Wednesday, November 30, 2011

So tell me… Why am I doing this?

How many unfinished projects do you have around your home or office? A book you began to read but haven’t yet finished or a DVD you purchased but still haven't watched? How easily our initial enthusiasm gives way to the pressures and demands of everyday life. It’s not that we don’t want to do it; it’s just the time and priority factor.

Volunteers often start well too! They sign up and are keen to serve. After a while it gets harder as the initial excitement of something new passes and other demands begin to press in. We all know that we could not do ministry without volunteers, yet we also know that each volunteer has their own reasons for serving and these reasons determine the level to which they get involved. Recruiting is one step, but retaining and developing volunteers is something totally different. Volunteers usually need continued inspiration; they need to know that what they bring to the min istry really matters.

I want my volunteers to be connected not only in body but in heart and mind too. You can easily tell the difference between a volunteer who is totally engaged compared with a volunteer who just turns up to serve. They both do the job but only one moves our ministry forward.

We are more likely to engage in activities where we feel like we are making a real difference however it may not be easy for a volunteer to identify the difference they have made, especially if their role is more administrative or repetitive. It is the role of a leader to paint the big picture, telling the story of where we have come from, reminding everyone how they have contributed to the journey and inspiring them that “we are going forward together.”

Volunteers can see that we are interested in their personal development, and their ideas, when we share with them the “next steps” they can take to grow in their leadership. Giving unqualified praise, eg “You are great!”, without saying what you’ve noticed that makes you think that way, is shallow praise and really does not impact the volunteer much at all. Also, take care not to communicate gratitude in such a way that volunteers are left with the impression that their serving is a one way street. Yes we are grateful for their service, however the opportunity to serve through our ministry to kids also does much to enrich them as Christ followers.

This time of the year people are often re-evaluating their volunteering, deciding if they will serve again next year. While the year -end is a good time to “take a break”, sadly some volunteers do not intend to return in the new year. As leaders we need to give our volunteers an extra dose of inspiration at this time, casting the vision and reminding them why we must keep giving our best to our kids. I find this one of the most critical times in the rhythm of our ministry.

So, don’t wait until the new year to honour volunteers; build on the momentum that is already there. Celebrate!! Throw a part y for your volunteers. (Find someone else to set up or clean up!!) Talk about the things you have done together, the tough times where you stood together. Celebrate by telling stories of the kids who have grown in their faith, developed new skills and discovered something fresh about themselves.

Give your volunteers opportunity to share their stories and experiences and explore their dreams. Identify all the different serving opportunities that exist in your ministry and let people indicate where they would most like to serve next year. When you have the right person serving in the right place their impact will be unstoppable!!

Make it a Win - Win - Win situation!

Our ministry wins when we have passionate, inspired volunteers.

Our volunteers win when they are growing and learning on the journey.

Our kids win when they have significant others coming alongside them, sharing with them, encouraging them and demonstrating a real life, genuine faith story.

Margaret Spicer
Children and Families Pastor

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