I had a conversation recently with a ministry leader who was frustrated with one of her volunteers.
“Sue showed up at church Sunday morning and I happened to run into her just as she was entering the sanctuary. I had just come from the toddler room where the teacher was panicking because she didn’t have a helper. Do you know who was on the schedule to serve? Sue! When I asked her why she wasn’t in the classroom serving, she replied, ‘Oh, is it my turn to serve?’ Doesn’t she look at the schedule I provide? What’s the problem with these volunteers that don’t take their commitment seriously? It’s not rocket science; in fact, anyone can do it!”
Do you contend with “no-show volunteer syndrome?” Sometimes managing volunteers can feel suspiciously like trying to herd cats! Volunteers, by definition, don’t get paid. Yet, we live in a culture where the paycheck wields power. So what leverage do we have to ensure that volunteers honor their commitment?
The root of this particular leader’s problem may be found in her attitude towards the ministry role. Her comment that “anyone can do it” devalues the service… which often leads volunteers to think that if anyone can do it, someone else will do it (even if subconsciously).
When we as ministry leaders take the time to connect the purpose of the serving role to a specific desired outcome, it shows the volunteer exactly how they fit into the bigger picture. Connecting ministry to mission increases serving value.
A workshop presenter at an equipping conference I attended several years ago gave this example:
“One of our serving opportunities includes washing windows. This ministry is very important, but not for the reason you may think. What about the person who comes into our church on Sunday who has a thing about smudged windows? Rather than hearing the message, she is distracted by the dirty window and her compulsion to clean it. Keeping those windows smudge-free is a ministry to that woman and others like her, eliminating a potential distraction from full participation in the worship service.”
Want to break the “no-show volunteer syndrome?” Make the connection between each of your serving opportunities and the desired outcome. See each service as ministry that is vital to the church’s mission, then cast that vision for your volunteers… and keep re-casting it as often as necessary until they see it, too!