The 3 Enemies You Need to Protect Your Volunteers From
Church volunteerism is a unique thing.
Typically, a church attendee experiences a profound, life-changing moment at the church which turns them into a fully committed member. This leads to the desire to serve.
They approach volunteering under assumptions formed from what they’ve experienced at the church. Typically, a perfect service from seemingly perfect people. But then as soon as they get past that veil of perfection and into volunteer mode, they start seeing the truth. The church is not perfect, because people aren’t perfect.
There’s a lot of chance for hurt and burnout. That’s why I believe it’s your job, as a ministry leader, to protect your volunteers.
Here are three things you need to protect them from.
1. Performance Mentality
It’s easy for these precious, individual lives in your church to become simple variables in Planning Center. Do we have enough people on each team this weekend? Can we replace one person for another? What happens is that people lose their individuality and they become mere cogs in the wheel – easily replaceable objects used to accomplish a purpose. Some cogs do their job better, so we’re happier with them, and some do their job worse, so we’re less happy. But they’re still just cogs to us.
People have value beyond just what they do for your church. They have significance, even if they can’t serve one Sunday. Protect your team from the mentality that all they are is what they can do for you. Even more than that, though, protect them from thinking all they’re doing is sliding faders, moving cameras, or clicking the mouse. They are part of something that is impacting people’s lives. Their simple contribution has eternal impact.
2. “Expert Opinions”
Especially when it comes to production and media, everyone is an “expert”. Everyone knows how the mix should sound. Everyone knows whether that bright light should be shining in their eyes. Everyone knows how to capitalize pronouns for God, or how to make the text most legible. Everyone has an opinion and they’re quick to share it with your team.
Protect your volunteer team from these “expert opinions”. Guard the tech booth if you need to. Let the feedback go through you as the team lead, and then if something needs to be done about it, you can relay it to the team. This even applies to senior leadership. Don’t make your pastor chastise the sound team because it’s too loud. You take the feedback and then coach your team through how to make that happen.
3. Lack of Communication
There are two types of communication that are vitally important to your volunteer team: details about serving and truth about the heart of others. Lack of one can lead to burnout, and lack of the other can lead to hurt.
Your team needs to know the when, where, why, how, and what of their role. Communicate often. Make sure you keep the vision continually in front of them so they stay motivated. Find ways to communicate with your team so you aren’t inconveniencing them, but so that they still hear from you frequently.
Next, though, it’s important you don’t allow disagreements or misunderstandings to fester in your team. Confront the elephant in the room. Make peace with your team. Or admit when you were wrong. Discord and mistakes will happen, don’t let them create bitterness in the team.
Volunteers are the life of your church. Make sure you protect that life. It’s sacred.
Have you seen any of these three enemies hurting your team members? Were you a victim yourself? How did you deal with these things? I’d love to hear from you in a comment below.