Edifying Your Volunteers
Corb H. Felgenhour
"Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification."
When working in the front lines of ministry it is so easy to overlook the obvious. And for those of us called to shepherd the flock, its even more true. Leading a group of volunteers can be rewarding but it can be very painful when they have not been led well.
A while back I read a couple books relating to this subject and both had a strong influence on me in this subject area but I don't remember what was their material and what I have added to it. It's all kind of fused together in my mind so i will give them both all the credit and highly recommend you read these books.
Here are a few practical reminders as you strive to edify those you labor alongside in ministry:
1) Don't assume they understand you - A new volunteer is a fragile volunteer. Never assume that they know what they are suppose to be doing. In the beginning of a project, initiative, or event make sure proper principles are clearly communicated. These principles should be concise, thought-through, and referable (meaning that people can go and re-read them when they want to. It is good for them to understand the heart behind the plan or the motivation for why this initiative is taking place.
2) Don’t waste their time – Think through the tasks and/or procedures you have laid out for your volunteers. The easiest way to defeat a volunteer is to waste his or her time especially if they suspect that you are unprepared. It is so easy to play the "I'm-sorry-I've-been-so-busy" card as an excuse to not be prepared. If you are not ready to meet with them or unprepared, better to postpone the meeting or even better-get prepared. Don’t overload your volunteers with a task that is too large to finish. Make their tasks accomplishable, otherwise they will feel very unsatisfied not accomplishing the task you gave them, thus contributing to the feeling that they wasted their time.
3) Reinforce the layperson's purpose in the task - Fellow servants need to be reminded constantly that what they are doing is not in vain. They need to be told why they are doing what they are doing and how it fits into serving the Kingdom of God. It is part of the horizontal or relational aspect of local church life-serving with one another.
4) No bait and switch – they need be told exactly what they are going to do. Do not change it or add to their job once they agree to perform the task. If duties change or have to be ammended (especially when the added duties require more time) give as much warning to the volunteers as possible. Give them an out so they do not have to feel guilty for not being able to meet the new time requirement.
5) Pay them back immediately - This may seem obvious but don’t forget to ask them if they have reimbursable receipts relating to the task they have performed for you. Volunteers can’t be expected to carry the financial burden of your organization. Don’t assume that they are okay with paying for something. If they do buy something with their money, pay them back right away-large or small. If they want to donate it later, they can tear up the reimbursement check.
6) Don't renege - In situations where you are having volunteers make higher-level decisions, make sure you are on board with the event they are planning before the volunteer gets into the nuts-and-bolts of it. Better to terminiate an idea at the beginning of the planning process rather than letting a volunteer invest time and emotional energy only to have the event pulled later. Sometimes this is unavoidable but know that if you decide to pull an event late in the game, there will be a significant emotional withdrawl from your volunteers as well as them potentially sensing a breech of trust with you. Time and attention will be required to regain trust and replenish expended emotional energy. Depending on the situation it might be better to let them do the event anyway so that you do not break trust but that obviously depends on the situation.
- Tags: team volunteers