Most churches are fueled by volunteers, depending on people to do the work of the ministry. In fact, God designed the church to need all kinds of people. That’s why you’ll never be able to hire people to do everything, and it’s why you will always need happy and healthy volunteers.
When I was leading a local church, one of my favorite times was our quarterly leadership gathering. We invited every volunteer who served in every capacity to come to the church once a quarter. We had great participation and kept it fresh. A typical meeting lasted an hour.
If you’re thinking about doing something like this, here are some ideas.
1. Eat some food.
There’s a reason parties have hors d’oeuvres. (You have no idea how long it took me to spell that properly). Talking over food is more relaxed and less awkward. It gives people something to do. It gives people a change to hang out and talk to each other.
It’s also smart to consider people’s schedules. If you’re going to ask people to give a couple of hours in the evening, the least you can do is feed them. If you can’ afford to get some sandwiches or hire a caterer for people, take your meeting plans back to the drawing board.
Our quarterly volunteer meetings were so fun, we had to kick people out of the building. We just gave them an opportunity to eat and talk, and they loved it. They would arrive on time to eat, and they would stick around and hang out.
2. Sing some songs.
One of my favorite things to do when our core leaders gathered was sing some worship songs. These were committed people, and watching them worship together was inspiring. At our quarterly get-togethers, we would always sing some of the “greatest hits.” The band usually didn’t have to schedule an extra practice, people knew the songs, and it was just family in the room. It was a special time.
At Volunteer Rocket, we teach people that inspiration trumps information. Large group gatherings aren’t the best place to distribute information, but they are great for corporate worship.
3. Provide childcare.
We made sure people knew when we had a meeting we would take care of their kids. We worked a deal with another church into to trade childcare. They would come in and watch kids for 60 minutes and we would return the favor for their meetings. It’s was a great trade, and a great opportunity for churches to work together. You can also pay babysitters.
Again, if you can’t provide childcare for people, consider skipping the meeting. Don’t ask people to come to a meeting and pay for a babysitter. Don’t ask them to come to a meeting and try to keep their kids quiet. Meet their needs – it’s a simple way to honor them.
4. Recognize some people.
We kicked off every volunteer event by giving out a couple of awards. We choose to make quality, metal awards out of our logo, but you could easily make these fun. Various ministry teams would nominate people and we would brag on them in front of the whole group. People who won these awards would keep them on their fireplace mantle.
You might be afraid of recognizing someone because you don’t want people to feel left out. I found just the opposite happened. When we recognized someone and made a big deal about them, EVERYONE felt appreciated. They weren’t jealous at all, they felt appreciated, too. Andy Stanley says “do for one what you wish you can do for everyone” and he’s exactly right. When volunteers go above and beyond, give them an award, give them a gift or give them praise. It will mean a lot to the whole group.
5. Tell people whats next.
I was on staff at a church once and found out we were launching another service IN THE SERVICE. I found out along with everyone else int he room and I was on the leadership team. I felt terrible.
Our volunteer meetings always included a time of information. I’d share what was happening in the life of our church and I would tell them what was coming. They loved being “in the know” because advance information is a form of appreciation. It’s simple and free, and you can really honor your volunteers by letting them know stuff the rest of the church doesn’t know yet.
We chose to do our meetings quarterly, so a couple times a year, we would break up into smaller groups for specific training.
Click here to download the Seven Deadly Sins of Leading Volunteers eBook and make sure you aren’t unknowingly hurting your volunteers.