Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Larry Fowler's recent book, Rock Solid Volunteers: Keep Your Ministry Team Engaged, (Regal Books, 2011).

Does it seem like there’s more ministry work to do than people do it? Do you have trouble recruiting good volunteers to contribute to your ministry’s work, or sadly watch good volunteers quit when you still need their help?

It’s possible to get good volunteers to serve faithfully in your ministry if you engage them in ways that will motivate them to give their best effort. Here’s how you can engage your ministry’s volunteers:

Start with prayer. Make prayer your first response whenever you encounter any kind of crisis or special need for God’s guidance, such as opposition or open doors. Ask God to give you and your ministry’s volunteers the strength, comfort, and wisdom to deal with whatever happens with the ministry. Let your volunteers know that you’re praying for them regularly.

Give families opportunities to serve together. When volunteers serve alongside their spouses, children, siblings, or other family members, they may enjoy serving more and be more likely to stick with regular service. Create opportunities for families to serve together at events such as evening vacation Bible school, on local community service projects, or on family mission trips. Recruit family members of existing workers to contribute to the ministry’s work.

Keep your volunteers focused on the right issues. Counteract distractions that can weaken the quality of your volunteers’ work by helping them focus on what kindles their passion and motivates them to give their best effort to their work. Also, whenever you want to lead them in a certain direction on a particular issue, focus on one issue at a time, such as the importance of being on time or the need to see the big picture of how their volunteer work impacts others. Shepherd them through the changes you’d like to see them make by heading in that same direction yourself and lovingly calling them to follow you rather than trying to drive them harshly. Help your volunteers remember key concepts you’re trying to communicate to them by reviewing, reminding, and repeating.

Help your volunteers find personal meaning in their work. If your volunteers find personal meaning in their ministry work, they’ll be less likely to quit than if they didn’t find their work personally meaningful. Get to know your volunteers’ personalities and passions, and try to place them in ministry positions where they’re best able to connect with people to make a positive impact and feel fulfilled. As often as possible, include your volunteers in the thrill of leading people to relationships with Christ. Talk with your volunteers about how they can grow spiritually from their service experiences, and give them opportunities to do so. Express your heartfelt appreciation to your volunteers often, through whatever ways would be most meaningful to them, from giving them gifts and to writing them thank you notes.

Equip your volunteers for their work. Give your volunteers the support they need to do an excellent job. Establish a clear chain of command and follow-up policy, unified strategies for all ministry workers, clear rules for volunteers and all the people they serve, and an organized structure that helps volunteers understand what to do and when to do it. Train your volunteers to develop all the different types of skills they need to work effectively in your ministry, such as teaching skills and technical skills. Come up with incentives to motivate your volunteers to work hard, such as encouraging words, gifts, or awards.