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Leading Volunteers through Relationship


We ask, we beg, we plead, we cast vision, we explain, we smile, we laugh, we cry, we cajole, and… sometimes we resort to guilt. It never seems to be enough. We always need more.

Volunteers… they make our world go ‘round or come crashing down.

What if you decided to stop the crazy cycle of begging and pleading? What if your ministry was so volunteer-focused that people were naturally attracted to serving? Does it sound like a dream? Too good to be true? With a shift in approach, your ministry can become a place where people are drawn to serve. The key is to focus on relationships, not on tasks.

Volunteers who agree to serve based on need and numbers often don’t bring the same vitality and energy to your programs as those who volunteer based on relationship. Set aside a specific period of time each week to work on investing in relationships with your volunteers. This doesn’t have to take hours- just a few minutes a week will do! Below are a few ways you can value your volunteers by investing in relationships.

  • Pray for them- Send a personal email to a few of your volunteers and ask for specific prayer requests. Let them know that you will be in prayer for them throughout the day.

  • Public Praise- Your volunteers don’t serve to receive praise, but it does fuel their passion when you take time to thank them publically for all they do. Take advantage of social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook to brag on specific volunteers or just to express general thanks for your volunteer force.

  • Appreciate, Appreciate, Appreciate- Think of creative ways to say thank you- bake cookies, serve fancy chocolates, provide fun coffee fixings, write hand written notes, or hold a special appreciation event once a year. What you do doesn’t really matter- it’s just important that you took the time and energy to express your thanks. Make it a habit to surprise volunteers with small tokens of your appreciation throughout the year.

  • Each One, Ask One- Invite your volunteers to become recruiters. Let them know how much you enjoy working with them in ministry and encourage them to recruit one of their friends to join them! It’s always more fun to serve with friends!

  • Survey Says- At least once a year, send out an anonymous survey to your volunteers and ask for their honest input on your ministry and programs. Anonymous surveys are easily done online through web-based programs such as Survey Monkey ( Ask specific questions about each program and the feel/vision/style of your ministry in general. When reading the responses, remember that you asked for honest feedback! Don’t take it personally! Your personal identity should not be tied to your programs- their opinions are not a personal insult, but an honest assessment of your ministry. Look for any patterns or responses that are repeated, then meet with a volunteer leadership team and make a plan for tweaking and adjusting your programs accordingly.

If your volunteers are connected relationally to the ministry, they will be more motivated to perform their task with excellence, passionate about your mission, and likely to recruit their friends to join your team. Investing in relationships takes time, but it's necessary in order to create a healthy, sustainable volunteer team.

#volunteers #leadership

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