Many churches we work with have paid staff members, and all of them have volunteers who function like full-time staff.
Your volunteers are often the most needed yet most neglected group in your church.
Not because you’re intentionally neglecting them. It simply takes more than free donuts on Sunday at 5 am for them to feel noticed and cared for. They may not be your paid staff, but they still need to be managed.
It’s the lack of management that makes your volunteer team a revolving door instead of a solid, thriving team of people excited to contribute to the work of the church.
While managing your volunteer staff may feel awkward, it doesn’t take an MBA or an extra class at seminary to do it well.
So, save the extra tuition money and follow these three tips for free.
#1 – Recognize Your Volunteers Have A Whole Other Job in Writing
Your 8-5 job is working for your church (as well as your night job—we know).
But before your volunteers come to fulfill their volunteer duties, the majority of them spend 40 hours per week or more at a whole other job.
Volunteering their time and talents for your church is definitely a priority, but they still have to do their full-time job to keep the lights on and the mortgage paid.
So, when a volunteer no-shows the Tuesday night meeting or the 5 am Thursday meeting, it’s not that they don’t care. It’s that they have already worked a whole day and have kids with five games and thirty piano lessons before the sun goes down.
Don’t assume they aren’t committed. Assume they’re pursuing the family time that you have likely preached on a time or two.
If you’re willing to be flexible on time, your volunteers will be flexible in return.
And flexibility will precede grace when time commitments change or fall through altogether.
To set the standard and make your volunteers feel relief from the get-go, send them a quick handwritten note recognizing that they have full-time career commitments at their place of work.
From the start, they won’t feel neglected.
#2 – Clarify What Each Person Needs to Do
Without clarity, there will always be confusion.
Confusion on a volunteer team leads to the wrong job getting done, jobs being done incorrectly, jobs not getting done on time whether they are right or wrong, and frustration on both sides.
Frustrated volunteers will quit and take their talents elsewhere.
Get ahead of frustration with clarity. Clearly define what each volunteer team needs to do and clarify what each person on that team needs to do in order to contribute.
Be clear on expectations and role descriptions.
“Make dinner on Wednesday nights,” will not serve you or your volunteers well.
“Smoke brisket for the men’s group that meets in the fellowship hall at 6 o’clock on Wednesday night,” will get the right volunteers in the right place at the right time.
This may take extra work and thought on the front end but will develop thriving volunteer members and teams in the long run.
If you want to save the extra work, we have excellent role description templates you can find here. Download as many as you’d like so you can relieve your stressed volunteers with clarity as soon as possible.
#3 – Let Every Volunteer Know What to Expect From You
Unsaid expectations are unmet expectations.
It’s easy to let a volunteer know what you expect from them, but it’s uncomfortable and challenging to let your volunteers know what to expect from you.
We have seen many pastors express anxious feelings resulting from volunteers swamping them with questions and needs while there are church members to meet with, facilities to take care of, sermons to plan, and various other time-consuming duties that come with being a pastor.
Unsaid expectations are unmet expectations.
You have the ability to fix it. It is not your volunteers’ fault or their responsibility to change it if you have not set an expectation of what you can give them.
When people join your volunteer staff, give them a uniform set of expectations for the jobs you can help them with, how much time you have during the week to communicate, and who the point of contact is for duties you do not have a responsibility for.
This way, each volunteer knows what is expected of them and what they can expect of YOU.
Like the rest of your congregation, your volunteer staff should always feel known and loved.
A huge part of knowing and loving them will be equipping them for success using these three tips to manage them well.
Take the Next Step
If you want further help managing your volunteer teams, we have a course dedicated solely to volunteers. Join Church Fuel to take The Volunteer Course.
This insanely practical course is designed to help you recruit, train, and shepherd healthy volunteers who will meet your church's needs and increase your impact on the community.