. Both are important.  You may be thinking, “I don’t have a budget that can support that!” There are creative ways to incorporate free items in your staff trainings. You can talk to local business owners in your congregation and ask them to consider helping support the volunteers who donate their time or contact businesses in your community to support volunteers who “give back” to local youth. You can also contact companies to donate books if you have a smaller budget. Simply Youth Ministry is just one of the organizations that desire to help ministries with a small budget. If none of these pan out…. everyone has a dollar store available to purchase inexpensive gifts!

3.     Focus on their soul.

We no longer begin our staff trainings with details, events, changes, program updates, etc. Instead we start by investing in the volunteers and finding out how they are doing in their own personal walk with God. It is more important that they are serving from an over-flow than showing up on time for events (even though we all appreciate that!). Find creative ways to incorporate checking in with your volunteer’s relationship with God in each one of your volunteer training sessions. Investing in your volunteer’s spiritual journey is one of the most important ways you can create community and a place where volunteers want to serve.

4.     Incorporate fun… And lots of it!

We all know there is a lot of information and details to cover in volunteer trainings, so “fun” may be the last thing on our minds. However, our volunteers crave fun. When we have youth ministry events we want them to focus on the students and not on each other. Volunteer staff trainings are a great way to build community, have fun and give ample opportunities to catch up with one another. We spend a lot of time coming up with creative and fun activities for our students, why not our volunteers? Incorporating fun elements to your trainings will only increase attendance and allow for your volunteers to enjoy one another! You will not regret this!

5.     Communicate that you care.

It is easy to focus our energy on the students in the ministry. Instead, invest more of your in the volunteers so they can invest in others. Take your volunteers out for a burger or cup of coffee on a regular basis and ask them how you can better support them as they serve the youth in the ministry. Investing in your volunteers prepares them to invest in others. It will create a community where they feel they can lead and take ownership in the ministry. You can also check in by sending weekly emails or sending a quick text letting them know you are thinking/praying for them.

Next week, we’ll look at 5 more ways to improve volunteer meetings, but in the meantime, what are some ways that you could incorporate these ideas into your next volunteer meeting? We’d love to hear from you. Be sure to include a comment with your ideas and thoughts regarding training meetings with your volunteers.


Meredith Dahl
Executive Directory at Cross Connection Ministries
Meredith is the Executive Director of Cross Connection Ministries in New Holland, PA. She has received a Bachelor of Science in Student Ministry and a Master of Arts in Ministry (Concentration in Student Ministry) from Lancaster Bible College. Meredith and her husband live in New Holland with their baby boy Liam and love living, working and volunteering in their community.