When you are apart of a church that feels like you are home, you feel so close to God. The music is a vessel that God seems to use to enter your soul. The people are kind and generous, helping you find your way. You have even met a few people who you think could be really good friends. You decide you want to go all in. You want to give back to the church, and you want to bring people to God using your passions and services.
This has been my story. Since I was a young girl, my parents were highly involved in the churches we attended. I watched them. They were my role models. They wanted to be apart of God’s movement. They inspired me to want to be apart of it, too, but what they didn’t realize was that I not only saw the good sides of the church but also the dark underbellies. I witnessed the mistakes, heard the discussions, and moved on as we left the same churches that had brought our family so close to God.
As I grew up, I realized I wanted to inspire my children to become apart of God’s movement. I wanted them to be truly invested in their church and give everything they had. When we joined the church we currently attend, we jumped all in. We became apart of the church’s mission. We were apart of the team. Though our church was just beginning its journey, we knew we wanted to be apart of it. My husband and I have been going to our current church for 4 ½ years. That’s enough time to go through the ups and downs of a small church growing into a larger church.
One of the most difficult spaces for us to grow lately has been in our volunteer roles. When we joined the church, we were inspired by others to work hard for God. We put in a lot of our time and energy to help the church grow. But sometimes, when churches grow into larger living organisms, things are lost. What I have recognized in my own struggle to feel fulfilled as a volunteer has some to do with my own role and some to do with the leaders I work under. When looking into becoming a leader of our church, I realized just how important the role of a church leader is and how a leader can affect their volunteers. There are some very crucial points that leaders need to take into consideration when they are guiding others to serve God.
The goal here is to inspire you as a Christian leader and to help you see your volunteers in a different light. For volunteers, the idea is to awaken your mind to what you need as a volunteer to be fulfilled in your mission to serve Christ so you can let your leaders know what you need from them. Volunteers are not people sent to “get the work done.” They should be valued and accepted for what they give. Let’s look at a few of the responsibilities a leader can take on to help their volunteers grow and feel encouraged.
As a volunteer, I need you to know that I will have times when I cannot fulfill my duty as a volunteer. Whether it be because I am sick, pregnant, exhausted, so on and so forth, my all may not be “enough” to fulfill my duties. Though there are many reasons why I may not be able to serve, I need understanding and acceptance from my leader. I need you to hear me and not judge me for what I am going through. I need you to respect my choices. Even in my career I am allowed a day off without consequences if I call in in a timely manner.
Time to learn and grow
I am going to apologize right now and say that I am going to make mistakes. When I am inspired, I will try my absolute best, but circumstances (and the devil) will arise to keep me from showing my best at times. I may forget to do something I have done every Sunday for years. I may have a complete brain fart during service and miss something important. Most likely, I know what I have done and I am completely humiliated by my mistake, but the simple fact is, I am human. God made us human. He knows that making a mistake doesn’t translate to laziness. I need time to learn from these mistakes, and acceptance for the fact that I am human. I don’t need a lecture about how many lives could have been saved had I not made that mistake. I do not need to be reprimanded and taken off of serving for a little while because I made a mistake. I need you to show me love at my lowest.
A role model
I need to see you serve with the same passion and excitement you expect me to have. This only inspires me to want to serve Jesus with excellence! I need to see you following Jesus in your daily walk. I need to see you expecting more from yourself. Everything you look for in me, I need to see in you. I want you to show me how to live close to God. I need you to show me how I should volunteer. When you are close to God, I want to be, too. I watch you, leader. I am inspired by you, leader. Show me what it looks like to serve God with a humble and faithful heart. Tell me how you are growing and changing. Remind me that you aren’t perfect, but then tell me stories of how you have learned to grow in your own volunteering.
I need you to talk with me on a regular basis. I want you to ask how I am doing, how my walk with God is going, and to ask if there is anything you can do to help me grow closer to Him. I want you to teach me where I can grow. I need resources from all over to encourage my development in my serving area. I need communication outside of when you want me to volunteer and what I will be doing. This feels too much like work. I can’t find God if I am so focused on what you and the people of the church want me to do.
Passion and inspiration
If I am serving in your area, I have come to you with a passion to serve. I have a passion to bring others to Christ. I have a passion to use my skills to help further His kingdom. This means that someone has inspired me to join in on our church’s team! I need you, leader, to help me keep that passion. Tell me how to inspire myself. Show me why you are passionate and inspired to lead. Help me desire to be God’s helper. Don’t put out my flame with the water of your expectations of me and my skill. Help me stay inspired and help me inspire others. Help me reach into what God has for me, and remind me of the importance of my role. I will forget what it really means to shake someone’s hand at the door, or stay up until the morning hours creating a worship guide.
A push to grow towards Christ
You are constantly being asked to grow in Christ. You may even be on staff in our church and getting paid to grow in your relationship with Christ. Teach me how to do this, and ask me how I am constantly fanning that flame. Make suggestions and ask me questions to get me there. Don’t let me stop growing to be closer to Him. Push me to grow closer with Him daily. Encourage me to step outside of the box and help others grow in their relationships with Him. Remind me that this is a part of serving. It is a responsibility of the volunteer to continue growing in their relationship with Christ.
Assessment of my direction
Let’s review where I am going. Am I still interested in being a door greeter even though I have done it for the past 3 years? How do I feel about working with kids? Is it still for me after a month? Ask me about my serving goals. Where do I want to ultimately be? This helps inspire me to be more! My skills and my passions will not fade but grow in abundance. If it’s time for me to move on, help introduce me to my new leader. Tell them who I am and what I need to be successful. Help me grow in the church.
An environment for fellowship
Leader, you are not the only one who can help me grow. You are not the only one who can bring me encouragement. That is great news because now some of the burden can be taken off of you! But I need a team environment. I need times when our team gets together, and we mingle with each other. I want to get to know my team so I know I am not in it alone. The great thing about teams is that volunteers can help inspire and encourage volunteers. Experienced volunteers can help teach the newbies. Newbies can bring new excitement and even new ideas to the experienced volunteer group! We can all help each other grow and inspire commitment within each other. Small groups are great for encouraging our relationships within the church and even with God, but we volunteers need serving inspiration!
A designated time for creativity
Hey, while we are talking about getting together as a group, let’s get creative. Our church has creativity meetings for its leaders, but how great would our area be if we could bring new ideas to our serving team on a regular basis. Maybe we get together in our Greeter’s team and talk about how to make the environment more fun. Could we dress up to match a certain series design? What if the kid’s volunteers met to come up with different ways to be more efficient in setting up and tearing down the area? Maybe take team issues to the team itself to help devise plans around the designated problem. Do we have a lot of volunteers out during the holidays? Well, as a team, let’s come up with solutions to help. Make the team responsible for what happens in the serving area.
A push towards excellence
I need encouragement, motivation, and a push to work at my best. Sometimes, I am tired and need some motivation to work harder and smarter. I want to be reminded constantly about why I am serving. Why my role is so important, and what I need to do to make sure I am completing my mission. I want you to sit down with me if I am falling behind. Tell me your expectations of my role upfront, but also, ask why I am not following through. Is this area really my passion? Could you do anything to help me be more excellent? God asks us to strive for excellence, but also understand, leader, that my role is not perfection. Teach me the difference between the two and hold me to that.
Yes, we are volunteering for God, but God rarely comes down to tell us how good of a job we are doing. He doesn’t sit down with us to tell us how many people we personally brought to Him that day. But, leader, you can tell me how well last Sunday went. You can tell me stories about people coming to Jesus because of something I, or another volunteer, did to bring them to Him. Tell me about something you saw me do that was wonderful and unexpected. Tell me how others view me in my role. If I had a rough Sunday, tell me that you noticed, but there are more chances in the future to work some of the kinks out. Tell me if someone came up to you to tell you that I was so sweet to them. Tell me if someone had a concern about something I did while serving. Share with me the behind-the-scenes aspects of my volunteering. We are affecting lives, and it is a responsibility of mine to stay on top of my volunteer role.
We don’t volunteer for appreciation, but appreciation from leaders helps connect us to God and His purpose in our volunteering. Outside of the amazing feelings I get while serving on Sunday, I may forget how important I am. Help me remember. Tell me thank you. Send me a letter expressing how my role would not be the same without me. Show me I am worthy of the mission. If I am sick, express your condolences but let me know I will be missed. Please don’t take me for granted. Don’t call me last minute to help in the church and become upset if I can’t make it. Don’t send me a text saying that because you don’t have anyone to take my place it’s not acceptable to take off. When you don’t text me back, I feel unimportant. Communication with me helps me feel wanted by you and by God. Remember that you are my leader. You help lead me to God. If you are disappointed, it is easy for me to connect your disappointment with God’s disappointment in me.
This may sound like a lot to put on a leader in church, but let me be clear in two things. 1) Leaders are very much like disciples. They were asked to take on a lot of responsibilities. Also, don’t forget that you are someone others are looking up to as role models. Because of your leadership, they may decide to follow Jesus, get involved in the church, or even lead an area like you so they can inspire others to serve Christ. 2) This article is not meant to take responsibility off of the volunteer. The volunteer is responsible for cultivating their own relationship with Christ and managing how they serve. This article is, however, giving a voice to those who sometimes feel voiceless in large or small churches.
So let’s take this information and use it to grow God’s community. Let’s inspire others to inspire others. Let’s show our volunteers so much love that it is impossible not to see Jesus through our actions. Let’s listen and respect those who, sometimes, work the hardest for our church communities. Lead with love.