This is a letter of praise and encouragement to all church volunteers everywhere. We are celebrating all the people that work behind the scenes, dig the trenches, and provide the services so others can freely worship and enjoy the sermons. Thank you for dedicating your time and talents to serving God. You are the backbone of the church without which it could not stand.
This letter is also meant to voice observations made by volunteers and highlight issues that cause some frustration.
Statistics show that about 20% of the congregation volunteers (1). Therefore, you are the minority, and the pastoral staff depends on you heavily. Such responsibility carries a massive amount of pressure and volunteers tend to over extend themselves. The number one issue that volunteers experience is burn out. To avoid burn out I’d like to introduce the rule of three:
- Your full time job/position/career comes first. (As far as a weekly time schedule because it’s the least flexible)
- Next comes home/family obligations.
- Third Is church volunteering. While important, it’s always #3.
The purpose of the rule of three is to prevent over scheduling. Proper scheduling with some flexibility is much more effective than over scheduling and constantly finding substitutes to fill your spot.
If volunteering all year round is not realistic for you, you can talk to your leader about designated time off (1 month off for every 6 months you volunteer, or taking summers off...etc) so you have time for your own needs and time with family during and after church.
Another way to avoid burnout is to limit the areas in which you volunteer. Working one area at a time is the most effective way to donate your time, talents, and resources. A spiritual gifts test is a great resource to help determine your strengths so your gifts are used in the area you can do the most good. 1 Peter 4:10 (NLT) “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.”
A special shout out to volunteer leaders/organizers who really put in the time, effort, and prayer into making your team successful. You are the ones who set realistic expectations for your people and show them the proper gratitude for their well earned efforts. As good leaders, you are crystal clear about your expectations and work with the flexibility of your volunteers. I personally knew a children’s pastor who would meet individually with her volunteers once a year to see if they were still in the best spot. She would move them to whatever classroom they wanted or would give them a schedule in cycles of a few months on, a few months off.
Great leaders also provide user friendly resources and give the necessary training. They are well organized and respectful of a volunteer's time. A good report and the grateful attitude from a leader can be one of the highlights of a volunteers' day. When needs are met, the church is run efficiently, and this is pleasing to God.
Be it leaders or volunteers, I know you don't always see the fruit of your labor immediately, but God takes notice of everything you do. You’re planting good seeds in people’s lives, and it brings a smile to His face.
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