Getting Your Volunteers Invested (Part One)

Getting Your Volunteers Invested (Part One)

This article was originally published at Kidmin1124.  Since Kidmin1124 is no longer in operation, Wayne has encouraged us to repost our contributions on our own sites.  

It’s 8PM Saturday night and the phone rings.  One of your volunteers has called to ask what lesson is up for Children’s Church tomorrow.  Clearly, they’ve taken a lot of time to prepare.  Or worse, a team members shows up Wednesday night fifteen minutes before your program is starting and asks “I’m not supposed to do anything tonight, right?”   You’ve seen it during the lesson too – a couple of volunteers standing in the corner chatting, serving as more of a distraction than a help.

It’s frustrating.  It’s mind boggling, and yet our volunteers might not really be to blame.  Of course, we want them to live and breathe children’s ministry.  That’s usually what we’re doing, right?  Even being bi-vocational, I find myself thinking and reading about children’s ministry constantly.  Why can’t our volunteers do that?  They need to get invested.  And they need your help to do it.

Think about the other ministries you’re involved in at church.  For me, the principle becomes clearest when I think about Ladies Bible Study.  I love Bible Study.  It’s one of the only times I can be completely adult focused.  I can speak in complete sentences and don’t have to sound overly enthused about everything I say.  Yet… I often fail to complete my homework.  I know I should.  I want to.  But somehow it gets pushed to the side until suddenly, it’s Monday again and I’m cramming to fill in all the blanks.   I enjoy Bible study, but I’m not fully invested.

What’s the solution? How do we get our volunteers invested?   Let’s take some lessons from the stock market.

1) Create a Stable Environment

No one wants to invest in a shaky stock market.  The same is true for your ministry.

Nothing will cause a volunteer to check out quicker than feeling lost.  Create some stability within your ministry.  Make a schedule and then stick to it.  Do not change it at the last minute because some you’ve run across some brilliant idea.   Save that idea for when you can prepare for it.  No one wants to walk into Kids Club and find the entire night has been turned upside down because you thought of a better idea.  It’s disorienting and certainly not conducive to investing.   When you do change something (we need to shake things up once in awhile), make sure you keep your volunteers in the loop.  Give them the details in plenty of time to be prepared.

2) Give Them Some Ownership (even if that means making mistakes)

Did you ever have the assignment in school to build an imaginary investment portfolio and then track “your stock” for two weeks?  Even though you didn’t really own any stock, it was still pretty fun, huh?  Ownership (even pretend ownership) draws people in.    In ministry, when you give someone a task, let them really own it.  Don’t micromanage, don’t breathe down their neck, and don’t jump in to fix it if things start to go wrong.

I know, it sounds like bad advice, but at some point your volunteers are going to have to learn from natural consequences.  If you’re always jumping in to save the day, why would they even bother preparing?  Let them struggle a bit and I guarantee they’ll come out stronger and better prepared the next time.    Sure, they’re not going to do “as good of a job as you”, but as Jim Wideman explains, “you didn’t used to be as good as you either!  But someone let you sorry all over the place and then you learned.”   Give your volunteers the opportunity to learn.

Want to check out Part Two?  Head on over to this blog post!

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