No Man is An Island – Not Even Your Volunteers

Wayne Stocks —  August 31, 2011

IslandWhat is the most important thing when it comes to retaining a volunteer?  That is a question I have been asked a number of times and ones that I have discussed with innumerable people.  I believe that, in the end, the single greatest thing you can do to retain volunteers comes down to relationship.  Breaking that down a little bit further, I believe there are three components to relationship which are critical:

  1. The Volunteer’s Relationship with God
  2. Volunteers’ Relationships to One Another
  3. The Volunteer’s Relationship with the Kids in Your Ministry

We have focused on all three of these aspects here on Kidmin1124, but today I want to take a few minutes to talk about fostering relationships between your volunteers and between you and your volunteers.

John Donne once wrote,

No man is an island, entire of itself
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
if a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were
any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls
it tolls for thee.


Typical of other Renaissance poetry, this particularly poem addresses two common themes:

  • That man is interconnected
  • A vivid awareness of our own mortality

So, what does John Donne and the Renaissance Era have to do with children’s ministry?  Well, that’s a longer post and probably not all that interesting, but I my mind was drawn to this poem this last weekend when talking about one of our summer volunteers.  Bear with me, I promise to pull this all together shortly.

I was speaking with our children’s ministry director this weekend about one of our volunteers who has been filling in this summer as our regular volunteers take vacation and enjoy a little time off.  She has been a real blessing to our ministry and to many of our volunteers the past three months.  As we were talking, our director told me that one of the things that really helped her out was something I do that I had never really given much thought to.  Apparently, the fact that we walk around each weekend to all of the rooms and “check in” with each small group leader to make sure they are ok and have everything they need had had a very real impact on this temporary volunteer.  In her words (at least as they were related to me), that made her feel like she wasn’t “on her own.”

Of all the hundreds of times I have asked the question, I can only remember a handful of times when someone actually needed my help.  In the end though, it was the offer itself that helped her to feel like she was part of team of people who were there to support her.  It was very simple way to start to build a relationship with her.

Why do I share this story?  Is it because I’ve happened upon some secret that I feel that the world needs to hear?  Not really.  It wasn’t even my idea to start the process.  I share it because I was reminded of something important this weekend.  People need people – that’s the way God designed us.  And, volunteers need other volunteers.  They need to be, and feel like, part of a team that supports one another, cares about one another and checks in every once in a while to make sure everything is ok.

I’m glad to report that this particular volunteer who signed up for the summer has agreed to stick around as a “floater” in our ministry for the year.  Never underestimate the power of relationships!

Wayne Stocks

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Wayne is married to a wonderful woman and has four kids whom God uses to teach him on an almost daily basis. He is blessed to volunteer in a wonderful children's ministry at New Life Church Gahanna. He established Kidmin1124 for those who give their time to kids and feel passionately about children's ministry. When he isn't working on Kidmin1124, he maintains another blog at and contributes articles on a regular basis to

One response to No Man is An Island – Not Even Your Volunteers

  1. Great reminder, Wayne. When I was Children’s Pastor, I loved to walk around and “visit” the different areas, and I usually picked one particular area to focus on each week, rotating through our areas over a couple of months.

    And I love how you have other volunteers in these roles. Yes! A great way to develop leaders, spread your vision, and give new responsibilities to those who have been faithful.

    It sounds like part of the role as we had for Coaches, as I wrote about here: