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Retaining Volunteers: the “Stay Conversation”


“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (I Thessalonians 5:11)


The “stay conversation” is between a priest and/or the parish volunteer manager and a key volunteer with the hope of retaining the volunteer in active service to the parish.


A successful conclusion to this conversation consists of two things: 1) the continued spiritual, emotional and physical well being of the volunteer; and 2) the retention of the key volunteer in continued service within parish activities.


Asking questions and listening carefully and sensitively to volunteer responses offers the gifts of caring, presence, concern, appreciation, affirmation, belonging, shared purpose and personal connection. These expressions of love are very often what volunteers hope to receive through the time, energy and talent they offer to God in the parish. Speaking ecclesiologically, this event is actually an immensely practical manifestation of Eucharistic communion in the life of the parish – serving and sharing together in the body of Christ.


The manner of the discussion consists primarily with the priest and/or the parish volunteer manager asking open questions and listening carefully to the responses of the volunteer.

Here are samples of helpful questions to ask:


How can we help you to continue or improve upon the great job you are performing in the parish?


What do we need to do to continue to receive the valuable contribution of your time, energy and talent?


What might cause you to leave your important responsibility?


“What is it about your volunteer service position that motivates you to come down here on a regular basis and help us?


What are challenges or difficulties you may be experiencing in your service?


“If something caused you to stop volunteering, what would you miss the most about your service here?”


“What do you want to learn this year?” This can unearth ideas for enriching a job.


“Does volunteer service give you back as much as it takes out of you?”


Share with the volunteer the importance you attach to their service and if possible, help them to see the benefits and positive results that their service brings to the parish.

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