By Alison Zeller
The New Year is here, ushering in a new year of ministry programs. Are you reorganizing any of your programs this year? Trying out something new in worship? Looking to center your church around a new goal?
Amidst all the changes that 2019 may bring to your church, one thing will remain the same - volunteers will be an integral part of your ministry. Because volunteers are so critical to your church and to the body of Christ overall, you want to make sure they are joyfully serving.
Did you know that a few simple questions could make the difference between your volunteers joyfully serving or your volunteers looking for the quickest exit? If your volunteers can answer the three questions below, they’ll likely thrive and do their best in their ministry role. If they can’t provide answers to these questions . . . they probably won’t stick around for long.
- Is this the right role for me?
Volunteers want to contribute to your ministry in a meaningful way. That means the volunteer roles they serve in should fit their spiritual gifts and talents. If the role does not match their skills, volunteers will quickly become bored, overwhelmed, or disinterested. (A spiritual gifts inventory can be really helpful for this.)
We know that growing spiritually is a major motivation for church volunteers, but some volunteers may also be looking to gain skills or build their resumes. This is especially true for teens and college students. The ideal role for this type of volunteer is one that pairs the new volunteer with a more experienced volunteer.
One of the quickest ways to make volunteers question their roles is to interfere with their schedules. If the volunteer role forces a person to juggle his or her schedule, it adds extra stress to life. Nobody wants that. So, don’t assume you know a person’s availability. Ask about potential scheduling conflicts right from the start and ask again before adjusting the volunteer’s role.
- Where do I go if I have a problem?
Do your volunteers ever have problems? Of course, they do! But, you may not know about it because the volunteers have no where to go to voice their concerns. They may end up getting so frustrated that it’s easier to quit than to figure out a solution.
This applies beyond problems and challenges, too. Where can your volunteers go if they have a great idea about how to refresh a program? Where do they go if they need to switch shifts with another volunteer? Where do they go if they have a friend who’d like to volunteer with them? If your volunteers can’t answer these questions, they may be feeing disempowered or marginalized - not a good sign for volunteer retention.
The answers to these questions will depend on your individual church and ministry. However, all churches should have a clear line of communication for volunteers. And, it should be written down and handed out to volunteers at their orientation.
- When will my role end?
Ongoing, seasonal, short-term, long-term, lifelong - there are various lengths of service in ministry. No matter the length of service, be upfront and clear about your expectations of volunteers. If your Sunday school teachers think they serving for only one year, but you have them scheduled to teach for three years, you’re going to have a big problem on your hands - and some very upset volunteers.
Of course, this end date is not set in stone. Things happen. Ministry is fluid. You will have to adapt. But, the best strategy is to be clear and honest when you are asking a volunteer to serve longer or when you are effectively “letting go” of a volunteer.
So, picture your volunteers as you reread these questions. Would they be able to answer confidently? Go ahead and ask the questions to a few volunteers. Then, gather your church leaders to discuss other potentially unanswered questions among your ministry volunteers. Devote 2019 to answering those questions and building a thriving base of joyful volunteers!
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