As someone who’s constantly scheduling/recruiting/managing volunteers, I’ve been reminded (and amazed) recently by how much it means to people when you tell them that they matter—that you appreciate their gifts, you want them to contribute, you know they’re busy, their presence makes a difference, you really like it when they show up and you know their name.
At my church, we’ve been seriously pouring a lot of time and energy into loving our choir, helping it to grow, and launching into autumn with momentum, energy and unity. A big part of that was hand-writing letters to over 65 people, some of whom had been singing in the choir for decades, and some of whom had only given it a try once in their lives (if ever).
And in the weeks since those letters hit people’s mailboxes, I’ve lost count of the number of folks who have said how much those notes meant to them. To actually receive a handwritten card—to them—that wasn’t just some sort of spammy, church-lingo, form letter, meant the world. One dear lady told me (in tears) how when she read my note that she “was a blessing,” she broke down in gratefulness.
I wonder how many of our volunteers are just hungry for some sort of pastoral connection, however sporadically, by someone in church leadership, that shows that we know their names, we appreciate them, we value their contributions and we are blessed by their gifts. I think for some people it helps them go from feeling like they’re filling a slot, to actually being a part of a body.
Now don’t get me wrong: We have a long way to go at my church, and this isn’t some sort of pat on the back for having “arrived” at our destination with our volunteers. We have a lot of work, and loving, and recruiting, and community-building, still to do. I’m an introvert, I have three kids and I’m constantly juggling different responsibilities and initiatives like everyone else. Personally, I’m trying to grow in this area, and these last few weeks have reminded me of the fruit that can come from taking the time to tell people they are loved and they matter.
For those of us in any ministry position where it’s up to us to schedule, recruit or manage volunteers, we have an important lesson from Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for his sheep. The sheep matter to Him, and so they should know that they matter to us too.