Is your volunteer team running ragged? Read more to discover ways to maintain the fabric of volunteers’ spiritual lives.
A beautiful tapestry is so well-made that rather than looking at the fabric, one sees only the woven images and patterns. One loose thread pulled is no big deal, but if left untended, soon a large portion of the tapestry can unravel.
It’s the same with the fabric of our faith. When well-tended, the amazing image of our faith reflects the love and grace of God. Yet there are times we can run ragged or feel a little frayed around the edges.
Just think about all the threads God has woven to create the tapestry of you — and of all your volunteers. In Genesis 1, we read that we’re created in God’s image. And Psalm 139:13 says that God formed us and knit us together in our mother’s womb. The heart and soul of each and every person is unique and precious. In all of time, there will never be two people who are exactly alike.
In looking at our volunteers, we’re gazing upon an amazing tapestry being woven right before our eyes. Their spiritual fabric and the health of that fabric is what gives them breath and the energy to live abundantly. The spiritual life of our volunteers, their walk with God, and their personal relationship with Jesus are of utmost importance to us as their shepherds.
All of us have ragged edge times. So let’s explore the following ways to care for the spiritual fabric of our volunteers.
Love Your Volunteers
Really love them! Love your volunteers with the love of Jesus. Be genuine, authentic, and real in expressing the value of each volunteer. What’s their love language? People tend to express and like to receive love in one or two of five languages: words, gifts, quality time, affection, or acts of service.
Speak love. Words of encouragement, affirmation, and gratitude go a long way. Positive comments lift us up and cause us to walk a new walk. Listen and watch for times a volunteer touches another heart and life. Be there with a note or a comment. Let your volunteers know you notice and appreciate their ministry. Give love. A meaningful gift, small token of appreciation, or helpful resource is an unexpected touch that lifts the spirit of a volunteer. The impact of a simple gift is very powerful. In fact, these items are so important that you need to have a line item for gifts in your budget. Spend time on love. For people who speak this love language, nothing says I love you better than time together. Go out for coffee, take a walk together, meet at the park or McDonald’s Playland to visit while your kids play. The investment of your time is a genuine, specific way to tell volunteers you care about them. l Embrace love. A hug, a pat on the back, a handshake, even a high five communicates love in this language. So don’t be stingy with your affection. Serve love. Never discount the power of a casserole in times of need. To a person who speaks this love language, this simple act of service is better than getting flowers. Look for practical ways to meet needs.
Obviously, to do all this regularly requires commitment and time—time you may not have. So recruit and empower key people to join you in looking out for, shepherding, and loving volunteers. If you empower a team of people to make it their ministry to care for, assist, and love a group of volunteers, you’ll see volunteers who are energized—even when life frays their edges.
Form a Small-Group Ministry
Small-group ministry plays an important role in growing relationships with others and with Jesus. A small-group experience can be filled with the sharing of life stories, care giving and receiving, accountability, and community.
I’ve observed congregations where each volunteer becomes part of a small group as a part of the volunteer experience, and an amazing energy flows through the total ministry team. It requires more planning, people, and effort, but the investment is well worth it. Look for areas to incorporate a small group experience for every volunteer. Call it a team huddle, touch-base time, base camp, or small group ministry time — whatever you choose. Be innovative as you look at your programs. How might you offer a renewing, refreshing, vital small group experience for all volunteers?
Jesus modeled community and poured himself into his “small group” of 12. Jesus was preoccupied with loving people. Remember that it’s easier for volunteers to walk away from a task than it is for them to walk away from relationships. Plug your volunteers into relationships with one another.