As we move through the pandemic, one of the significant challenges ahead of us is volunteerism.
Many ministries rise and fall with the number of volunteers we have.
I think of our kids and student ministries. We wouldn’t be able to function without all of our invested volunteers.
Every ministry I talk to these days is struggling with volunteers.
People have left. People are nervous. People like watching from home. People won’t serve if they have to wear a mask. People won’t serve if everyone isn’t wearing a mask.
It’s a mess.
And yet, the day is coming when restrictions will lift, and many people will expect the same ministry offerings they experienced before COVID.
Leaving you saying, “We’d love to, but we don’t have enough volunteers!”
So, how do you re-engage your volunteer core?
Admittedly, I’m feeling a little lost here myself, but let me share a few ideas that I think are important.
The truth is, some of your volunteers have stopped serving because they don’t like the decisions your church is making.
They’re mad about the masks.
They don’t think you should have closed your building. Or, they think you should have kept your building closed longer.
People are frustrated, sometimes about other things, and we end up being the target.
One of the wisest things you can do as a leader right now is listening.
Listen to your disgruntled and hurting volunteers, and hear where they are coming from.
People are often willing to follow your leadership if they feel heard, even if they don’t agree 100%.
Perhaps a great use of your time right now is meeting with each of your volunteers and listening to their frustrations.
The day is coming when we’ll exit this pandemic and get back to a place of church looking more like it did before COVID.
I believe the volunteers who feel heard will be the volunteers who jump back into serving as our churches relaunch.
Create New Opportunities
Some of our best volunteers would be labeled “vulnerable” by the health experts right now.
Many of them are older.
We’ve been working toward creating new and different opportunities for these volunteers so they can continue to serve from home or in small groups during this pandemic.
I believe this is critically important for our churches and for our volunteers.
It’s a gift for someone who feels isolated to have opportunities to contribute to the life of the church or to the well-being of the community.
I’m guessing your church has probably pivoted in this way too, but here are some ideas of what our more vulnerable volunteers have been doing:
- Notes of encouragement
- Sewing masks for elementary schools
- Putting together Blessing Baskets
- Care packages for front line workers
The volunteers who have stepped into these creative opportunities are, in many ways, as connected and invested as before the pandemic.
We don’t have to worry about re-engaging them because they’re still engaged.
No one needs to tell you that these have been difficult and discouraging days.
Many of our volunteers are feeling down. Life is tough right now.
One of the best ways you can keep your volunteers engaged is through encouraging stories.
If God is moving in the life of your church, if people are being served, if individuals are coming to faith and making decisions to put Jesus at the center, these stories need to be told!
Find ways to capture and share these stories.
Your volunteers need to be reminded what they do, or in some cases, what they used to do, is making a difference.
In my experience, compelling stories are the most motivating way to grow volunteerism.
This will likely be a critical component of your strategy to re-engage volunteers as we move toward fully re-opening.
Challenge Consumer Christianity
One final thought.
We’ve been running into a lot of stories like this, “We’re really enjoying watching church at home. It’s nice to be able to watch when it’s convenient for us.”
As churches, we had to pivot to online services.
It was needed and important.
And, I think we should continue to provide excellent digital content.
However, here’s the challenge: There is a true struggle with consumer-focused faith, and we now face the reality that online church is incredibly convenient, and you can watch it in your pajamas.
We need to challenge our people to re-engage the church.
Church is not about consuming a spiritual product.
It’s about growing and serving together.
It’s about investing in the body of Christ and being invested in by the body of Christ.
If I were leading your church, I might be thinking, “How am I going to motivate and challenge our congregation to get off the couch and get back to meeting physically with other believers?”
At some point, this challenge will be appropriate and needed.
We have important work ahead of us as we attempt to re-engage our volunteers.
I hope these ideas have been helpful.
Feel free to share your own in the comments below.