Communication: Connecting with Volunteers

If you lead a ministry, in which you have a number of people helping you, it is important to foster an environment of good communication.

This is crucial to the effectiveness of your ministry, but also to the longevity of your volunteers. When they feel like what they are doing matters, when they understand what it is they are being asked to do, and when they feel appreciated, you can rest assured that they will remain volunteers for a long time.

Communication #1: Cast a Vision

Make sure your volunteers know that what they are doing is important. If you throw a blurb in the bulletin that you “need to fill some holes in Sunday school,” guess what kind of person you're going to get? Hole fillers. On the other hand, if you go looking for the finest teachers your church has to offer because the teens in your group are at such an important age in terms of committing to and living out the Gospel, and you can't settle for anything less than the best, you'll get a different caliber of worker.

Youth workers are in the life changing and shaping business. What we're teaching these students will stick with them their entire lives. They aren't baby sitters, best buddies, or program coordinators. They are cross-cultural missionaries, crisis counselors, and prophetic voices in the lives of teens. There's a huge difference in how they will act based on which role they think they are filling—and you are responsible for making sure they know the high calling they are being beckoned to.

Communication #2: Share Details

When do you meet? When DON'T you meet? When should volunteers show up? What are they to study with their small group? What are the expectations? What is NOT okay to do as a group? Where do they meet? What kinds of resources will they have? How often will you be in touch with them? How can they get a hold of you? Will you be available to them when they need you? Will you seek them out to encourage them? These are the kinds of details every volunteer should know the moment they agree to help out. Share these details, and share them often.

I would recommend spending some extra time with at least one volunteer each week. Communicate with every volunteer every week via e-mail or phone. Meet with every volunteer casually once a month just for some hang out time and life sharing. Have quarterly meetings where you share the ministry plans with the whole team. And be available any time they might need you.

Communication #3: Appreciation & Thanks

Volunteers are like cars and their gasoline is encouragement. I would recommend that you personally thank each volunteer every time he or she is in your midst. Include a personal touch—a hug, a handshake, a pat on the back. Make sure they know they are appreciated. If you thank them, they will thrive. If you take them for granted, they will wear out quickly.

Don't make the mistake of recruiting others so that you have less to do. When you have others on a team with you, you have actually just increased your workload. You may not have to teach every class, but you have to stay in constant contact with those workers so that they can carry on the ministry in an effective manner. So communicate, communicate, and communicate.

Your volunteers will thank you.

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