No ministry is immune to challenges. And when working with volunteers, challenges can multiply if not dealt with.
When I reviewed these three volunteer ministry dilemmas, the first thing I realized was that they all have one thing in common. And that one thing is a problem I’ve encountered over and over again in my 35 years of directing, consulting, and training in volunteerism—a lack of clearly defined policies. I can’t emphasize strongly enough how much grief and conflict can be avoided when good policies are in place.
What written policies and procedures do for you:
- Establish standards of behavior and a common body of knowledge.
- Provide stability and consistency.
- Support unpleasant but necessary requirements, such as background checks for children’s ministry volunteers.
- Strengthen your defense if you’re sued.
- Help resolve problems and eliminate hazards.
I like this story : “A friend of ours is a lifeguard at a city pool. When he was hired he thought his job would be to sit on a platform diligently watching the water, ever prepared to toss aside his whistle and clipboard and dive in to drag out a drowning swimmer.
“His supervisor straightened the young man out. ‘Your job is first and foremost not to rescue people who are victims of accidents or stupidity,’ the supervisor said, ‘Your job is to keep people from having accidents or doing anything stupid.’
“During the course of his summer the young man never once dove in to save someone. But more times than he could count, he kept children from running on slick cement around the pool and enforced rules that kept weak swimmers out of deep water. The lifeguard discovered that the pool policies he’d at first thought were silly actually kept people safe.”
Volunteer ministry policies accomplish the same thing; they keep volunteers safe from slipping and getting into deep water.