For a period of seven years, I was extremely proud to be a firefighter at our local volunteer fire department. Most people are aware of the incredible risks, hazards, and life threatening circumstances firefighters face every day. Yet, we had 60 men actively serving along with a lengthy waiting list. We had more volunteers than we needed. Keep in mind — this is volunteer – no one, including our chief, was getting paid. We gave many hours each week running calls but also just as many in training. After analyzing the success of this volunteer organization I saw four principles that apply in our church ministries as well. I will be touching on one of each of these over the next few weeks. They are…
- Volunteers will consider helping if the need is made known.
- Volunteers are motivated when the vision is clear and impactful.
- Volunteers are encouraged if training is provided.
- Volunteers stick around if their service is appreciated.
One of the greatest mistakes that can be made in ministry is expecting yourself to handle and accomplish each and every responsibility that comes you way. This may work for a time but will ultimately lead down the path toward burnout. Burnout serves no one and negatively impacts your calling. Realizing the need for support is one thing…finding and acquiring that support is another.
Before I begin, it’s important to address a falsehood about recruiting. For many, the task of recruiting can be intimidating. No one wants to be “that guy” who begs and pleads for help. It’s easy to feel like you’re encroaching upon people’s lives or that they’ll think you’re not doing your job. The truth is that this falsehood will rob people of important ministry moments and service opportunities for the church. We take away a great opportunity for learning, growth, and connectedness to a fellowship.
If you missed Part 1: Making the Need Known, you can find it here.
If you missed Part 2: Clear and Impactful Vision, you can find it here.
If you missed Part 3: Training Encourages Volunteers, you can find it here.
This week I will be addressing the principle: Volunteers stick around if their service is appreciated.
Every year in the fall the Chief of our Fire Department would host a dinner for all the volunteers and their spouses. During the dinner he would go over that year’s statistics and give a motivational talk regarding the importance of what we do. It was his time to say “thank you” to all those who serve under his leadership and the community. At the end of each dinner awards were given to those who excelled in their accomplishments or who had an especially impactful year. We all looked forward to this event and left feeling needed and appreciated. Church volunteers need to feel equally as appreciated for their time, dedication and service.
Consider the amount of effort and time that has gone into getting a volunteer to this place in the process…many hours and a great deal of effort. The gestures of appreciation cannot be over emphasized when working with volunteers. No one wants to perform needed responsibilities week after week only to begin to feel taken advantage of, overlooked or undervalued. Words are powerful and can make the difference between a long term volunteer and one who lasts only a few weeks.
Thessalonians 5: 11 “Therefore encourage on another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
- Consider a handwritten card or note of thanks. In this age of quick emails and texts something handwritten is a more personal approach. Take the time to write a genuine sentiment.
- Offer some form of “gift” for their time – gift card, gift certificates, etc.
- Host a lunch or dinner in honor of all your ministry volunteers
- Recognize them from the platform during a church service and allow the congregation to show their appreciation as well
Dale Bleam is LifeWay Worship’s Sales Supervisor & Strategist. Or as he says, “Supervisor of the best sales team I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.” With 20+ years in church music sales… he would know! In addition, his other titles include: Dad, Bi-vocational Worship Pastor, Songwriter, Teacher, Volunteer Firefighter, XBOX Champion and Weightlifter. And here’s a fun fact, he listens to his music LOUD. He keeps our hallways filled with joyful sounds. If LifeWay Worship was a radio station, he’d be our DJ.