Attracting and Maintaining Volunteers
Volunteers are vital to the life of the Christian community. Careful selection of volunteers will help ensure a safe environment for all. To ensure the best for your volunteers and the people you serve, take care to select individuals whose skills and interests best match the position you are seeking to fill. Conduct interviews and provide a written description of the volunteer position. Include the following in the position description:
- Skills and qualifications for the position
- Expected time commitment
- Duties and responsibilities
Value each person’s desire to help. If a person volunteers for a position and you do not think he or she is a good fit, try to suggest another position within the parish or school that would be more appropriate.
Prior to beginning volunteer work, anyone who will be involved in a ministry with minors (those under the age of 18) or vulnerable adults (those who are uniquely vulnerable to abuse because of physical or mental disabilities) must:
- Agree to a criminal background (CORI) check – see below for more information
- Attend a “Protecting God’s Children” Safe Environment training, a seminar on identifying and responding to child sexual abuse
- Agree to the Code of Ministerial Conduct, a set of guidelines that need to be understood and adhered to by all who minister on behalf of the church, including volunteers. All volunteers must read the Code of Conduct and sign a form indicating that they will abide by the guidelines. All signed forms should be kept on file in a secure location.
CORI checks (a check for Criminal Offender Record Information) are mandated by the Archdiocese of Boston. In addition, Massachusetts state law requires CORI checks for volunteers of programs that serve children and volunteers providing services to elderly or disabled persons in a home or community-based setting.
Based on the work or volunteer ministry a person does within a parish, those who generally need a background check include (but are not limited to) catechists, teachers, Eucharistic ministers, altar server coordinators, music ministers, volunteers at a parish picnic or carnival, counselors, chaperones, youth group leaders, coaches and assistants.
For more detailed information about CORI checks, please see Background Screening.
If the scope of a person’s volunteer work includes driving, additional requirements apply. Volunteers should:
- Be at least 21 years old.
- Be made aware that his/her insurance is primary.
- Be informed of MA law regarding cell phone use. It is illegal to use a hand held cell phone while driving. It is also illegal to text while driving.
- Agree to a driver’s background check
- If driving children or vulnerable adults, the volunteer must take the Protecting God’s Children training and be CORI’d
Enriching the Volunteer Experience
Good communication is essential. Maintain an open door policy by providing the volunteer with contact details of his/her supervisor in case the volunteer has a question or concern. Provide opportunities for volunteers to get to know one another; this helps foster a sense of community, which is especially helpful if you have volunteers who are new.
Sometimes a parish has a few good volunteers who seem to do everything. As reliable and enthusiastic as a volunteer may be, take care not to call upon the same person or people over and over. This often results in volunteer burnout, and it also gives other parishioners the impression that their help is not needed. Frequently reach out to parishioners via bulletin notices or announcements after Mass and ask for volunteers for specific roles. There may be some in the congregation who are waiting for an invitation to offer their services.
Stress the importance of maintaining a positive environment. Give constructive feedback and positive reinforcement when possible. Remember that volunteers are giving of their time and talent to support the mission of the church. Don’t forget to say thank you. A simple thank you for their efforts goes a long way.
If a volunteer decides to leave, be sure to ask the reason –feedback is important. Conduct an exit interview, if applicable. It will give the volunteer an opportunity to express feelings and concerns he or she may have.
In addition to the required safe environment training, offer relevant training when possible. If you are offering a first aid course to staff, for example, think about extending the invitation to your most reliable volunteers. Having a well-trained volunteer force helps maintain the safety of the church or school environment and shows volunteers they are valued.
Safety and Security
Help to establish a culture of safety and security at your parish or school by encouraging everyone to keep an eye out for safety concerns. Encourage volunteers to report any and all concerns to supervisors.
Be sure the volunteers know what to do during safety drills. They should be made aware of the location of fire alarms, first aid kits, and Automated External Defibrillators (if applicable). All volunteers should be briefed on what to do in the event on an accident or injury.
Promptly respond to complaints regarding your volunteers. Immediately bring any concerns you may have to the attention of the pastor, school principal, or the Director of the Office of Pastoral Support and Outreach (telephone 617-746-5995); email: Vivian_Soper@rcab.org. If there is an emergency, and you believe that a child is in imminent risk, please call 911, and then contact the Massachusetts State Hotline (1-800-792-5200).
Volunteers of archdiocesan programs are covered under our general liability policy. Our coverage provides up to $50,000 in protection for covered medical expenses, hospitalization and accidental death and dismemberment suffered by volunteers accidentally injured while acting in their capacity as volunteers.
In addition to a death benefit of $15,000, the program provides a benefit for various degrees of permanent injury according to a schedule provided within the policy. For more information, please contact Joseph McEnness.