22RAndomThoughts

22 Random Thoughts on Volunteers

Featured Articles / Volunteers //

 

  1. A volunteer’s reward is the eternal impact they can have in the life of a child … and maybe a gift certificate or potluck. In addition, their reward is your encouragement. Your “job well done” comment can be the jolt of motivation they need to continue serving.
  2. Pair each volunteer with a prayer partner—a person who promises to pray for him throughout the year. Paul wrote down the details of his prayer for the Philippians (Philippians 1:9). He prayed that their love would abound as they increased in knowledge and discernment. Isn’t that what we want for our volunteers? You can either have the prayer partners be anonymous until the end of the year or share their identities at the beginning of the year.
  3. How well do you train volunteers in the knowledge of God’s Word? Paul wrote to Timothy (3:17) that, as believers, we are to be well equipped to do good works. He’s not talking about pencils and paper clips but the importance of being well equipped in knowing God’s Word, so we can be good teachers. Have you thought about providing a Bible study for your volunteers that reviews Bible basics? Have you talked with your volunteers about the questions that children often ask? Are they familiar with your church’s belief statement? If your volunteers have one-on-one contact with the children, you’ll want them to know how to lead a child to Christ and to answer basic questions about faith.
  4. Plan an orientation meeting for new volunteers. Most ministries have a beginning-of-the-year meeting and mix together both veteran and new volunteers. Unfortunately, mixing the two groups can set up an uncomfortable dynamic. The veterans become impatient with the questions asked by the new volunteers. Or the new volunteers keep silent, because they don’t want to look silly in front of the veteran leaders. An easy solution is to have the new volunteers come for the first hour of the meeting and then combine the two groups for the second hour.
  5. Job descriptions help volunteers feel part of the ministry. Yes, ministry is a service, not a job. But we do need to work together as one body to accomplish the task before us (1 Corinthians 12:14-20). Even if it’s basic, a job description will help new volunteers know what’s expected of them.
  6. Meeting goals is an element of team building. Celebrating achievement of a mutual goal helps volunteers feel as if they’re part of the group. Yet, many ministry leaders set their goals so high that they never get the opportunity to know the joy of reaching one. When you share your beginning-of-the-year goal list with your team, include some easy ones and some that aren’t so easy. Plan at least one goal that you know you can reach and celebrate within the first few weeks.
  7. Notebooks and smart phones are helpful to write down a quick note about a teacher’s upcoming vacation, gallbladder surgery or a child’s behavior problem. Remembering what was said is difficult when you’re setting up chairs, quieting children and picking up the picture that just fell off the bulletin board. Later, in the quietness of your home or office, find a sub for a leader who will be absent, write a get well card and call to find out more about the behavior problem. Having a ready tool to write things down can be invaluable in ministry.
  8. Honesty is necessary when recruiting volunteers. Oftentimes, we’re so anxious to get new recruits to lead in our ministries that we water down expectations. “All you have to do is be there for crowd control and to help with the crafts.” In reality, we expect our volunteers to show up for the quarterly pizza party, teach a lesson once a month and actually plan some of those crafts. Being honest will help get our volunteers off to a good start.
  9. Working in ministry is not heaven-perfect. Many new Christians or volunteers who have not worked in ministry before believe that working with other Christians means everyone will always get along all the time. When someone gets upset because the kids were served lemonade instead of fruit punch or a teacher reneges on her responsibility, the new volunteer can quickly become disillusioned. Let your volunteers know they can come to you with a difficult situation.
  10. Consistent discipline is necessary for a well-run ministry. The orientation meeting is a great place to discuss class rules. That way, everyone responds to the same infractions in the same way. This might not seem all that important until there’s a disagreement in the middle of a lesson. Be specific, thorough and discuss consequences.
  11. One volunteer’s absence can disrupt an entire ministry. Does the volunteer need to find her own substitute? If volunteers get their own, do they get them off a specific list of people who have been through the screening process? Being absent can upset the group dynamic. Help volunteers think through the ramifications of their absences.
  12. Gifts are a great way to celebrate a new year. Give volunteers a teacher/leader kit at the beginning of the year. The kit could include a tea bag, a small pack of tissues, sticky notes, a business card with your name and phone number (easy to make this yourself on your computer), a candy bar, and a pen. You can also include a note of welcome and an encouraging verse.
  13. Good planning meetings start and end on time. People are busy, and many have children (so they have to pay babysitters to come to your meeting). Starting on time will endear you to those who are on tight schedules. That might also make your more laid-back latecomers show up on time for the next meeting, especially if you don’t go back and waste everyone else’s time by repeating what he missed.
  14. Good meetings are focused. A thought-out agenda is a valuable meeting tool. If you don’t like step-by-step outlines, write down two or three goals for the meeting. (We need to figure out what to do with the safety issue of the crowded entrance hallway. We need to resolve how we’ll do the model of the tabernacle. We need to spend time in prayer and encouraging each other.) Once the plan is in place, work on it.
  15. Two volunteers sidetracked in an argument can disrupt a meeting. Not only do most people feel uncomfortable around an argument (even if they aren’t involved), but they also can take up a lot of valuable time. A good leader will gently tell the two volunteers that they will continue that conversation in private when the three of them can meet (plus another staff member, if you feel it is needed.)
  16. A friendly “hi” can make the difference. Everyone likes to be acknowledged. Volunteers like to be greeted as they walk into the church. No matter how many volunteers you have, say “hi” to them at every class/meeting. Let them know you value them and are glad they are there. (If you have hundreds of volunteers, then designate some of your head teachers/leaders to help you with the weekly personal contact.)
  17. A specific thank you means more than a general thank you. Thank your volunteers specifically. A casual “I really appreciate all that you do” at the close of the meeting is good. A specific email or note that says, “Thanks for teaching the kids that new song last week” will mean so much more!
  18. Volunteers need to hear compliments. As leader of the group, parents may share with you how much their children enjoy coming. That’s great, but your volunteers need to know those things, too, so pass them along. This is especially true, of course, if the compliment is about a specific volunteer.
  19. How about a come-as-you-are “thank-you” breakfast? On a Friday night, call your volunteers and tell them you’d like to take them out for breakfast in the morning “just to thank them.” Meet at 8 a.m. at a local restaurant (even a fast food restaurant is fine) and assure them they can leave by 9 or 9:30. (You don’t want to take up too much of their day.) Start the breakfast by sharing an encouraging verse about thankfulness, such as 1 Thessalonians 1:3. Then spend the time enjoying the food and getting to know one another.
  20. About that potluck in the spring? Forget it! That’s even more work for people who you’re already honoring for their work. If you schedule an appreciation dinner, have it catered or go to a restaurant.
  21. Assume your volunteers are returning or continuing. Volunteering doesn’t have term limitations. You’ve made volunteering so appealing that everyone wants to come back!
  22. Thank the Lord for the privilege you’ve had of not only working with the children but also with the volunteers.

 

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About the Author

Life is about my love for the Lord and teaching kids about His Word; about serving at Awana (20 years); about collecting counties (every county we visit is marked on a giant map) and grandkids (6) --- and writing about it all. My latest book is How to Raise a Modern-Day Joseph (David C. Cook).