It doesn’t matter what size church you lead, 100 people on a Sunday or 10,000: Your church runs on volunteers. Without volunteers, your Sunday mornings would grind to a standstill, and much less ministry would get done during the week. When our volunteer teams are working well, ministry is fun and it feels like your church is really making a difference. When volunteers aren’t happy, however, working with your teams can feel like a drain. It doesn’t take long in pastoral ministry to realize that taking care of our volunteers is a make-or-break part of being a leader. Here are four ways to keep your volunteers happy:
1) Tell them what their job is (and how they know they’re doing it right). There’s not much that is more frustrating for a volunteer than not knowing what they are expected to do. When volunteers aren’t quite sure why they show up each week, they’ll quickly get frustrated. And when they have no idea how they know whether they’re doing a good job, they’ll get even more frustrated. Even if you think a volunteer’s role should be clear, give them a quick two-sentence job description that lets them know what they’re supposed to do and the “why” behind their role.
2) Give them a boss. This may seem counterintuitive, because who wants to have a boss on Sunday after working for one Monday through Friday? However, it’s crucial for a volunteer to have a “boss,” which is really just someone they can go to if they have questions. In addition, great volunteers want to know how to do their job right (see #1), and they’ll appreciate having a leader they know will guide them and let them know if there’s something they should be doing differently—even if that leader is also a volunteer. Good volunteers need to be supported by good leaders.
3) Remind them that they are part of something bigger. When it’s been a rough morning in the church nursery or a teenager mouths off to a youth leader, it’s your job to remind volunteers that their service is helping to accomplish a weighty mission: to see people experience a growing relationship with Jesus. When we help our volunteers keep that in view, they’ll bounce back after tough weeks ready to serve the next Sunday.
4) Say thank you. Seriously. If you’re not going through at least a few thank-you notes a month, you need to up your game. Whenever you email your volunteers—even if it’s a mass email—say “Thank you” to them. Whenever you call them to remind them about a meeting, say, “Thanks for serving with us!” And at Christmas, send them a Starbucks gift card with a note that thanks them for another great year of serving. Five dollars goes a long way when it’s a thank you gift, and if you have 100 volunteers, it’s $500 well spent.