5 Ways To Equip Your Volunteers This Weekend
By: Nicole Cochran
Churches often approach managing volunteers in two different ways. Sometimes churches are so systematized that they allow no room for creativity and agility on their volunteer teams. Other churches like for volunteers to come up with their own systems and structure for the ministry.
High capacity volunteers often like structure because it lets them know what’s expected within the ministry and lowers the barrier to entry. Most volunteers work full time jobs and don’t necessarily have or want the capacity to come up with curriculum, guidelines, or lists.
As someone who has been a volunteer in various church ministry activities, I know both approaches offer various pros and cons. Regardless of where your church is on that spectrum, there are certain resources that every volunteer should be knowledgeable about.
1. Church ministries and resources
The larger the church is, the more ministries it will have. The more ministries a church has, the easier it is to get lost in the details. Even for smaller churches, many members (including ministry leaders) couldn’t tell you what day and time the children’s ministry programming starts or when the choir meets.
Equipping your leaders with this knowledge is important so that they can share it with others they meet. Which nights or ministries provide childcare? Are there resources for Spanish speakers? Perhaps you could assemble an easy guide of all ministries and resources to equip your volunteers with.
2. Reporting relationships
A friend of mine volunteers in her church children’s ministry. Recently she had a couple of parents asking questions about some of the programming for the kids. She had no idea who to point them toward – the Volunteer Director, Preschool Director, Children’s Director?
Each situation will likely be a case-by-case basis; however, there should be a clear-cut ladder of reporting and accountability. Who is the person volunteers can seek for counsel? Do they have access to an outlined list of whom to point people toward? These reporting structures are not only important as guides for others, but for the volunteers themselves – if a child was injured, who does that need to be reported to?
3. Church values
Church values offer insight into the goals of your church’s ministries, and answer why you do what you do. Volunteers should know the values well and have easy access to them to share with others. Aligning a volunteer’s motivations with your church’s values will deepen the impact of your ministries.
4. Behavioral expectations
Every church has varying policies of conduct for volunteers. Be up front and clear about the behavior you expect from your volunteers, and be ready to enforce these expectations. Whatever the policies may be, once the rules are set, uphold them.
Make certain that your volunteers are aware of the rules, as well as the ramifications of breaking one of the policies. This will set your church and volunteers up for greater success in the long run.
5. General policies
While behavioral expectations are important, volunteers should also be aware of other policies. What is the policy on parental pick up for the children’s ministry? Do your community groups end for the summer? Is there a “buddy system” rule for visiting the homeless shelter?
Whatever policies your church has in place, they are there for a reason and need to be shared with those serving your church. When your volunteers haven’t been adequately equipped with expectations, it can make them feel like they failed.
Tell celebration stories of your volunteers’ successes and ask them for their feedback on ways to make the ministries better. Interactive Facebook groups are a great way of doing this; they’re free and everyone in the group gets notified when something new is shared. You can share training curriculum videos or quizzes to update them and get feedback.
It is crucial that volunteers know the ‘why’ – why they are serving and how they are changing the community.
What are some other important aspects of your church that need to be communicated with volunteers?