Wednesday, February 13, 2008

How healthy is that volunteer?

I had a great conversation a few days ago with a ministry friend in another town, and we got talking about volunteers in our churches. We came up with a few characteristics of what makes a healthy volunteer, and I thought I’d share eight of them.

Spiritual Growth
A healthy volunteer is becoming more like Jesus. This seems obvious, but it’s easy for volunteers (or ANY of us in ministry) to become so focused on the “doing” God’s work that we forget about “being” a follower of Christ. A healthy volunteer has learned how to feed himself spiritually, without relying on the pastor or a program as the sole source of spiritual nourishment. A healthy volunteer knows that she is ultimately responsible for her own spiritual development, that spiritual growth is a process, and that there is always room to grow until the final day of life.

Balanced Commitments
A healthy volunteer understands the importance of serving God and others, but not at the expense of other major commitments in life. Ministry must never become a hindrance to family (spouse and kids if married; other family members if still single). But also, a healthy volunteer doesn’t spread himself too thin among too many different ministries. It’s tough to be an effective usher and worship team member and teen ministry leader and board member and greeter and sound operator and groundskeeper and kitchen cook and – you get the idea. Help volunteers find a primary (maybe a secondary, too) place to serve and then help them stay focused as they grow.

“Big Picture” Connections
A healthy volunteer understands that her place of service is just one of MANY in the local church. Her role is neither more nor less important than anyone else’s. A healthy volunteer also recognizes the importance of being connected to the church at-large by attending weekend services and being connected in a small group or Bible study. Serving others is important, but we do everyone a disservice if we ask our volunteers to be solely committed to our sub-ministry; all of us need a place where we can connect with the corporate life of the congregation.

Ministry Clarity
A healthy volunteer clearly knows where and how he is being asked to serve. Clarity increases impact and influence. Confusion increases discord and frustration. We must always make sure a volunteer understands our expectations of anyone serving in that specific role. At the same time, our volunteers should know what to expect from us: training, support, prayer, encouragement, growth opportunities.

Ongoing Recruiter
A healthy volunteer knows that the team always needs more members. I can’t think of a setting or ministry where we have too many volunteers! (OK, maybe if we have 12 guitarists on the platform at the same time – but even then, some of them will be rookies who are learning and growing and perhaps shouldn’t be on the platform yet.) Every volunteer should be encouraged and empowered to recruit other people to your specific team AND be on the lookout for folks who would be great additions to OTHER ministry teams in the congregation.

Faithful Giver
A healthy volunteer demonstrates faithfulness through consistency tithes and offerings. Let’s face it: Our healthiest volunteers are the ones who truly understand and support the mission of the local church, and one of the best demonstrations is through the checkbook. We don’t need to be checking the weekly offerings to see if all of our leaders are on the list, but it is important for us to model and encourage a lifestyle of giving.

W.O.R.D.S. Lifestyle
A healthy volunteer is growing in the areas of worship, outreach, relationships, discipleship, and service. This is important because our volunteers are leaders, and our leaders need consistency and balance in living out these biblical principles. We’re not just a “worship” church or an “outreach” church. All of these areas are essential. In our context, we believe people should honor God through worship and stewardship, grow together through relationships and discipleship, and serve others through ministry and outreach. Find ways to incorporate those themes into the sub-ministries of the church, and our volunteers will have a greater understanding and awareness.

Regular Breaks
A healthy volunteer needs to be permitted to take breaks. If a one-time commitment becomes a five-year or life-long commitment, our volunteers will crash and burn. Offering sabbaticals and breaks is crucial for the long-term health of our ministries, but more importantly, it’s crucial for the long-term health of our leaders.

Anyway, just some food for thought!