7 Volunteer Appreciation Ideas That Hardly Cost Anything

7 Volunteer Appreciation Ideas That Hardly Cost Anything

You’re so grateful for every volunteer who serves in your church.

But feeling thankful and saying thanks are two different things.  And unexpressed gratitude often comes across as ungratefulness.

But how can you say thanks and appreciate your church volunteers when you don’t have a large budget?

Here are some ideas…

#1 – A personalized recommendation.

Send a personal text to a volunteer with a book, movie, show, restaurant, or some other kind of recommendation. “Hey Billy…I know you like burgers…I just had an amazing one at The Vortex…have you been there?”  It lets them know you’re thinking of them.


#2 – Give them a shout out on social media.

Maybe you do a volunteer of the month kind of post.  Or maybe it’s more informal than that.  The cool thing is that when you post, others from your church can like and share, making the special recognition even more impactful.


#3 – Make a display in the building and ask all volunteers to sign it.

A cool piece of art or a photo from an event could make a great lobby display.  You’ll demonstrate teamwork, too.


#4 – Share inside information.

Let your volunteers know what’s coming before everyone else.  This sneak peek or behind-the-scenes illustrates just how important volunteers are.  Information is a form of appreciation.

One place you can do this is in a volunteer huddle on Sunday mornings.  Just pull everyone together for five minutes and follow our 3C format:  Celebrate, Communicate, and ConnectYou could even use these scripts. 


#5 – Have food and childcare at meetings.

This isn’t totally free, but if you’re going to have a meeting, at least make it easy for people to participate.  It communicates value and shows you care.  You could even see if another church would trade childcare or food prep – they help you, and then you help them.


#6 – Host a cookout at your house.

Staying on the food theme, invite a team or two over to your house for a cookout.  You don’t have to give a vision talk or ask for something…just hang out and eat some food.  Summer is a great time for this, by the way.


#7 – Send a personal thank you note.

Junk mail often doesn’t make it past the outside trash can, but a personal and handwritten thank you note sometimes gets hung on the refrigerator.  Notes like this are a great way to thank someone for a specific action or activity.  Send them when people give, serve, or invite.

If you’re a Church Fuel member, you’ll find these print-ready thank you cards you can send to the printer of your choice.  Just look in the Resource Library.

How Volunteers Can Use Church Fuel

How Volunteers Can Use Church Fuel

As a volunteer church, you may not get to determine the mission or set the ministry goals, but you’re instrumental in making things happen.

You might not be on staff, but you have a lot of responsibility and influence.

And while the church staff will find a lot of value in the courses, resources, and community, volunteers can also benefit from the program.

In fact, there are many church volunteers who pay for a Church Fuel subscription and share it with their church. 

That’s an amazing gift and a great way to invest in the health of your church.

Here are three ways you can use Church Fuel as a volunteer at your church.

#1 – Use Church Fuel for Personal Growth

We’ve seen it so many times…the health of the church often mirrors the health of the volunteer base.

You set the tone for much of what happens in the church.

When you get better, the church gets better.

Church Fuel gives you a way to invest in your own growth. Think of it like professional development, a resource to help YOU get better. 

  • Sign up for a live class on a topic that interests you, put it on your calendar, then come ready to learn something useful.
  • Download a resource like the Personal Growth Plan and create a real plan to get better.
  • Go through one of our on-demand courses on your own schedule.

#2 – Use Church Fuel to Make Your Ministry Better

As a volunteer in the church, you have a unique perspective on the ministry.  You’re doing it.  You’re getting your hands dirty. 

Of course, you care about the overall mission of the church and recognize all the ministries matter.  But you’re up close and personal with a part of the church that’s particularly important to you.    

When you tap into Church Fuel resources, you’re learning with your ministry in mind.  Sure, you’ll hear about things that could help the church. But you’ll learn practical ideas and strategies to help you right where you are. 

You can go through any of our on-demand courses and apply the lessons to your ministry.

You can grab any relevant resource from the Resource Library and use it to make your ministry better.

Learn how other churches are approaching the challenges you’re facing and share the ideas with others.

#3 – Use Church Fuel to Lead Up

One of the toughest things to do in leadership is leading up – influencing those who technically are in charge.

Maybe that’s another volunteer. 

Or maybe that’s a staff member.

Maybe it’s the Pastor.

You will learn things from Church Fuel that you can share with others, even those who have influence in other parts of the church.

Remember, one membership covers any and all leaders from your church.  If your church has an account, ask them to add you so you and learn and report back.  Or if you’re signing up on behalf of your church, add other leaders and volunteers at no extra cost so they can learn, too.

3 Tips for Managing Your Church’s Volunteer Staff

3 Tips for Managing Your Church’s Volunteer Staff

Many churches we work with have paid staff members, and all of them have volunteers who function like full-time staff.  

Your volunteers are often the most needed yet most neglected group in your church. 

Not because you’re intentionally neglecting them. It simply takes more than free donuts on Sunday at 5 am for them to feel noticed and cared for. They may not be your paid staff, but they still need to be managed. 

It’s the lack of management that makes your volunteer team a revolving door instead of a solid, thriving team of people excited to contribute to the work of the church. 

While managing your volunteer staff may feel awkward, it doesn’t take an MBA or an extra class at seminary to do it well. 

So, save the extra tuition money and follow these three tips for free. 

#1 – Recognize Your Volunteers Have A Whole Other Job in Writing 

Your 8-5 job is working for your church (as well as your night job—we know). 

But before your volunteers come to fulfill their volunteer duties, the majority of them spend 40 hours per week or more at a whole other job. 

Volunteering their time and talents for your church is definitely a priority, but they still have to do their full-time job to keep the lights on and the mortgage paid.

So, when a volunteer no-shows the Tuesday night meeting or the 5 am Thursday meeting, it’s not that they don’t care. It’s that they have already worked a whole day and have kids with five games and thirty piano lessons before the sun goes down. 

Don’t assume they aren’t committed. Assume they’re pursuing the family time that you have likely preached on a time or two.

If you’re willing to be flexible on time, your volunteers will be flexible in return. 

And flexibility will precede grace when time commitments change or fall through altogether. 

To set the standard and make your volunteers feel relief from the get-go, send them a quick handwritten note recognizing that they have full-time career commitments at their place of work. 

From the start, they won’t feel neglected. 

#2 – Clarify What Each Person Needs to Do

Without clarity, there will always be confusion. 

Confusion on a volunteer team leads to the wrong job getting done, jobs being done incorrectly, jobs not getting done on time whether they are right or wrong, and frustration on both sides. 

Frustrated volunteers will quit and take their talents elsewhere.  

Get ahead of frustration with clarity. Clearly define what each volunteer team needs to do and clarify what each person on that team needs to do in order to contribute. 

Be clear on expectations and role descriptions. 

“Make dinner on Wednesday nights,” will not serve you or your volunteers well. 

“Smoke brisket for the men’s group that meets in the fellowship hall at 6 o’clock on Wednesday night,” will get the right volunteers in the right place at the right time. 

This may take extra work and thought on the front end but will develop thriving volunteer members and teams in the long run. 

If you want to save the extra work, we have excellent role description templates you can find here. Church Fuel members can download as many as you'd like so you can relieve your stressed volunteers with clarity as soon as possible. 

#3 – Let Every Volunteer Know What to Expect From You

Unsaid expectations are unmet expectations. 

It’s easy to let a volunteer know what you expect from them, but it’s uncomfortable and challenging to let your volunteers know what to expect from you. 

We have seen many pastors express anxious feelings resulting from volunteers swamping them with questions and needs while there are church members to meet with, facilities to take care of, sermons to plan, and various other time-consuming duties that come with being a pastor. 

Unsaid expectations are unmet expectations. 

You have the ability to fix it. It is not your volunteers’ fault or their responsibility to change it if you have not set an expectation of what you can give them.  

When people join your volunteer staff, give them a uniform set of expectations for the jobs you can help them with, how much time you have during the week to communicate, and who the point of contact is for duties you do not have a responsibility for. 

This way, each volunteer knows what is expected of them and what they can expect of YOU. 

Like the rest of your congregation, your volunteer staff should always feel known and loved. 

A huge part of knowing and loving them will be equipping them for success using these three tips to manage them well.

Take the Next Step

If you want further help managing your volunteer teams, we have a course dedicated solely to volunteers. Join Church Fuel to take The Volunteer Course.

This insanely practical course is designed to help you recruit, train, and shepherd healthy volunteers who will meet your church's needs and increase your impact on the community.

The New Volunteer Roles Churches Need for the New Reality

The New Volunteer Roles Churches Need for the New Reality

COVID-19 presented huge problems for churches all around the world.

These challenges led to difficult decisions, like stopping in-person services, downsizing the budget, laying off staff members, and more.

Pastors had to make difficult decisions.

Church Fuel helped churches of all sizes to navigate these changes, offering live workshops to help pastors trim from their budget. We released communication guides and reopening email templates to help pastors make wise decisions in difficult times. Our coaches hopped on Zoom calls to help pastors through.

But mostly, we tried to just listen and encourage pastors who were trying to maintain hope through difficult circumstances.

Through it all, there were glimpses of hope.

Without the ability to meet face-to-face, churches scrambled to beef up their online presence, creating new ways for church members to engage with each other and new opportunities to serve the community.

Instead of inviting the community to come to the building, churches found new ways to go to the community. Churches connected with local partners, helping meet needs.

Embracing the opportunity, churches looked for new ways to reach people, serve people, pray with people, encourage people, and pastor people.

Businesses did this, too.

  • When COVID essentially shut down movie theaters, Wal-Mart announced socially distant drive-in theaters in their parking lots.
  • Orange Theory, Planet Fitness, and 24-Hour Fitness began live-streaming workout classes and offering on-demand sessions.
  • You probably know a restaurant that survived by shifting to curbside delivery, take-out, or home meal-prep kits.

This is more than making a pivot to survive in a new reality. This is an intentional decision to push forward no matter what. You see, new problems create new opportunities.

The onset of COVID was certainly a huge challenge for churches.

But it was also a gigantic opportunity.

We got the opportunity to reset, reimagine, and refocus on our mission. It wasn’t something we asked for, but perhaps it was something God could use for good.

This really is the heart of the growth mindset, something we talk about in our Church Fuel community all of the time.

The stuck mindset focuses on the challenges. It’s something that is happening TO you, something that is out of your control. Pastors with the stuck mindset focus on the limiting factors around them.

The growth mindset focuses on the opportunity. You recognize the challenges, but realize God wants to do something THROUGH you. It’s where you embrace the current reality and decide to be the best steward of the times. Pastors with a growth mindset view every challenge as an opportunity.

The growth mindset is how you navigate a way forward, no matter what is going on in the world, in your community, or in your church.

It’s a mental model mixed with a strong resolve reinforced by a divine calling.

The Opportunity to Engage People Post-COVID 

As your church navigates ministry in a post-COVID world, engaging people and volunteers will be one of your biggest challenges.

That makes it one of your biggest opportunities.

You need people to fill roles that have been vacated. And you need new people to fill new roles to meet these new challenges.

“We just can’t get people to help,” a pastor told me after shifting services online and struggling to get people involved.

So how can we leverage the growth mindset to involve new people in new ways in this new reality?

Three Huge Principles for Recruiting Volunteers

We’re going to dive into some specific suggestions, but first, let’s talk about the principles that can help you accomplish your mission in the next season of ministry.

#1 – New roles attract new people.

Maybe you’ve tried for months to fill some existing volunteer positions. For example, I bet there are some openings in kids ministry that seem to always be there. You always need people to serve in the children’s ministry, don’t you?

You announce the needs, print them in the bulletin, include them in the emails, and ask around. The vacancy wears on you because you know children’s ministry is important.

It might sound counterintuitive, but if people hear about the same need over and over, they might tune you out. “I’ve heard this before,” they think as they dig in their heels of resistance.

Since they have already made the mental decision that they aren’t a good fit for this role, there’s not enough vision you could throw at them to get them to change their mind.

But new roles, even if in familiar departments or programs, can break the pattern.

Some people want to be first. Some people want to break new ground. So, creating new positions is a way to break the mental pattern and get someone to lean in.

#2 – Specific roles attract specific people.

Not only do new roles get people to lean in, the more specific you can make it, the better. Again, this is a little counterintuitive.

You might think casting the broadest possible net is the way to go. But generic pleas for help are often ignored.

People think, “Surely there are a lot of other people who could do that…they don’t need me.”

But when you share a specific need (and the more specific, the better), someone might think, “Wow…it’s as if they were describing me. I’m perfectly qualified to do that unique thing.”

Instead of saying, “We’re looking for volunteers to help with the elementary ministry” say, “We’re looking for a dad with older kids to help mentor some 4th graders on Sunday mornings at 11am.” The specificity will attract people’s attention.

Share specific needs, not generic pleas for help.

#3 – Digital roles attract different people.

As you think through your volunteer needs in a post-COVID world, make sure you are promoting digital roles.

Almost all serving positions in churches require physical attendance. But as you now realize, ministry can and does happen online. That means you need people to engage digitally.

This opens you up to a world of new people who can serve from their computers around a different schedule.

Digital volunteer roles often attract younger people, which is a challenge we hear over and over again from church leaders.

Consider New Volunteer Roles for New Times

As you think about creating new, specific, and timely roles for your church in order to engage more people in the mission, here are some ideas to guide you.

This is not a comprehensive list but hopefully, it helps you think through what roles you could use in your context.

  • Cleaning Crew. As you know, some people are very passionate about cleanliness and would be more than happy to help create a safe and sanitized environment for worship.
  • Online Campus Director. With more and more ministries shifting online and with digital strategy becoming more and more important, now could be the time to put someone in charge of an online campus or digital strategy. We’re seeing churches embrace this as a paid position, but you can absolutely start with a volunteer.
  • Digital Hosts. These volunteers can show up in a live stream or online service and intentionally and purposefully interact with participants. We’ve seen churches invite people to be a part of a prayer team, respond to comments, and suggest the next steps. This is a great way to get people involved in your digital ministry.
  • Digital Small Group Leader. Leading an online small group is similar to an in-person small group, but it often provides more flexibility for the host. It IS possible to build community online and digital small group leaders (often short-term) are a great place to start.
  • Sermon Splicer. What if someone took your sermon video and created three or four short clips to share on social media? Yes, there are paid services you can use to do this and that’s a great option. But there might be someone who could do this as a ministry to your church and community.
  • Communications Director. The need for a comprehensive communications plan and strategy has never been greater and you might consider making this a staff position. But it’s also something you could raise up a volunteer to do, making sure they have a team of people to lead.

You could find volunteers to help with social media, create a YouTube channel, create or edit digital communications, share helpful resources out in the community, run digital advertising, head up community service ministry opportunities, and so much more.

Take some time to think through things you’re already doing but create or call out fresh ways to serve. Think through the changes that have happened in your church that have created new opportunities. Make your own list and start communicating these new, specific, and digital volunteer needs.

As you create these new roles, God may even bring certain people to mind. Go ahead and reach out to them. Work with them to clarify the opportunity and begin to leverage their skills. Watch how engaging people on their terms, not just firing out a list of all the stuff the church needs doing, causes them to light up.

Volunteer Challenge

I want to close this chapter with a challenge.

As you look to fill new roles with new people, make sure your work fits within your overall volunteer system. Make sure the effort you’re putting in will have lasting results.

If you just read this and quickly spin up some new roles with little thought to your big-picture strategy, you may not experience the results you’re looking for.  You’ll be responding to a right-now need rather than solving a long-term problem.

But if you filter all of this through your total volunteer system, the changes you make now and the new people you bring in will have a lasting effect on your ministry.

If the talk of a volunteer system or a volunteer strategy doesn’t make sense to you, here’s a quick overview of what we teach in The Volunteer Course at Church Fuel.

Making sure your church has happy and healthy volunteers depends on getting three things right.

#1 – Recruit

You need to determine how, when, and why you’re recruiting volunteers. In the course, we suggest two primary ways: top-down or bottom-up. Both will work, but the challenge is to master one, not mix both.

#2 – Train

Don’t just bring new volunteers into the mix and then hope they figure out what they need to know to be successful. Instead, give them the tools and resources they need to be successful. This starts with a clear job description and continues with proper onboarding.

#3 – Pastor

This may be the secret sauce of the entire system. Your volunteers need to truly feel connected to the heart of the church and someone should be caring for their soul. This goes way beyond recruiting and training and looks a lot more like shepherding. It’s also how you prevent volunteer burnout.

You can learn much more about all three steps in this system in The Volunteer Course. It’s one of the premium courses we include for all members who join Church Fuel.


Need More Children’s Ministry Volunteers? Follow These 7 Steps

Need More Children’s Ministry Volunteers? Follow These 7 Steps

Managing your children’s ministry is difficult.

Regardless of how much time or how many resources you devote to this ministry, it can feel like it’s never enough.

You need teachers and helpers.

You need a solid curriculum and engaging activities.

Your volunteers come and go, and it can seem like you’re always in need of help.

If your children’s ministry stresses you out, you’re not alone. Countless church leaders have expressed feeling a similar sentiment.

When hearing from church leaders, here’s the one problem most of them have in common:

They need more volunteers (like yesterday) in their children’s ministry.

If this is you, don’t sweat it. I’ve got you covered.

In this post, I’m going to lay out tactics you can use to inspire more volunteers to join your children’s ministry today, as well as different ways you can prepare volunteers to serve tomorrow.

Let’s get started!

#1 – Always pray

At Church Fuel, we focus on providing insanely practical resources to help you lead your church.

Even though there tends to be practical answers to ministry problems, this doesn’t mean you should skip right to the best practices without prayer.

There’s an old adage that goes like this:

Work as if everything depends upon you. But pray as if everything depends upon God.

I understand it’s stressful when you need more volunteers.

If you’re like me, you just want to get right to work recruiting people.

But fight the temptation to move forward without prayer.

Remember, God is at work in your church.

He will lead your church members to serve his church.

Before you implement the tactics below, be sure to be in constant prayer. In time, God will raise up volunteers to participate in his work through your children’s ministry (Matt 9:38).

#2 – Build a leadership pipeline

Do you need more children’s ministry volunteers ASAP?

If you’re in dire straits, take a deep breath—everything is going to work out.

I’m not encouraging you to be patient for patience’s sake.

There are two practical things you need to keep in mind:

  1. You need more volunteers now.
  2. You need to prepare more volunteers for later.

Below, I’m going to share several tactics you can use to encourage more people to volunteer in your children’s ministry. So let me punt on this for now.

Here’s one thing I want to stress:

You need to create a leadership pipeline.

In other words, you need to develop a system your church can use to lead people to volunteer. This way, you won’t always have to scramble to find people to serve.

As a church leader, you need to have one foot in the present and one in the future. When it comes to volunteers in your church, you need to prepare for the future by developing people today.

#3 – Make it easy to volunteer

Serving is a natural outcome as a Christian.

When you place your faith in Christ, you’ll grow a desire to serve God, serve people, and serve your church.

What does this mean for you?

There are more people in your church who desire to serve than the number who are currently serving.

What’s the holdup?

Well, it depends.

From not knowing how to get involved to feeling incompetent, there are a variety of reasons why your church members are not volunteering—especially in your children’s ministry.

One key to encouraging people to sign up is to make volunteering easy like Sunday morning.

Practically speaking, here are three things you must do:

  1. Be organized
  2. Clarify expectations
  3. Get a legit curriculum

It’s one thing to need more volunteers. It’s a different ball game actually being organized enough to handle more volunteers. As a church leader, you need to be prepared to handle an influx of people.

The first thing you need to do is clarify expectations.

Here are some things volunteers will likely want or need to know:

    • What do I need to do?
    • When do I start?
    • How long do I need to commit?
    • Who do I ask for help?
    • Do I need training?
    • Who do I report to?
    • What are the security protocols?
    • How do we contact parents when a kid is sick?
    • How do we handle discipline?

Nailing down the answer to these questions will place you well on your way to making it easy to serve in your children’s ministry. Finally, you need to invest in a legit children’s curriculum. Make sure your volunteers have everything they need ahead of time. From the lesson they’re going to teach to the craft they need to build, provide your children’s ministry volunteers with everything they need.

#4 – Cast a compelling vision

Casting a vision doesn’t only influence the trajectory of your church.

The existence (or absence) of a compelling vision will also influence your children’s ministry.

As a leader, help your church members to see what can be possible.

Show them how your children’s ministry connects with God’s plan.

Help them to see how their work supports the mission of your church.

Paint a compelling picture of sharing the gospel and supporting parents and guardians in making disciples of their children.

Don’t be apologetic.

Don’t rely on shame or guilt.

Share a vision for your children’s ministry that people can see and feel.

#5 – Just ask people

Life in your children’s ministry is busy.

When your church members observe what’s going on, they may think everything is running like a well-oiled machine when you know there are a few volunteers ready to retire because they’re burned out.

Don’t assume this is a bad thing.

In sociology, there’s a thing called the “bystander effect” that can potentially explain why people don’t raise their hands to help—it may be because they think someone else is already taking care of the job.

There’s one easy way to counteract this belief:

Ask people one-on-one to volunteer.

Whether you ask someone in person, over the phone, or via email, directly asking them to consider participating in God’s work through your children’s ministry is arguably the best way to encourage people to volunteer.

Don’t be afraid to ask, and again, don’t be apologetic.

Remember, God is at work in your church. He is calling people to serve, and you are simply providing them an opportunity to exercise their calling and gifts.

#6 – Look in your student ministry

Do you have a student ministry?

If so, then high school students can be a great source of children’s ministry volunteers.

When you invite students to volunteer, be sure to connect each one with an adult volunteer who will show them the ropes. What is more, adult volunteers can also serve as a mentor and another voice speaking into their lives.

If you go this route, I suggest asking your student ministry leaders who they think will be good volunteers.

#7 – Launch a short-term campaign

Still in a bind for more volunteers?

In the life of your church, there will likely be a time when you’ll need an influx of volunteers.

Instead of just banking on a church announcement to do the trick, put together a short-term campaign to get people excited to join your children’s ministry.

For your campaign, set a goal of how many volunteers you need, and come up with a catchy theme you can use, such as:

    • Change Someone’s World
    • For the Future
    • Seeds of Faith
    • Jump on Board
    • Building the Future Together

When running your campaign, don’t forget everything I just shared.

You don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater (principles) to recruit a few more volunteers.

With your campaign, set a start and end date and go for it!

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

    • Make a church announcement
    • Share stories from volunteers
    • Send emails
    • Create social media content
    • Ask people (see above)
    • Send push notifications

Depending upon your situation, you can also preach a sermon or sermon series on volunteering in general or children’s ministry in particular. This is the same idea we shared when launching a small group event.

Recruit Children Ministry Volunteers

A good approach to boosting engagement and increasing volunteers in your children’s ministry is to have a long- and short-term approach. As I mentioned above, there will be times when you’ll need to focus on recruiting volunteers now, and that’s okay. Even though this will be the case at times, I encourage you to still work toward creating a long-term plan. You can thank me later.  

5 Ways to Motivate Your Church’s Volunteers

5 Ways to Motivate Your Church’s Volunteers

Keeping your volunteers motivated is difficult.

They and you are dealing with a host of challenges:

  • Struggles at work
  • Challenges at home
  • Financial stress
  • Lack of purpose

Any one of these issues can totally deflate a volunteer's desire to serve.

Besides, motivation isn’t something you always possess.

Motivation in your life is more like gasoline in a car.

It’s fuel.

Studies show that motivation—the willpower to do something—is a limited resource. The more you use it, the less you’ll eventually have.

Keeping this in mind is essential for managing your volunteers.

A volunteer’s motivation to serve Jesus and your church will go up and down with time.

However, there will be times when your volunteers will be on the struggle bus. In other words, they’ll be having a difficult time doing their work, or they’ll be just not doing it at all.

Before you fire your volunteers, I’d like to share with you five ways you can motivate them to do excellent work.

#1 – Define the issue

Why is it difficult to motivate your volunteers?

Before you confront a volunteer, it’s best to take the time to define the issue.

There are times when the problem will not be the volunteer per se. The problem could be caused by poor recruiting and/or a lack of training.

Consider these two questions.

First, does the issue revolve around your process?

From recruiting volunteers to preparing them to serve, do you have a system in place to help you empower your volunteers to serve well? If not, then you’ll have more than one volunteer to motivate because your process didn’t prepare them well.

Second, has your church lost momentum?

Has your church experienced a setback or did your pastor transition off staff? When this happens, you can lose momentum, which means while your church figures out what’s next, your volunteers may not care as much as they once did.

In both of these scenarios, you’ll need to address your church systems and culture. However, this doesn’t mean you have to avoid individual volunteers who are struggling. As you define the issue, you’ll see that you’ll need to work on your church as you support your volunteers.

Now, there will likely come a time when you’ll need to confront a volunteer.

Not in an aggressive, we-need-to-settle-this-in-the-parking-lot type of situation.

But there will be times when volunteers aren’t necessarily volunteering.

Instead of doing the work they agreed to do, they …

… show up late …
… don’t really do their job …
… and make life difficult for everyone else.

When you’re dealing with a problematic volunteer, there are several things you can do to empower him or her. Let’s explore a few of those options in detail.

#2 – Retrain Current Volunteers

Do your volunteers know what they need to do?

If there’s a lack of clarity, then your volunteers won’t know what they should do, which means they’re not going to do their job.

If your volunteers are not serving to their fullest potential, the first thing you need to address is whether your volunteers know what’s expected of them.

Review their positions.

Walk through the requirements with them.

See whether they understand what needs to be done.

Afterward, do they have a better idea of what’s expected?

Great, your work is done.

Do they need help with their job?

Provide them with the training they need to get the job done.

If your volunteers’ lack of motivation isn’t due to a lack of clarity or training, it can be social, which leads me to the next point.

#3 – Build team chemistry

Teamwork is never easy.

In Christ, your church is unified—not perfect. You strive to live and love like Jesus the best you can. But at the end of the day, your church is made up of a mixed bag of people with different personalities, experiences, and expectations.

Putting a variety of people together to serve as volunteers can create challenges.

Here’s the deal:

It can be tough for people to get along with each other.

There are different types of personalities that just don’t mesh well together. That’s okay. Everyone who follows Jesus is always learning what it means to love one another (John 13:34–35).

Regarding team chemistry, there are two things you want to be aware of:

  • Do your volunteers struggle with specific people?
  • Do they thrive with other people?

If a few volunteers struggle to be around certain people, see if you can help them work through these differences. Provide them with guidance to navigate the minefields of personal relationships.

After you give someone an opportunity to work through his or her differences with someone else, and there’s still no resolution, then consider scheduling him or her to serve at a different time or in a different position (more on this later).

Is there someone in particular your volunteer thrives around? See if you can arrange for these people to serve together. Finding the best teams to work together can create a wonderful dynamic where the volunteers thrive and performance is improved.

#4 – Find a new position

Is someone miserable when serving?

Not in the “I don’t like serving” sense.

But in the “I want to serve, but I can’t stand what I’m doing” type of thing.

If so, there’s a good chance you’ll need to find him or her a new volunteer position.

At times, your church will need warm bodies—people who can temporarily serve in a position outside of their comfort zone. But there are other times when either you misread someone or someone doesn’t really know his or her passion and skills and how to best serve.

In either one of these situations, don’t beat yourself up about it. There are a ton of variables at play, and it can be difficult to find an ideal position for someone to serve in.  

How do you know if someone’s a bad fit for a role?

Consider these clues:

  • He or she regularly talks about doing something else
  • He or she dreads serving
  • He or she isn’t productive
  • He or she is clearly bored
  • He or she lacks passion

From this list of clues, the first one is what you really need to be on the lookout for. If your volunteers are struggling in their work, and they talk about doing something else, then consider helping them to do whatever has perked their interests. Their struggles may totally be a result of misalignment—they’re just in the wrong position.

#5 – Give volunteers a break

People are terrible at taking breaks.

According to a report by Glassdoor, most people in the United States don’t use half of their allotted vacation time.

And you know what else?

Most people who take a vacation actually work on their vacation.

You’re probably thinking:

What does this have to do with volunteers?

Perhaps more than you think.

If people in America struggle with taking a vacation, then there’s a good chance some of your volunteers need to take a break. They won’t admit that they need a break. But here are some telltale signs that your struggling volunteers need a rest:

  • They appear irritated
  • They’re habitually tardy
  • They show a lack of enthusiasm
  • They’re experiencing personal or family struggles
  • They’re making constant mistakes
  • They’re clearly serving with a “glass is half-empty” kind of attitude

There are a number of reasons why your volunteers may be exhibiting these behaviors.

Perhaps they’ve been serving for months or years uninterrupted, and they’re just tired or burned-out. For others, life has thrown them a few curveballs and they’ve hit a couple of bumps along the way. They may just need to take a step away from serving. In either one of these situations, let them know that it’s okay to take a break. Jesus is building his church, and God will lead new volunteers to step up and take their place.

Time to Motivate Your Church Volunteers

There you have it.

Five ways you can motivate your volunteers:

1. Define the issue
2. Retrain
3. Build team chemistry
4. Find a new position
5. Give them a break

Before you wash your hands after trying one or more of these tactics, there’s one last thing you need to do: Follow-up.

With every one of these tactics, you must follow up with the volunteers you worked with. You want to make sure that they’re thriving in their roles or they’re being re-energized by taking a break.

If you find out your volunteers continue to struggle, then you may need to ask them to step down. Confrontations are never fun. But avoiding an ongoing problem with your volunteers may lead to a more serious issue.

In the end, your goal is to motivate your volunteers by helping them serve Jesus. Follow these tips to make this as easy as possible.