5 Ways to Increase Volunteer Training Attendance

Why don’t people show up to my training meetings?

This is a common question, (and complaint), I hear from church leaders.

The common response is to fault the volunteers. Among the common conclusions are:

  • They aren’t committed.
  • Their priorities are wrong.
  • They are just too busy.

I can understand the leader’s frustration, but not the common response.

While those things might be true (but usually are not), focusing on them is not the answer.


Here’s a simple truth I know about every volunteer that didn’t show up to your meeting. They were somewhere!

That means you got out-gathered. Someone set the table better than you did. They made the offer more attractive and captured their attention better than you did.

Let’s acknowledge the reality that not everyone can make every one of your meetings. That’s never going to happen. Life won’t allow it, so that’s not the goal. Instead, let’s talk about improving your attendance, for example, from 40% of your volunteers showing up to 60-70%… perhaps even 80%! (If you already have over 80% of your volunteers consistently showing up to all your meetings, you don’t need to finish reading this post!)

Your training meetings are important, but a better approach is to ask the question:

What can I do as a leader to make the invitation more appealing?

1) Assume the best about your volunteers.

If you think your volunteers are flaky, they will live up to that expectation. If you think they are fantastic, they will live up to your level of belief in them. Remember, they signed up and said yes! They are already among the best of the best! They are fantastic! Always give the benefit of the doubt.

2) Everyone is busy, don’t let that discourage you.

It’s true that schedules are crazier than ever. Your teams are super busy. That’s not a problem, that’s a fact of life. Lead in such a way that reflects a sensitivity to their schedules rather than feel defeated because capturing a couple hours of their time is difficult. Your job isn’t easy, but it’s very doable.

3) Make the purpose and value clear.

Always be clear about why you are calling a training meeting. “Regularly scheduled” meetings without purpose are demotivating. Make sure you emphasize the vision as much as (if not more) than the responsibilities you are training them for. Give your volunteers a reason to be there. Just because you sent an email saying there is an “important training meeting” doesn’t automatically make it important. Tell them why and communicate the specific value and benefit. This will also help you determine the effectiveness of your meeting because you have goals to measure against.

4) Establish relationships with your key leaders so they want to be with you.

One of the beautiful things about the local church is that it’s based on relationships. God set it up that way; from the covenant relationship with Abraham to a personal relationship with Jesus. The local church is made up of people moving together toward God, reaching others for God. Let your teams know that you genuinely care about them! Always express gratitude and appreciation. Yes, the mission is essential, but they are part of the mission! People are drawn to people who love them. Love wins.

5) Make every meeting worthwhile.

The bottom line is to create a reputation that every time a volunteer gives you an hour, you give them something that was worth that hour. Prepare like crazy. Don’t ask a group of volunteers to show up to something that you spent a few minutes throwing together. Candidly, that’s why they don’t come back. Communicate how valuable and important they are by delivering top-notch, creative, and practical training. When they leave, they should feel encouraged, equipped, and energized!

If you consistently follow these guidelines, I believe that your volunteers are much more likely to attend!

7 thoughts on “5 Ways to Increase Volunteer Training Attendance”

  1. When are you most engaged in an ask? For me, when I catch the vision.

    Parking Team – When I see the servant heart in the eyes of those who are willing to stand outside in the blazing sun, pouring rain and do it all with a smile on their face. I want a yellow shirt!
    Greeters – When I hear stories of people who felt so welcomed coming in for the first time that they want to come back. I want to be one of those people!
    Hospitality – Every time I go to a function and I am served by amazing people who have a smile and take special care to ask me how I am and to enjoy myself. I want to serve with them!
    Nursery – When I hear stories of volunteers who are praying over babies and leaving parents at ease knowing that their children are cared for over the next hour. I want to pray over a young one!
    Coffee – When I see the coffee volunteers continuously serving others with their smile and their fare. I want to be a barista!
    Children’s Ministry – When I hear stories of parents who are in awe of their 6 year old who comes home sharing how much fun they had and talking about Jesus and can’t wait to go back. I want to serve on stage!
    Student Ministry – (THIS IS MY HEART!!) When I hear stories of students who have found Jesus and walked away from fear, worry, anxiety, cutting, thoughts of suicide and found the One who is their Healer. I want to be the One who has the honor of watching God move in their lives!!!
    Production Team – When I talk to one of my students and see the excitement in her face when she gets to help in setting the atmosphere for the service. I want to be in Production!
    Prison Ministry – When I hear stories of young men and women who break from bondage and find the saving grace of Jesus. I want to be the one who pours into them and points them to Christ!
    Missions – When I hear stories of communities building wells and medical clinics, I want to go on a mission trip!

    I know that I’ve missed a few, but each role is important, none more important than the other. We have a wonderful opportunity to serve as His Hands and Feet. It is so much more than a “volunteer role”, when you serve you have the opportunity to see God move!!!

  2. As a volunteer, I may not show up if I feel I know the subject matter well enough. I guess that goes along with #3 and #5. I do make an effort to attend production training in my area of interest, even though I’ve been serving for quite a while in production, you never know what you might pick up. So “I know it already” may simply be a spiritual maturity issue and that’s a whole different topic.

    1. Glad you got a chuckle out of that line… and Ken, always know that I appreciate you even if you don’t show up to a training meeting! 🙂 But it’s always better if you are there! Some of the younger ones learn from you!

  3. Thanks Dan, I find the most important element is respect for my time when I volunteer. Meetings need a time agenda as well as a topic agenda. Then if you can get it done in less time, let everyone go but state that, you the leader, will hang around to answer any questions. Thanks always for your valuable insights.

  4. Dan, everything you write is helpful, but this article is so profound, so insightful…this one thing alone could transform most churches! Love and appreciate my friend!

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