7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:7-10, ESV)
Volunteering is Good for Everyone!
God’s economy of giving is wonderful news for you and your ministry volunteers. By volunteering, you and your church members are setting into motion God’s spiritual law of success. This has also been called the spiritual law of sowing and reaping. The basic biblical foundation is found in Galatians 6:7-10.
When a believer volunteers their time, talent, effort, and resources to the Lord, they are giving an offering of themselves to God and God promises to reward them. Lest you forget, Jesus himself talked about rewards as a motivation for serving the Lord. Jesus said:
“For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.” (Mark 9:41, ESV)
“And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”” (Matthew 10:42, ESV)
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” (Luke 6:35, ESV)
At the very least, Jesus promises a reward for things done in service for Him. There’s no better place to serve Jesus than through a ministry of the local church.
The apostle Paul also writes to church members and shares with them how their service to Christ will be tested. If they pass, there will be a great reward for them.
“Each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:13–15, ESV)
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23–24, ESV)
Rewards can be a great motivator. Jesus used it and so did Paul. There’s no reason why you couldn’t use the potential blessings given to a volunteer as motivation to join your ministry.
Some rewards for volunteering are found immediately. Here are a few:
A volunteer will build a stronger sense of community. Volunteers rarely, if ever, suffer from ongoing loneliness.
A volunteer’s self-esteem is improved. Helping others boosts your view of self. It gives a feeling of accomplishment and purpose.
A volunteer will likely live longer but will also live healthier. Research done by AmeriCorps (americorps.gov) reveals that people volunteering over 100 hours a year are some of the healthiest people in the United States.
A volunteer is happier. Contemporary social neuroscience research shows that donating to charity and volunteering fires off feelings of reward, the feel-good chemicals in the brain, which spurs them to do even more volunteering.
A volunteer has more resources for fighting the effects of stress, anger, anxiety, and depression. Having meaningful connections with others mitigates against all these negative forces. There is a comradery built among volunteers that forms a support system, increasing their psychological well-being. This protects against the effects of anxiety and depression.
Wow! As you can see, encouraging people to volunteer in a ministry for Jesus Christ is good for the church, good for them, and good for those who receive the ministry. It is a full-circle blessing!
Ways to Gain and Maintain Ministry Volunteers
I’m going to give you five ways to get and keep your volunteers. I hope that as you read this, you will think of other ways in addition to these basic five that you could use in your ministry context.
1. Enlist Them
Information should come before enlistment. Let them know there are opportunities open to bless and be blessed as a ministry volunteer.
A Wide Net
You can share these ministry opportunities in multiple ways: Announcements, newsletters, church bulletins, website, and social media channels. Get creative in how they are presented. Use images and video to capture their attention and imagination.
A Personal Touch
Calling for volunteers in a blanket format and in a general way usually attracts very few volunteers. Many assume that someone else will step up. When you approach someone and ask them personally, your chances of success are much higher.
Made Clear and Accessible
People like to know what they are getting into. Provide specific information: What is needed, how long a commitment and how often. It’s the simple who, what, when, where, and how. If you have a church website (if you don’t have a church website, you have other issues that are bigger than this), create a section that is for volunteer opportunities.
Once prospective volunteers find opportunities they’re interested in, they should be able to register for your church volunteer ministry painlessly. If there are too many hurdles as part of church volunteer application, you may accidentally discourage future volunteers. Respond promptly when members express interest in your ministry. Send a thank you message with details on clear, actionable next steps, so they know exactly what to do to participate in your ministry. Remember to not skip any of the important vetting and background checks when volunteers are working with children or youth.
2. Train Them
I’m an advocate for training. Many churches do little to train the people they enlist for volunteer positions. For example, if you enlist volunteers to work with elementary age children, train them in the best practices for working and teaching them. At this time, your association is offering a free training, based on the latest brain science, as to how to best work with children suffering from trauma and how to recognize it. I’ve been through the training, and I recommend it to anyone who works with children. It’s here: Connections Matter, deadline to register is September 8, 2022. Click on the image below.
Many people don’t know what they are good at or even what their gifts are. Help members of your church identify their spiritual gifts, talents, skills, and passions. This will be a great help to them personally and to your ministry as well.
3. Motivate Them
When your members learn about spiritual gifts, they will also learn about the diversity of the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 paints a powerful picture of the diversity of the church. They will learn that each member of the body of Christ has a different gift-talent-skill mix and a different function in the church.
They are important because each member of the Body is important. We would not be all that God wants us to be without them and their ministry. This is a great motivator. Pair volunteer enlistment with a message series on the Body of Christ. Whether they are a hand or a foot, they are needed and they need the rest of the body to function well.
4. Honor Them
Volunteer appreciation is one of the most important things you can do to maintain healthy and happy ministry workers. Think about it. Your current volunteers will be the best recruiters for ministry or the worst advertisement, depending on how they feel valued. Make sure they are happy and valued.
Public appreciation of volunteers goes a long way. You don’t need to buy a gift or do something extravagant. What you need to do is to have the church publicly express to their volunteers how important they are and how much they are appreciated.
One way to show public recognition is to feature volunteer testimonies. With video creation so accessible, even on your phone, you can place a volunteer’s testimony of service and what they get out of it on video. That can be shown in your worship services and posted on your website and social media. I’ve found that personal testimonies are more powerful than anything I could say as a pastor.
It should go without saying but part of honoring volunteers is to honor their time. Your volunteers are sacrificing other activities and rest to serve. They could be with their families and friends or enjoying a favorite hobby, but instead they are serving the Lord in His church. Appreciate them by honoring their time. Don’t waste it and don’t take it for granted.
5. Rest Them
Volunteering does not mean they are in that role for years. They need to be released to rest just like anyone else. Many ministry teams and committees in church have a rotation. Most churches I know of have a Deacon rotation. Allow your volunteers to rotate off. If someone has been serving for several years, don’t be afraid to ask them how they’re doing. You don’t want to give them the impression that they are not needed anymore, but that you want them to be fresh and energized in their ministry. After all, God may have someone else he is raising up to take on that assignment. Elisha took over for Elijah and Joshua took over for Moses. A good way for rest is to have someone else helping them the load and being trained for the future.
The last thing I want to give you about volunteers is to encourage you to apply at least one of these soon. You are busy, just like most everyone else, and the best way to make sure you gain and maintain great volunteers is to calendar a few of these five ways on your church calendar. You and your volunteers will be glad you did.