by Jerry Chiles, Coach, Consultant, and EQ trainer with the Barnabas Partnership

volunteerHow many times in the church have volunteers been recruited with the line “You can do it, it won’t take much time”, or “We really need you to fill this position.” Volunteers are not for filling slots but gifted persons who can make a difference. Volunteers of today are different than volunteers of the past. Guilt and duty are no longer reasons for people to volunteer. When people volunteer they want to make a difference.

In the following article, “Why Churches Can’t Get (and Keep) Volunteers,” Thomas G. Bandy says what volunteers want to get out of unpaid service is:

  • The joy of being part of a big, bold, powerful, exciting vision
  • New and deeper friendships that enhance their entire life
  • Sincere appreciation for not only their work, but for their personal gifts and individual qualities
  • Training that is so useful that they can apply it to their careers, families, and personal pursuits

If our volunteers are to have these experiences, we must awaken in them and help them recognize their passions and giftedness.

Why does an organization like Activate Good have 11,391 volunteers with 358 nonprofit partners?

I would say that this organization meets the criteria that volunteers are looking for as described by Brady.

Take an honest look at the church. Have we recognized what worked in the past may not work today? What are some of the ways we can connect to volunteers in a 21st century way?  Bob D’Ambrosio in “Three Roles for Leading Today’s Volunteer” asks the following questions:

  • Does your church website have an online volunteer sign up process?
  • Do you text your volunteers to stay in touch?
  • Have you led a volunteer training on Zoom or Skype?

While using these three questions may not work for you, we can learn from them. His first question deals with recruitment. Does the church make it easy or difficult to volunteer? Do we clearly communicate the expectations and needs to be accomplished? Do volunteers understand they can truly make a difference and that this cause is worth working for?

His second question deals with communication. Do volunteers know we are personally investing in them with our presence?  Do they know we care about them and want them to succeed? Do they know we will listen to them and respond to them even if the answer is not what they expected? Are we willing to be a coach for them giving them freedom to make choices?

The third question deals with leadership.  Can our ministry demonstrate the vision to be accomplished? Will we fight for the resources needed for the volunteers?   In other words, will we be an advocate for them? Can we help volunteers be a part of something bigger than themselves? Can we recognize and praise them and still hold them accountable? Do we have an open door policy for volunteers? Do we have a way of dealing with conflict in a positive way?

Bob D’Amboise says “change is necessary to be successful in equipping today’s volunteers. Whatever it takes, and however uncomfortable change may be, it is necessary to make our ministry, our churches, and our volunteers thrive in today’s culture.” Do volunteers thrive in the church?


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