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fall 09-spring 10 089Volunteers are the backbone of the church. I have volunteered in a myriad of roles as well as serving as on church staff leading ministry, coordinating many volunteers. When workers are not used well, they don’t volunteer very long.

Volunteers must feel valued, needed, and well placed. They tend to be competent, smart, and experienced. To use such people well, tap into those strengths so they know that they are not simply there to handle your to-do list. You must include them in the discussion as to how the event, program, small group, etc. will be done. Involve them in the planning. Instead of micro-managing them, train them to carry out their responsibilities.

Always check on a new volunteer’s progress, but don’t panic if she is not doing it your way or according to your timing. If you find that someone is lagging too far behind, however, it is best to sit down with her and ask if there are personal or coordination issues that are causing delays.

As you match a volunteer with a responsibility, talk to them about what they love to do and what they do well. Using them within their gifting places them where God has designed them to thrive. But keeping in mind that most positions contain some elements that will bring out their weaknesses, discuss those aspects of the role as well.

Write a job description for every position so there are no surprises. Although this takes a lot of time on your part, it is worth the investment in the future and in your team member. Volunteers often tell me that the person who recruited them was less than open about the work involved. Don’t fear a refusal. You don’t need warm bodies but volunteers who are all in.

Make sure your volunteer catches the ministry’s vision because that keeps her going. If a potential helper doesn’t share your dream, she will be unwilling to persevere when things go wrong—and they will.

When their responsibilities are over, acknowledge your volunteers in a public way if possible. Show your appreciation by taking the extra time needed to write them notes and even giving small gifts, if possible.

In God’s bigger picture of his kingdom work, your volunteers are there to serve God and you are there to serve them. Love on them; appreciate them; train them; and help them see their responsibilities as God’s eternal work. If you do that, you will have volunteers that stick with you for the long run.

The women in the picture comprised my final leadership team when I worked on church staff. They are wonderful, precious women that I love dearly. Having teams of volunteers is a blessing!

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