We all know how challenging it can be to get and keep volunteers. There are a variety of strategies for how to communicate the need and invite more people to serve.

However, we also want to pay attention to how we keep volunteers on the team. There’s one tool you may not have considered yet when it comes to retaining volunteers (and adding to their ranks). That tool is conducting a volunteer survey.

Why survey volunteers?

When someone in authority or someone you respect asks for your opinion, how does that make you feel? You probably feel valued and appreciated, right? The same principle applies to your volunteers.

They are on the front lines during weekly services. They’re the ones checking in children, talking with parents, seeing traffic jams in the parking lot, hearing comments from guests, and more. When you take the time to ask for their input, you communicate that you value their insights plus you might be surprised at what you learn.

One easy way to survey volunteers is to use an online tool like SurveyMonkey. You can create the questions, send out a link via email, and collate responses quickly. Keep the survey a reasonable length (no more than 10 questions) to ensure people will take the time to fill it out.

Here are a few questions to ask:

1. Why did you decide to start serving?

This question helps you identify people’s motives for serving. It can also reveal what communication methods worked best in getting people to sign up to volunteer (personal invitations, announcements from the stage, etc.).

2. How would you describe the process of signing up to serve?

Was it easy to know where to sign up? Did it take weeks for anyone to follow up with them?

3. Did you attend a training session and receive any documented instructions before you started serving?

If not, you either don’t already require training before someone starts serving or there’s a hole in the process. Every volunteer role needs at least some training. It might consist of a 20-minute session with a short handout or something much more in-depth based on the position.

4. What do you think prevents more people from serving at <insert church name>?

When you’re on staff at a church, it can be difficult to see things from a newcomer’s perspective. Get insights from volunteers on this topic and make adjustments as needed.

5. Do you feel appreciated and valued as a volunteer?

If not, please let us know what we could do to change that since we do appreciate you (we may not have done a good job at communicating that).

Provide volunteers with a text field to enter their comments with this question. If they don’t feel like their role is valued, that can lead to volunteers dropping out. You may need to communicate how each role contributes to your church’s overall mission, relay testimonies of people who were positively impacted by volunteers, etc.

Give volunteers a deadline to respond to the survey (maybe two weeks), then review the responses.

As you read their responses, guard against getting defensive about any criticism. Whether you feel a comment is valid or not, it reflects the perception some volunteers have so you need to be aware of it and determine how to proceed.

Also, there could be a lot of truth to what they’re telling you. Ask God to help you read their comments with a humble attitude and to guide you in what steps you should take now that you have this information.

Implement any suggestions you can and, when you do, give credit to volunteers who completed the survey for their ideas. While the survey should probably be done anonymously, it still communicates that you value their input when you use it to make positive changes.

Investing the time to conduct a survey and taking action based on what you learn can make a significant difference in a church’s volunteer program.