Volunteers! I love these people. Just the thought of them conjures up so many wonderful emotions. I’ve served alongside some of the best volunteers in the country. Some true rock stars! I hope and pray you are doing the same. In fact, if you have a volunteer team at all, you are.
But, isn’t it true from time to time we get busy in the day-to-day of ministry and often start to make assumptions about our volunteers? I do that. I often find myself working on curriculum prep, summer events coming up, filling holes for people that are on spring break or have a sick child, meeting with parents, etc., . . . and I make that assumption that our volunteers will still be there and that they will just show up. Because, we know Sunday is always coming, and we assume they are too.
But, have you ever had a volunteer suddenly walk up and tell you it is their last Sunday? To you it may seem to come out of the blue, but to that volunteer, it has been a long time in coming. In my early days of ministry that is when I would go home, curl up in a ball and eat cookie dough. But 10 pounds later, I learned that the better thing to do was to follow up with that person to get their feedback. Let me be clear—this was not to try to talk them into coming back. This was solely to connect with them purely for the sake of saying, “Thank you for serving,” learning from them and using that information to make things better. When I started doing this, I found that 90 percent of the time, I had simply taken my finger off the pulse of the volunteer culture. Sometimes it was because I was going through a difficult time personally.
We all have seasons. Sometimes it was because I overcommitted myself. Sometimes, I just forgot to focus on what was really important. No matter the reason, I learned that when I lost touch with my volunteers I missed the small cues that something was off, which led to bigger problems that could have been avoided. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?! When little issues turn into big problem? Especially when they didn’t have to.
So, how do you keep volunteer morale up? How do you constantly monitor what is happening in your volunteer culture? Here are some examples:
Be present on Sunday. I know you are there. But, are you mentally present when it comes to engaging with your volunteers?
Pray together as a team. There is no other way to start your Sunday morning. Ask God for eyes to see what is really happening in the lives of your volunteers. There may be more than what you see at first glance. God can show you.
Walk around and check in on them as they are serving. Thank them for showing up and being awesome!
Check on them during the week. If God lays someone on your heart, that is the Holy Spirit prompting you. Call, text, email or better yet, take them to lunch. Don’t brush that feeling off. It is there for a reason. I promise.
Send a gift. I always designated a portion of my budget for volunteer gifts and meals. If someone is having a rough week, send dinner. UberEats is amazing. If someone needs a pick me up, send flowers. If the team totally killed it on Easter, post a Starbucks card on your Instagram for any volunteer to scan and use for a free coffee. Do fun things that make people feel loved and appreciated. Even if it is a simple handwritten note, it will go a long way.
[bctt tweet=”Do fun things that make people feel loved and appreciated.” username=”orangeleaders”]
Celebrate! I love any reason to party. It is important to celebrate in big ways and small ways with your team. Celebrations with no agenda other than to celebrate are the best! (Hint, hint . . . this means don’t come with a hidden agenda.) Get together just to eat and laugh and have FUN!
Recognize their accomplishments. Give a shout-out on social media to a volunteer who has done something amazing. Share with the team about someone who got a promotion, had a baby, ran a marathon. Sometimes volunteers start to feel invisible when a major life event has happened and no one on the team even noticed. That can cause them to slip away. Please don’t be that person.
Share stories. Your volunteers are the gold, the secret sauce, they are the key to making your ministry work. Without them, there would be no ministry. Because of that, they are going to see life-change happen up close and personal. They’ve got the best seats in the house! Create an environment where they can share the stories that they have a front row seat to. Maybe they were a part of a child’s baptism. Maybe a child’s parent finally came to church with them for the first time after months of prayer. Maybe a nursery volunteer was asked to stand with a family during baby dedication. Or maybe they’ve been changed by the kids they serve. That happens, you know? You think you are going to change a kid’s life, but in reality serving kids will change you. Whatever the stories are, make sure to share them with each other. Those stories of life-change will fuel the fire and keep the passion for serving alive.
I hope these ideas help you lead, love and encourage your volunteers. What do you do to keep a finger on the pulse of the volunteer culture within your ministry? How do you keep the morale up?
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