The most recent role model I’ve seen for volunteering is Katniss Everdeen. She stepped forward to take her sister’s place in The Hunger Games. It was noble—any volunteering is. But what did she sign up for? She’s hunted by her peers, fights genetically modified beasts, starves and nearly drowns.
Not the example of volunteering I’m looking for.
Volunteering in the church is meant to be life-giving. It’s meant to have value and can even be fun. In an ideal (but possible) world, people would want to give of themselves because they believe in what they’re doing and why they’re serving.
Volunteering in the church should not be a dystopian death match. Yes, that’s over the top, but church volunteers do get burned out, over-worked, neglected and forgotten. Important work can grind to a halt because we don’t know how to make the most of our volunteers.
So how do we take care of our volunteers while still getting the work of church communication done? Here are a few ideas:
Focus on the Why
There’s a reason people volunteer. They want to be part of something. They want to know they’re making a difference. So emphasize the why when you’re pitching your ministry. Has your communication team revolutionized the way your church spreads the gospel? Does your youth ministry change teenager’s lives? Does your welcome ministry turn visitors into members? Focus on the goal every time you recruit volunteers. And every time you do work, keep the focus on that goal. Share and celebrate those stories. Remind your volunteers that they made it happen.
What kind of volunteers do you need? What ministry opportunities does your unique environment present? Be thorough; think through all the nooks and crannies of what you do. There are a lot of different kinds of people in your church you can draw from. Once you have a good idea of what you need, make a list. Volunteers will feel under-utilized if you don’t plug them in, so it’s important to know what your needs are first.
Recruit, Recruit, Recruit!
Share what kinds of volunteers you’re looking for (writers, graphic designers, committee chairs, etc.) and what skills they need to have (writing, graphic design, administration, etc.). Let people know what they’re signing up for (a job description is a good idea). Be specific by targeting certain kinds of people. Post your needs everywhere you can: social media, your website, the church bulletin, etc. As always, be creative with how you communicate.
Once you’ve got your volunteers, they should be your treasure. They do a lot of work for you, and they don’t get paid. Volunteers have a lot of heart for their skill and your church. Honor them. Treat them with respect. Communicate well with them. Give them public recognition and say thank you. Small presents, treating them to lunch and team parties are all good ways to pour love on your volunteers.
Manage Your Volunteers
This is probably the hardest point and we could write an entire post about it. Since you don’t pay volunteers, it’s tempting to let them run the show. Resist the urge. You are the leader; they are the helpers. If their skills aren’t what they should be, you might need to have a tough conversation. If they are missing deadlines or dropping the ball on important tasks, you might need to shift some things around… or have another tough conversation. One of your roles is to shepherd your volunteers and help them be the best they can be so the church can be the best it can be. Don’t let your volunteers’ over-enthusiasm, under-deliverance or whatever get in the way of that.
Make their gig the coolest one in the church! If you can make volunteering fun, engaging and a coveted role in the church, you’ll be in good shape. Your volunteers will begin to feel a sense of pride in what they do and why they’re doing it. They will start telling others about it, even inviting them to join in on the fun. Before long you’ll have a team of volunteers acting as cheerleaders for your ministry.
At the end of the day, communication volunteers don’t have to help you, but you hope they’ll want to. You want people to step forward boldly like Katniss, but it should be with a servant’s heart, not some forced sacrifice to a cruel authority. Volunteers can be one of your most valuable and enjoyable commodities, but you have to create an environment of mutual support, respect and excellence.
How do you care for your volunteers?