One of the most challenging aspects of equipping saints and growing the church is effectively harnessing the talents, passions, and personalities of our volunteers. We want a team of people who feel empowered to take initiative and do ministry. Leading people who are independent thinkers is far better than leading a bunch of people who need to be micromanaged.
Here’s the rub: freedom without boundaries is not how the Church was designed. Appropriate boundaries and processes are still necessary for decentralized ministry to work to its full potential.
So how can you ensure your ministry is protected while equipping the saints? Here are five ways.
- Know your volunteers. Most people think of background checks here. While those are important, knowing your volunteers goes way beyond that wise but impersonal checklist item. This is really about learning more about how people’s unique gifts, talents, and passions match up with the needs you have in your ministry. Such an approach makes serving more fulfilling for the volunteer and more effective for the church. Here’s what you need to do to protect yourself, however: make sure you follow all laws regarding the acquisition and storing of personal information (especially related to information provided for a background check). Your church will be liable in the event personal information is shared with unauthorized people.
- Set expectations from the beginning. One of the easiest ways to avoid the headaches that come from volunteer management is to set proper expectations from the beginning. Develop job descriptions for every role, paid or volunteer. Supervise volunteers the same way you supervise paid staff. They will be happier and more effective!
- Equip and provide ongoing training for all volunteers. When it comes to finding, training, and retaining volunteers, most churches and organizations fall victim to the ‘Revolving Door Effect’. If you’re ever going to multiply volunteers, you have to be able to keep the ones currently serving. Improving volunteer retention starts with understanding these two principles.
- Encourage, appreciate, and challenge them to reach a higher standard. The volunteers serving in your ministry are your disciples. When you realize this, you start looking for ways to continually help them grow. Despite what you may think, challenging volunteers to go deeper will significantly increase volunteer leader retention in ministry and give you the single most important advantage in advancing the Kingdom — longevity.
To learn about the many risks you need to prepare for, download the ebook Are You Putting Your Church at Risk?
What advice do you have for empowering volunteers?