Ministry leaders often have volunteers who help their ministries to be what they are. When we see books or articles about working with volunteers, they are often written by a leader, who is sharing their experiences with other leaders. I would like to write this from the perspective of a volunteer, to leaders regarding volunteers.
We all know that your ministry, organization, etc. would NOT be what it is without volunteers! They are crucial to YOU doing your job well. This is why you spend so much time looking for volunteers, and try develop a volunteer “pool” to grab from when you need something.
Do you care for your volunteers? Do they know you really care for them?
As a volunteer myself, I have seen a whole other side to volunteers. As a volunteer I have a family that I am responsible for (God commands it). They have work commitments, they have other activities (kids sports, Bible studies, hobbies, likes, dis-likes). With so many things going on, no wonder volunteers are susceptible to BURNOUT (I know you hate that word!!). Each volunteer you have has connections with people. In Youth/Children’s Ministries they are connected with students, in Worship Ministry they are connected with those you serve, in Boy/Girl Scouts they are connected with kids and parents.
If a volunteer leaves your ministry, they are not just leaving you, but they are leaving a bad taste in someone’s mouth (changing one’s view of the ministry or church/organization). Not only do they leave your ministry and destroy one’s view, but now you are stuck finding another volunteer to fill in the spot that is now open.
Taking care of you volunteers means your volunteers take care of you!
Here are four things that you as a leader can do for your volunteers! (As a volunteer this shows me you care for me, my family, and all I do. It tells me I’m a CRUCIAL part of your team):
1. Regularly send notes of encouragement.
These don’t have to be big! This could be for something we did (came early and helped set-up, practiced and improved on skills, etc) It can also be for their personal life (birthdays, weddings, etc). Do you remember something about them (that time they did XYZ at the church retreat or potluck). Sending a note allows us to know you care about us (outside of ministry as well). This is a simple, and cheap (buy a box of cards at the Dollar Store).
2. Create volunteer teams (that are larger than they need to be to allow for strengthening to happen).
Volunteers often feel like they can NOT miss because the ministry or organization needs them. THIS HURTS YOUR VOLUNTEER FAMILY LIFE! If we feel we HAVE to be at your ministry, then anxiety overcomes us. You want us to know we are missed, BUT you want us to know that we have the freedom to miss a week without feeling guilty for it. With larger teams this allows for a cushion in the case someone is NOT able to be there one week.
3. Pray for and with your volunteers.
As the leader, we trust you with our personal lives (money’s tight, family problems, etc.) because we trust you! Therefore, ADD US TO YOUR PRAY LIST (don’t have one? Make one!)
As someone who has been the leader (administratively and spiritually) in the past, I have found it is helpful to give tasks to those in your ministry who are able to do the tasks! (Pray for them as they take on a new task and do something they are not used to doing). It won’t take long until you become comfortable with this, and you won’t believe the impact your prayers and presence can have on your volunteers
4. Say ‘no’ for your volunteers.
In my years as a Youth Minister, I always had (as do you) those volunteers who would say “yes” to everything! They were life savers, and are crucial to a good ministry.
But be careful about overusing them. As a volunteer, my top priority (after serving God) is my family! We must have a healthy home life, along with our careers, hobbies, and ministry. If you are creating your program in such a way that you can pass the work onto your volunteers without doing any substantial planning and work yourself (I know ministers who do this), you are HURTING your volunteers! Just because someone has the inability, or has never been taught to say no (recommend skills learned from this book), doesn’t make it right for you as the leader to take advantage of that.