children ministry

How To Reduce Negative Turnover With Your Team

This past year, we had many of our volunteers in the children's and youth ministry step away. Many of them who did were ones who had stuck with us during the pandemic. While each of their reasonings was unique, the overall theme was that they needed to take a step back and do something different. 

It's been difficult to lose some of those volunteers because they were loyal, hard-working, and had been with us through a difficult season, but to expect them to serve forever would have been naive. Anytime a volunteer steps away, whether they've been around for two weeks or 20 years, you mourn their loss.

Turnover in your ministry will happen because God calls us in and out of ministry. It's a reality that we have to embrace and what we have to also recognize is that not all turnover is bad.

HEALTHY TURNOVER HAPPENS WHEN someone leaves well. In other words, they aren't leaving because of burnout, anger, or a negative experience. They've given you plenty of notice and won't just go missing as soon as a decision is made. 

Someone might leave because of a career or life change that impacts their commitment. Another person might step away because they feel God has increased their passion for another ministry. This type of turnover is out of our control; therefore, we should recognize that it's a part of God's plan.

When these volunteers step away, we should celebrate their time in the ministry. It's important to show these men and women gratitude for what they've done, and even if we're sad about their departure, we should be sure to pray over and for them in their journey. When we help volunteers leave well, we let them know that the Church cares about all aspects of their lives. 

UNHEALTHY TURNOVER HAPPENS WHEN someone quits out of frustration or exhaustion. They might give you plenty of notice, but they might also disappear. Unhealthy turnover occurs when expectations do not meet reality and there is a feeling of anxiety, frustration, and distrust. This type of turnover is usually because of something we did or did not do.

When these volunteers leave, we need to sit down and evaluate their experience. It can be a little brutal but at the same time, fruitful. You might want to delegate this task to a neutral person to create a vulnerable environment. But, take the feedback you receive and use it to improve how you recruit, train, and care for volunteers.

So, how do we reduce negative turnover? While it depends a lot on your paradigm, this is what I've found helpful over the years:


We've found that when you partner people up, whether they are small group leaders or setting up chairs, you reduce any chance of isolation and loneliness. When someone has a buddy, they can lean on, they know that when they aren't at 100%, their partner can pick up the slack.

Additionally, you are creating a safer environment for the next generation, you are providing accountability, and it reminds people that they are a part of a community. I've always believed that I'd rather have a small group of 12 kids with two leaders than two groups of six with one leader each. When your volunteers know that there are other people in the trenches with them, they'll stick around a little longer.


I volunteer weekly with an afterschool program that meets at the local middle school. My supervisor is great at checking in with me. He'll send me email and text reminders, and then a few times of year, we'll grab a bite to eat. The regular check-ins make it easier for me to tell him if I'm struggling with the group, but it also makes me feel like I have a stake in the success of the program.

When you check in with your volunteers, you are not only telling them that you care about their well-being, but you are inviting them to return the investment. It's in those moments when you can share vision, talk strategy, and listen to their ideas.

Granted, you might not be able to do this for everyone who serves with you, but try to meet with as many people as possible throughout the year. If you have other point people in your ministry, ensure they do the same. When people know that they have an opportunity to lament, celebrate, and be real with those in leadership, they'll commit more to the long haul.


We all know that we can't hold onto volunteers forever, and even if you could, the mission of the Church continues to grow. The need for volunteers is always present, so you should never stop recruiting. When you bring in new people, you not only build depth but allow the veterans to invest in the future of the Church. You tell your team, "I want you all to help me build this community by mentoring the new people coming into the program."

As the leader, you should always be recruiting and investing in the professionalism of your ministry. That means keeping your leaders updated on trends in the mission field they are working. It's important to help them develop their prayer life and know what the Church teaches. When you have growing disciples amongst your volunteers, you'll be able to grow disciples out of those you serve.

God is going to surround you with the people you need. He knows that ministry is not a solo endeavor. As the director, coordinator, or person in charge, it's essential that you make sure the culture of your ministry is healthy. Remind your volunteers that they are not alone, that they have God, a community, and the potential to witness amazing things. Keep your volunteers connected, and you'll be able to help them stay and leave well. 

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