it’s easy to expect too much
About five years ago I sat in a meeting where we discussed a failing event. It was a Sunday evening family event, that we had hosted once a month for about five years and the attendance had started to decline. People had been there and done that, and all the curious ones had stopped by and seen the show. The event had run it’s course and needed a lot of new life if it was going to keep going. Instead of putting down the event (that’s a blog post for a different day), we tried to breathe new life into it. We decided if small group leaders from our kid’s ministry got involved in the event and kind of took ownership of families, that it might create accountability and more appeal.
If you’re at a church that successfully utilizes small group leaders in Next Gen ministries, you know it’s already a pretty big gig. They commit to serving for one school year, every single week at the same time, they have to show up before service and they are usually the last ones to leave. They have to prepare for their lesson beforehand. Most of them send postcards to their kids in the mail and often times they bring treats and snacks too. However, most of them love it and gladly give those two hours each week, but asking more of them at a different time frame, outside of their giftedness, is stretching things a bit.
volunteer sacrifice is one of my hot buttons
So, back to the meeting. Prior to this meeting we had tried to mobilize those small group leaders into this new position for the evening event and let’s just say it wasn’t going so great. One of our pastors was angry, and said if the small group leaders would champion the event, the families would come. He said that if they didn’t start attending this event, we would make them step down from being small group leaders. Now, I know most of you don’t know me, if you listen to our podcast, you might think you do, but most of the time I’m a pretty chill person. However, if you hit one of my hot buttons, it’s downhill from wherever the conversation started. Volunteer sacrifice is one of my hot buttons.
we should be looking for people to serve in their giftedness
I started standing up for every Next Gen small group leader in America. I made sure my Pastor knew that before I was in ministry, I was a teacher. A teacher who was also a small group leader. A teacher who was very busy but proudly served each weekend, despite the time and sacrifice it required, because I was gifted to teach and called by God to tell others about Him. I asked him who made us so high and mighty to determine that people can’t use their giftedness because of their attendance at an additional event outside of their weekend serve and sacrifice? Who knows what I else I said, but needless to say, we didn’t fire any small group leaders that day.
You might ask why I was so fired up, but the reason is simple. Honor. Churches should honor those are who are faithful. We should honor our volunteers for their service. We should even honor the volunteers who aren’t so faithful. When time is a precious and limited commodity, why should they serve at your church, in your ministry?
how can you prove to your volunteers that their sacrifice means something?
#1 say thank you
- Create an environment of thanks. This is something that requires nothing of anyone but yourself and doesn’t cost any money. Every weekend when possible personally tell your volunteers, thank you.
- Write thank you cards. You or someone in your ministry should be handwriting a thank you to everyone who serves in your ministry at least once a year if not more.
- At least once a year host an event that honors and says thank you to the people in your ministry. While this event could be church wide, it sometimes more valuable to just have your ministry there. Have food. Have fun. Have SWAG. Give away awards.
#2 show them proof of life change
- Capture and retell the best stories. This is a two-part project. The first part is creating a culture where people (volunteers, members and guests alike share stories of what God is doing). The second part is telling them again. Create a way for your staff to share these stories too and then share them with your volunteers. Nothing is more rewarding to a greeter than to know the hospitality shown by another greeter, helped a first-time guest decide to come back. That proves their serve is valuable. The same goes for kid’s ministry, count team, life group leaders, high school, worship and more. Everyone wants to know what they are doing is making an impact. So, when you hear a story, tell it again. That’s all Christianity is anyway, the sharing of our stories and how they relate to God. So share!
- Show videos of what things look like from an outsiders perspective. This has become quite a popular mode of demonstrating life change, and if your church hasn’t jumped on the bandwagon, then jump, you’ll be glad you did. So to elaborate on this point a little more, at events where life change is happening (baptisms, weekend salvations, individual ministries, outreaches) find someone who loves to take videos and photos (the younger the person the better the technology most likely) and give them creative liberty to catch the entire moment on camera. Then take the footage and show your congregation at the following weekend’s service. People will well up with tears and they will well up with pride when they get to see what God is doing in and through your church.
- Create a place for them to see the effects of their work firsthand. This is probably the most difficult task, but also the most rewarding if it can be done. Instead of just experiencing value through gratitude or experiencing value through a recap, create positions where people get to experience the value first hand. For example, if you’ve created an environment where kid’s small group leaders can lead the kids in their group to Christ on their own, no video will ever be more powerful than that first hand experience. The same goes for leading worship when the presence of God falls, or being on the prayer team when someone’s family member is healed. Help volunteers to take a level of ownership that allows them to see God at work firsthand, no video recap required.
Everyone wants their life to mean something. Everyone wants their time to be valuable. Craft your volunteer positions in such a way that allows you to take people on a journey. That way no matter where they are at on the journey they know their sacrifice means something. Whether they are a greeter at the door, or in the sound booth never to be seen, or on stage to be seen by all. They know they are playing a part in God’s bigger story.
Chief Creative OfficerStacia has over a decade of ministry experience, with the majority of that time leading next generation change. She has experience leading almost one hundred volunteers, and developing curriculum for kids and students. Stacia has a B.S. in Church Ministries and Biblical Studies, as well as experience educating in an elementary public school environment. She is also immensely creative and accomplished in teaching children about the wonder of God.