Risk Bite 15: Managing Volunteers

Volunteers in congregations are essential to our mission and the services we provide. Looking after our volunteers is very important so everyone is safe, and volunteers can thrive in their ministry roles.  

A new Congregation Volunteer Policy and Procedures have been developed to help simplify the management of volunteers. This policy does not require completion of volunteer application forms or detailed role descriptions. It also has lower requirements for some roles than others, depending on the level of responsibility and trust of the position. 

The following is a quick guide to managing volunteers; 

  1. Ask someone to coordinate volunteers: The Volunteer Contact Person completes the Volunteer Register and keeps Church Council in the loop about who is volunteering, and where things are up to with essentials like checks and training. 
  2. Complete a Volunteer Register: The Volunteer Register Template can be downloaded from the Synod website. This register lists the roles, the volunteer type (high trust, or other volunteers) and who the volunteers are. It also captures needed background checks, when they were done, and other requirements such as training. All volunteers should be on the register, and it should be kept securely and routinely noted in the Church Council minutes. 
  3. Ask all volunteers to read and sign a code of conduct: A sample code of conduct is provided by the Synod. This can be adapted by a congregation, and provides an opportunity to express our expectations for everyone, and that careful, respectful and safe behaviour is a priority for your congregation. 
  4. Choose new volunteers with discernment: We are not all cut out for the same tasks, and as a body, we have different gifts and talents. Also, some people are unsuitable for some roles. We should use discernment based on our knowledge of each other relationally, as well as observing any required or prudent formal background checks, especially for those working with children or vulnerable adults. 
  5. Give induction and training to volunteers: Some jobs only need simple instructions, like where to find items or briefly how to do a task. Other jobs are more complicated, have safety risks, or have higher consequences if they are done incorrectly. This is particularly true for leadership roles or those which work with children. A Volunteer Manual template has been provided to give congregations a base resource to adapt for training and inducting volunteers, and it should be read by all high-trust volunteers (and anyone else who is keen)!  

It is important to keep the Volunteer Register up to date. How often it needs to be reviewed depends on the volunteer numbers and how frequently things change. It’s a good idea to look at it after church council is elected, and at the beginning of the year when ministries and activities are getting started up. 

You might have great ways of supporting your volunteers, like having regular conversations about volunteer roles; how volunteers can raise concerns or issues, safety and emergencies, having appropriate boundaries and so on. If you have some ideas or resources and are willing to share with other congregations, please let Bel Ritchie, Synod Risk Manager know. 

More information is available on the Engaging Volunteers page on the Synod website. This is accessible via the Congregation Governance Toolkit page. 

Thank you to all our volunteers and those who care for them!