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Checklist for Connecting Volunteer Ministers to Ministry

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating…

Here are 6 critical steps in connecting stepping stonesvolunteer ministers to serving opportunities within your church or non-profit organization:

1. Discover design.

Each person is uniquely designed by God for the work he has prepared for them to do. As a ministry leader, I am called to help people see how God is combining their talents and abilities, their personal preferences, and their life experiences with the gift of the Holy Spirit so that they are equipped to serve wherever they are, whatever they are doing. If you are a ministry leader, that’s at least a part of your call, too!

2. Have a conversation.

Handing someone a discovery tool to complete, looking over their results, and then plugging them into a ministry role that seems to match may appear efficient, but it’s not necessarily effective. Having a conversation during which you ask questions, listen carefully, and look for unspoken cues will provide greater clarity and help avoid the discouragement that follows a mismatch.

3. No rings; no strings!

Let a potential volunteer take a test drive. Provide opportunities for  them to shadow experienced volunteers. Then debrief the experience; this is a critical conversation! If the potential volunteer thinks it’s not a good fit, repeat steps 2 and 3 until you find the right fit.

4. Ask for a commitment.

Don’t assume that just because you’ve made a match the volunteer minister will serve. Be clear and specific about the expectations, and be certain he/she is comfortable with those expectations.

5. Follow up. Circle back.

Be sure the volunteer minister is engaged and finding their new ministry role fulfilling. If not, have another conversation, repeating steps 2, 3 and 4 until you find the right fit.

6. Train. Recognize. Appreciate. Celebrate.

Once you’ve completed the five steps above, it’s tempting to think “Done!” You are not! Never ever ever neglect step 6!

  • How is someone to know how they are to do what you are asking them to do if you don’t train them? But training is not just about the nuts and bolts of a particular ministry, about growing their skills. Training is about discipling your volunteer ministers to become more like Jesus. (More about discipling in my next post.)
  • Who doesn’t want their efforts to be recognized? Make it a point to acknowledge the little things–the instance when a volunteer minister takes a serving step beyond what’s required, the “ah-ha” learning moment from scripture study, even simply showing up on time and ready to serve. Always consider whether this recognition is best done in private or whether the recipient would enjoy a more public setting.
  • Recognition is good, but don’t stop there. Show your appreciation. Most folks don’t need more stuff, so I’m not advocating fancy gifts. But a little gift card to Starbucks or the local ice cream parlor can be a simple token of appreciation. The hand-written thank you note–not an email!–is a becoming a lost art. Why not resurrect it?
  • Who doesn’t like a party? Celebrate ministry as a team, whether that ministry is a special event (e.g., a post-VBS celebration) or an ongoing ministry of the church (e.g., an annual dinner for Sunday school teachers). Celebrate together what God is doing in and through the work of your team!

OK, so technically I sneaked in an addition three steps in the last one… Well, I prefer even numbers, so here’s #10:

Create the necessary budget to support these essential steps!

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