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Maximizing church volunteers

Meredith Mahon Morris October 12, 2011

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Ask most busy church staffers and they’ll tell you: They wouldn’t last long without church volunteers.

Linda McKeirnan has been with Mill Creek Community Church in Shawnee, Kansas, for going on two decades. As the church business administrator, she has a lot to do. But she’s found ways to get real help from her talented church volunteers.

“I have one volunteer who is very highly qualified, he was a CFO, and I have total confidence in him,” Linda said. She’s decided that the best way to utilize this volunteer is to allow him to work from his own home on contributions. “It saves me the work and the time,” she said.

What’s so great about this is how Linda has been able to find the perfect overlap  between her needs and the volunteer’s strengths. She’s worked to create the right landing place for that overlap of her needs and her volunteer’s strenghts – she found the sweet spot.

The truth is, a lot of people have a heart to volunteer at the church—for some, it’s the most satisfying thing they’ll do with their week. That’s why it’s so essential to remember where the focus is for people. It may not be as simple as going through the motions, getting stuff done, and “doing church.” They’re looking for meaning. Success with church volunteers certainly involves keeping an eye on that prize.

In the book, Simply Strategic Volunteers, Tony Morgan and Tim Stevens suggest addressing people’s fears about volunteering, even the fears they will probably never give voice to, like:

How do I know what I’ll like?

Once I sign up, I’ll never be able to get out of it.

What if I do it for three weeks and discover I hate it?

It is possible to be positive while you also address people’s fears. But remember, another key to keeping volunteers is to make the job easy for the volunteer. Some great ways to help make life easier for volunteers?

  • Working with your volunteers’ schedules. A rigid structure for your volunteer schedules will make it harder for some people to give it a go.
  • Giving them jobs that fit their personalities and skills
  • Whenever you can, letting them do the work where and how they want to do the work. Can they work on data entry remotely? Great!
  • Meet them halfway – after all, they’re not getting paid.

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