Culture At Large

How does your church treat its volunteers?

Andy Rau

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the Creative Infusion conference here in west Michigan, hosted by the Daybreak Church (a.k.a. the Church That is Cooler Than Yours). The conference focused on intersection of art and worship, and was geared toward church leaders and worship directors working to put artistic talent to work in the service of the church.

You might think that such a conference would feature a lot of lofty Artist Types discussing how to best grace the unwashed masses with their elite Artistic Talent. But on the contrary, the speakers and presenters at Infusion focused not on helping worship leaders unleash their own talent, but on tapping into the creative talent of your congregation and getting the most out of volunteer teams. The conference theme was "Kiss the Frog," a metaphor for bringing out your congregation's latent creative abilities and enthusiasm.

I left the conference with a lot to think about, but foremost on my mind was the general challenge to do a better job of attracting, encouraging, and leading church volunteers. I jotted down some specific challenges during the conference that you might find worth considering:

* Does your church make much use of volunteers? Or does the church staff bear the entire burden of keeping the church's ministry running?

* Do you actively watch for talents and skills in your congregation, and challenge people to put those gifts to use in specific ways for the church? Or do you wait around for volunteers to come to you?

* Do you let your volunteers participate in the church's core activities--worship services, financial decisions, ministry direction, etc? Or do you relegate volunteers to the "side jobs," where they can't interfere with the "important stuff"?

* Do you give your volunteers the consistent direction they need? Or do you leave them to their own devices for months on end, maybe checking in a few times a year to find out why their projects are lagging behind?

* Do you regularly (one conference speaker recommended an interval of every other week!) remind your volunteers of the church's vision, and how their contribution fits in to that broader goal?

* Do you make a point of regularly encouraging and showing appreciation for your volunteers? Or do you just assume that they know they're appreciated?

* Do you show equal appreciation for all of your volunteers--whether they're cleaning up the garbage after a church picnic or performing a brilliant piece of music during a worship service? Or do you (perhaps unconsciously) pay more attention to the volunteers with the "flashier" jobs?

Maybe your church does a great job of organizing its volunteers, making the most of their varied talents in the service of Christ. Or maybe your church gets by on the efforts of a tiny percentage of the congregation.

Either way, it's good to be reminded that a well-run volunteer program at your church benefits everybody: it lets the church tackle projects well beyond what a small paid staff could accomplish alone, and it is a rewarding experience for the volunteers, who are putting their God-given talents to good use. Take a few moments and review your own volunteer system--are you making the absolute best use of the people and abilities God has placed in your congregation?

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church