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How to Lead and Motivate Volunteers as They Return

motivate volunteers

Have your volunteers returned? As more of your congregation return to church, your need for quality and committed volunteers increases. However, that might produce a unique kind of tension. It’s good that people are coming back, and new people are coming, but my hunch is that some of your best volunteers haven’t returned yet. Have you considered how to motivate volunteers as they return?

Tension can increase at the thought of people returning to a sub-standard worship and ministry experience if you don’t have your full volunteer teams back.

You feel the pressure.

However, don’t pass that pressure on to your volunteers.

Guilt is not a good motivator; instead, invite them back to a big vision.

If a volunteer isn’t back yet because of heightened health risks, go slow and give them time. Pray for their health and encourage them.

For your volunteers who have returned to most of their “regular” lives but not church, it’s good to engage in an honest and encouraging conversation.

Perhaps something like:

“We’d love to have you back on the team; you carry an important role in reaching people for Christ. Have you thought about when you will return? That helps us prepare for you.”

I’m surprised at how many wonderful volunteers are responding with “I really haven’t thought about that.” I’ve recently suggested, “How about Easter?” Their response, “Yes, Easter!” Special services can motivate volunteers.

I know that’s just my experience, but the principle is to reach out and engage. That communicates care. Being pushy and using guilt expresses desperation.

You are not a desperate leader. You kept church alive through 2020; you can handle this transition back to full volunteer teams for sure!

5 Essentials to Lead and Motivate Volunteers

1) Clear vision with a positive spirit

Recruit to a vision, not a job description; volunteers want to know they are part of something that matters.

Help the people you serve be part of something bigger than they do on their own.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking all your volunteers will come back at a phone call. Think about how long they have been gone. In many ways, you are starting over and re-recruiting.

The vision needs to be clear and always presented with a positive mindset. Vision will motivate volunteers.

Hope and faith always win over pressure.

What is the vision for your ministry?

What’s the why behind the work?

How will life be better for those you serve?

Answer the question about why they should care and why it matters so much.

2020 was difficult, but we have every reason to be positive, full of faith, and hope in a bright future.

Lead in a way that communicates that truth.

2) Excellent training and necessary resources

When it comes to equipping volunteers, you must give them the tools and show them how.

Don’t assume anything.

Your volunteers thrive when you set the example and show the way, then empower and get out of the way.

The effectiveness of your ministry depends heavily on who you select and the quality of the training you provide. Good training will motivate volunteers.

Of course, that assumes great culture, smart strategy, and lots of prayer.

When great training and the needed resources are provided, the result is a quadruple-win.

The volunteers win.

The people you serve win.

Your leadership wins.

The church wins.

Tips on training:

Keep it relevant to the actual tasks and responsibilities.

Keep it brief, no longer than needed.

Make it worth their time, and be prepared!

Don’t get overly philosophical or preachy.

Keep it interesting; change up your approach on occasion.

Make it inspirational and fun

Serve fantastic snacks! (No cheap coffee!)