We pastors often struggle to ask people to give their time and talent to Jesus. Perhaps we’ve been rejected before and don’t like to hear someone say “no.” Perhaps we don’t like volunteering ourselves and we transfer our own rebellious attitudes to others. Or perhaps we know, when we make “the big ask,” that we’re going to exhaust another servant. If the latter is true, we need to change our volunteer culture.
Creating an environment in which people will gladly and readily give their time and talent to the kingdom involves making the right promises, and of course even more important, keeping our promises.
If you come from a denominational tradition similar to mine, you’ve experienced the church-by-committee syndrome where we somehow wind up with more committees than the church has members, yet they’re all full because every member serves on multiple committees. Baptists have found a good way around the issue of finding volunteers. We nominate people during public meetings when they will either be too embarrassed to say “no” or not present at all, in which case they’re helplessly drafted into a role for which God never gifted them.
Thankfully, we’re learning and the culture of volunteerism is improving in many churches. If we’re going to keep improving that culture, we need to set the tone and decide what our volunteers will definitely be able to count on. For example…
Your Time Will Mean Something
If you volunteer here, your time will be invested, not wasted. At the end of the day, you’ll know you met a significant need and that if it weren’t for your sacrifice, that need would have gone unmet. We won’t tie you up recording minutes for a pointless meeting. Instead, we’ll actually have you serving someone.
Your Family Will Come First
We won’t have you at the church more nights of the week than you’re at home, and your spouse won’t think you’ve left them for the church. This is especially needful in the case of a volunteer with a spouse who isn’t a believer. Having volunteers with strong families is better for the church’s growth than having volunteers whose homes are stressed because of us.
You’ll Be Free to Lead
You will be able to make decisions. We’re here to help guide you in the right direction, but you won’t have to complete any forms in triplicate and have the entire church body vote to buy a chalkboard for your classroom. And, you’ll be free to lead people around you, always mentoring the next generation of volunteers.
You’ll Be Encouraged to Rest
If you need a break, we won’t treat you as though you’ve gone AWOL. We’ll understand that everyone needs rest to be effective long term. We will ask you to serve for a set length of time and then offer you a chance to take a break.
We’ll Help You Serve According to Your Shape
God has granted all of us spiritual gifts, a heart, abilities, passions, and experiences, and we’re here to help you discover your shape and find the best spot in the kingdom to serve. We’ll even let you move around and try different things until you find the spot for which God has uniquely equipped you.
We Will Celebrate Your Accomplishments
Heaven throws a party when someone gets saved, so we will join that party and recognize every contribution you make to expanding heaven’s population. That doesn’t mean we’ll hand out buttons and pins. It just means that we will always acknowledge and appreciate your time, realizing how valuable it is.
We Will Always See You As the Hero
There is no such thing as someone being “just a volunteer.” Instead, volunteers are the heroes. We who are on staff are on staff because of our passion for ministry, but we’re also compensated for the time we spend leading. What we really celebrate the most is the contribution of someone who expects no compensation (here on earth anyway).
Can you make these promises to volunteers within your church? Or are there structural changes you need to make in order to value volunteers appropriately? And the more important question is, can you keep these promises?
This post originally appeared on Pastors.com and is re-printed here with permission.