Serving Together = Community Together

Leadership / Volunteers //

i’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to build deep community amongst volunteer teams. i admit, my starting place, is one of assumed friendship, probably because i experienced rich relationships while volunteering in promiseland as a young student. a big church became much smaller as i walked through life with other volunteers. they celebrated my high school graduation, acceptance into college, and my engagement. i remember teaching the day after kelly & i got engaged. i was standing on stage during rehearsal, trying to hold the ring on my hand in just the right light so it would sparkle for all to see. my entire volunteer team celebrated with me at my wedding, and to this day, the folks i served with hold a very deep, special place in my heart.

so, for me, serving together = community together.

now, i recognize not everyone who volunteers is looking for or needing deep community. i get that. and, i definitely don’t want to force anyone into friendship. BUT. it does seem the opportunity is right, at least for a bit of friendship. the kids benefit when adults enjoy working with each other, and it provides a basis, or common ground for friendship when the serving experience has ended.

at willow chicago, we’re trying a few things in order to encourage community and friendships. first, we try to notice people. we remind each other to look every person in the eye, listen, and do our best to follow up. melissa has the gift of noticing, so i’ve been encouraging her to lead us. tell us when you see someone in pain, or remember a small detail about a person’s day, or notice a birthday that can be celebrated. noticing is simple, but super hard to do in the busyness of ministry.

then, we pray. we ask volunteers for prayer requests on sunday, and on monday, during our staff team meeting, we pray for each request. a new thing i’m trying is following up later in the day on monday, with an email to each volunteer mentioning that we prayed for him. people like to be prayed for, but they especially like knowing when you prayed for them. praying for our volunteers has helped us notice them better, and has provided opportunities for deeper friendships.

we’re also trying to provide opportunities for volunteers to experience friendship. because, oddly enough, deep community doesn’t just magically happen. we’re looking for simple ways volunteers can have a few bonus minutes on a sunday to chat. for october, we’re parking food trucks outside church so that on sunday when volunteers are finished serving, they can grab a quick lunch and chat. i’m excited. it’s hard to imagine food trucks not leading to deeper friendships. {!}

finally, we’re trying to be mindful of how we can offer practical help when a volunteer is in need. we want to encourage an environment where volunteers reach out to other volunteers when they need babysitting help, an extra meal, financial help, or a recommendation for their child’s school. helping each other, and being vulnerable to reach out for help is key to building authentic friendships. and, really, the point of church, right?

serving together. community together. how do you encourage friendships amongst volunteers?





About the Author

Amy Dolan is founder, leader and blogger for Lemon Lime Kids, a children’s ministry consulting company that seeks to encourage churches to consider a fresh approach to leading and teaching children. Amy started the company in 2005, as a way to empower and encourage fellow children’s ministry leaders, and since that first day has had the opportunity to work with leaders & organizations committed to the spiritual growth of children. Amy believes that the church fully empowered, combined with the commitment of the family, and the compassion of the community has the power to inspire children’s faith for a lifetime. In addition to her consulting work with Lemon Lime Kids, Amy leads the strategic curriculum development for Phil Vischer’s new curriculum What’s in the Bible? (, and serves as Director of LOCAL, a Chicago-area children’s ministry collaborative ( Amy is the former Executive Director for Children’s Ministry at the Willow Creek Association, a former Children’s Ministry Director at The Chapel in Libertyville, IL and a Curriculum Writer for Promiseland at Willow Creek in South Barrington. Amy is proud to be married to her husband Kelly, and loves living in Chicago. Amy blogs at and tweets at @adolan.