It’s no secret that volunteers are the lifeblood of your church. Without them, much of what happens on a Sunday morning (or throughout the week, for that matter) simply wouldn’t be possible. Church volunteers lead teams of other volunteers, serve in numerous ways, put on events, and tackle the tasks necessary to have a successful church service. 

However, church volunteers also tend to experience burnout. Burnout from being overworked and underappreciated can lead to a high church volunteer turnover rate, which can be detrimental to your church. Oftentimes when that person leaves, they take valuable knowledge, experience, and procedures with them. So, what can you do to ensure that there’s a plan in place to create smooth transitions when church volunteers leave? 

To put it simply, your church needs a volunteer leader succession plan. We’ve created a step-by-step process below, so you don’t have to panic next time you hear that a church volunteer is stepping down from their position.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating a Church Volunteer Succession Plan

Follow these seven simple steps to create a church volunteer succession plan at your church. Having this plan in place can save you valuable time and stress in the future.

Step One: Gather a Core Team to Establish a Plan

First, gather a team of staff members who work directly with volunteers to document your succession plan. It’s important that there are key leaders who work together on this so that it holds authority and that the whole staff is on board. 

Step Two: Decide When to Rotate Volunteer Leads

This step is so important! If you want to avoid overusing your church volunteer leads, there needs to be a set timeline that they serve in that position, similar to an elected office. Work with your team to decide how long this time period should be. Two years is a good starting point. 

Step Three: Plan to Establish the Next Leader

Next, come up with a plan to figure out who the next church volunteer leader will be while the current leader is still in position. It’s a good idea to start this process maybe a year into the “term of service.” This should involve cooperation between the church staff and the current volunteer leader. Work together to identify someone who has been serving in that area, who has leadership potential, and would potentially be willing to serve in that capacity. 

Step Four: Train and Equip

Once the next volunteer leader is identified and has agreed to serve, the next step in the process is to train him/her for the position. The best training is on-the-job training, so make sure this person has time to shadow the current leader to ask questions and learn directly from him/her. 

This next leader should also receive access to tools that will help him/her succeed. One of the best tools you can give them is your church management software. Using a ChMS, volunteer leaders can manage to-do lists and tasks, create specific volunteer groups, communicate easily with their team, and so much more. 

Step Five: Celebrate Both the Incoming and Outgoing Leaders

One of the best things you can do for your church volunteers is to make them feel seen and appreciated. As you prepare your volunteer succession plan, make celebrating these leaders a priority. This could be something as simple as recognizing them in your worship service or as elaborate as throwing a party in their honor. For more ideas making your church volunteers feel appreciated, check out this article

Step Six: Prepare for the Unexpected

Like any plan, a succession plan needs to account for the unexpected. What if your volunteer leader leaves midterm without a successor? Or, what if that ministry needs to go in a different direction? Maybe the identified successor turns down the position? The variables are endless, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared. Include a section about the staff having the authority to step in if and when needed. Identifying the ultimate authority will make sure that people know who to look to when the unexpected happens.

For a closer look at some of the pros and cons surrounding volunteer ministry, check out this helpful article here

Step Seven: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Lastly, once your plan is finalized, it’s critical that you get the word out. There’s no such thing as overcommunicating here. This document should become part of the culture at your church. Once your staff, church volunteers, and members all know and accept this plan, succession will be smooth and accepted.

Next Steps

Creating a church volunteer leader succession plan may take a little work up front, but in the long run, it will save you stress and time when volunteers leave your church. This will help to ensure that your ministries continue running smoothly day in and day out.