What persuades someone to leave the house an hour earlier on Sunday morning, show up before there’s coffee and spend the greater part of their weekend serving at their church? What encourages busy professionals to spend extra time sharing their talents and expertise with you for free?
Chances are, it’s not just that you’re a fantastic leader and person. That’s probably true, sure, but to manage volunteers well, it’s essential to understand the three reasons why your volunteer teams are opting to serve—and one major reason not to. Armed with that understanding, you’ll be able to train, support and retain teams better than ever.
Good Reason Number One: They want to give back.
A sign of Christian maturity is what you see in the fruit of a life changed by Christ— these are people so excited about what God has been doing for them through the church that they want to see it grow. Ask yourself—Are you keeping the excitement of your volunteer teams alive by celebrating God’s work in them?
Good Reason Number Two: They want to connect.
Especially for newcomers to your church community, serving can be a wonderful way to work alongside the rest of the body of Christ. Provide the space for people to connect with each other—right before a shift or service, at occasional social hours or during training sessions—and you’ll see friendships growing and your team thriving. (Plus, serving with a friend makes showing up consistently easier.) Ask yourself, “Am I being intentional with my teams to foster authentic community and friendship?”
Good Reason Number Three: They know their work is appreciated.
The biggest misconception held by volunteer managers is that volunteer time is free. Not true! As with any worthwhile investment, cultivating a volunteer community demands your attention, careful planning and clear communication. Yes, an annual appreciation event is an important way to communicate your appreciation for volunteer time, but volunteers need to be told that their work is important with every shift, both through the time you put into supporting them and through your words. Ask yourself, “Have I fostered a church culture where volunteers are celebrated and supported?” Bonus points: you’ll get a much better answer if you plan an anonymous survey and ask your volunteers themselves. Their answers may surprise you.
Armed with these three reasons, you’ll be able to tap into what keeps your volunteers coming to volunteer and keeps them coming back.
However, there are a few wrong reasons for volunteers to keep coming back. We’d like to share with you the most important one.
One Bad, Terrible Reason: They feel guilted into volunteering.
Hopefully, this sounds like a no brainer to you, but as churches struggle to cover costs and pull off services and ministries, the temptation to see volunteers as commodities rather than your community is real.
Remember that you’re inviting people to serve the kingdom of God, as an outpouring of God’s grace to them. God will build His church with or without volunteers (or staff!), so it’s important to invite people to serve for the right reasons, not grudgingly and out of a sense of obligation. Ask yourself, “Do I trust God enough to bring in the workers He’s already nudging to serve?”
Bryan is the Director of Connections at North Coast Church where he manages hundreds of volunteers in multiple ministries each week.
Want to learn more about recruiting, training, leading and keeping volunteers? Then join us for Sticky Teams in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on April 18-19 or Charlotte, North Carolina, May 2-3. You will be able to chose from several Pre-Conference and Breakout Sessions that deal specifically with volunteer teams. Click here for more information about Sticky Teams.