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5 Easy Ways to Encourage Volunteers

1. Say Yes When They Ask for Your Help. We have all been taught that a key to time management is learning how to say NO. However, I think that when it comes to serving our volunteers, we need to say YES whenever we can. Recently, one of our junior high small group leaders was taking his group of 7th grade guys on a little field trip to In N Out Burger and needed an extra driver. He probably could have called a parent to help, but he called me. I took the opportunity to say YES to his request. It was an easy thing to do, and I was actually fairly surprised at how meaningful it was to the leader.

2. Give Them Permission to Take a Break. Thank God for faithful volunteers! But sometimes, your most faithful teammates are on the brink of burn out because they feel like the ministry can’t afford for them to take a week or two off, to skip an activity, etc. Have a personal conversation with some of your most dedicated volunteers and ask them….no, TELL them….that you want them to take a week off every now and then.

3. Don’t Just Give Them a Break, Pay for It! In addition to giving them freedom to take a week off, give them a couple movie passes or a Starbucks card. Encourage them to actually use the gift during the time they would normally be serving. There is something really rewarding about sitting in a movie theater or sipping a hot drink at the very same time you would normally be shushing students during Bible study.

4. Ask Your Sr. Pastor to Brag on Them. Every now and then, give your Pastor the names of one or two of your leaders and ask him/her to pull them aside at some point and brag on them. Ask him/her to say something like, “Joe, I was talking to (insert your name here) the other day, and he couldn’t quit talking about how thankful he is for your role in our junior high ministry. I just wanted to thank you for serving our teenagers.”

5. Remember the Little Things. Send an anniversary card. Call to wish them a happy birthday. Send their child a get-well card when sick. Shoot an e-mail congratulating them on their promotion. Remembering the little things makes a big impact.  

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Kurt Johnston has been involved in junior high ministry since 1988 and is currently the junior high pastor at Saddleback Church in Southern California. He's the author of Controlled Chaos: Making Sense of Junior High Ministry and Go Team! He loves providing resources for junior high ministry almost as much as he loves junior highers themselves.