I’ve been noticing a bunch of blogs recently on the topic of retaining volunteers in ministry. This is an extremely vital issue in the Church. So, I’ve offered a small list of my own personal high points below.
– Notice: Many times we use the term ‘appreciate,’ and we absolutely need to appreciate all who serve in our individual ministry areas. I will strongly suggest, however, that being regularly noticed combats the very likely thought of “I’m being taken for granted” from entering their mind. This is simple, but requires being intentional. Here it is. Make an effort to be sure they see you seeing them in action.
– Know: Sure, most of realize the benefits of knowing the spiritual gifts, personality type, experiences, etc. of our team members. But I would challenge you to also know something about their life outside of the ministry. Are they enduring a current trial? Is there a high point to celebrate with them? What are their kids’ names? This level of involvement can happen over coffee or lunch, making small talk when passing in the church lobby, or even a phone call asking them how you can pray for them this week.
– Contribute: Our volunteers need to know the vision and direction for their area of ministry. Additionally, those who have input to share need to be given the opportunity to do so. Now…being given a voice is one thing, but being heard and considered is translated as ‘value‘ to any volunteer. It says “I care what you think.” What I am not saying is for you to be a people-pleaser. Lending someone an open ear does not entitle them to make changes in the ministry…especially if those changes go against the over-all vision of the church. On the other hand, listening to others should help keep key leadership humble and from always thinking that we need to have all the answers.
Are you up for a really bold challenge? Ask your volunteers how you are doing in the three areas mentioned above.
Interested in other bloggers with experience on this topic? Check out Jim Wideman and Craig Jutila.
When I was in High School, I took this special class called ‘Reading, Writing, and Running.’ The name pretty much sums it up. For the first thirty minutes the class would leave the school campus and run. We would run different routes assigned each day, averaging anywhere from 4-7 miles. When we returned to class we would spend the remainder of the class reading magazine articles related to running, and then journaling about our running experience that day. To be completely honest, I signed up for the class because of its apparent lack of academic demand. What I didn’t think about was the amount running….and I’m not a runner. I hated that class.
It was hot and sunny one day, and I remember getting overly exhausted very quickly. I would run for 5 or 6 minutes, lay down on the ground, and try to catch my breath until I could get back up and begin running again. I continued this cycle a few times until the teacher noticed me during the motionless ‘ground’ portion of my cycle. He said something to me that has stuck with me over the years. “When you feel like you need a break from the pace you are running, DON’T STOP MOVING!” He said, “Just slow down to a moderate walk. This keeps you from cramping up and maintains your heart rate until you are ready to run again.”
On a physical level, this really helped to improve my stamina. In recent years I’ve come to realize this timeless nugget of wisdom also applies to our spiritual stamina. In those times that we find ourselves completely drained from volunteering, dealing with life’s unpleasant speed bumps, or even flying Mach 2 on the wings of happiness….we can come to a point of exhaustion in which all we can think to do is stop and drop everything. When this happens, keep moving! Don’t get me wrong. Take time to pause, evaluate, and pray. But refrain from giving up. Slow your pace down and spend some time in God’s Word. His Spirit will give you your breath back. You will have the strength to endure.
Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:30-31 (NLT)
Are you current lying in the grass, sweating profusely and trying to catch your breath? What would it take for you to get up and just begin a slow, upright movement forward this week?