Preventing Volunteer Burnout

Serve-2“People should love it rather than leave it.” That is what Casey Graham of The Rocket Company says about the attitudes ministry volunteers should have as they serve. However, that attitude may be largely dependent upon the team leader. We want people to thrive in ministry, not to burn out! So, how can we prevent burn out and create a culture where volunteers are healthy, happy and enthusiastic about their ministries?

In the video below, Casey Graham provides a number of helpful insights. I’ve summarized them (and added #3).

1) Purpose. Volunteers need to know why they are doing what they are doing, and specifically how their role relates to the overall mission of the church, which in our case, is to help people come alive to the wonder of God’s grace. Everyone has been given spiritual gifts. As these gifts are used together, the body functions in a healthy way and the gospel is advanced in the community. But it takes a team and each position has a purpose. See Ephesians 4:11-16. Team leaders, can you articulate the purpose of your ministry? If not, let’s get to work and sharpen the focus. I think that will keep you from burning out, too! 🙂

2) Significance. In addition to purpose, team leaders need to help volunteers see the significance of their ministry. They are making a difference! But how? This is where the team leader defines a “win” for their ministry. For example, a “win” for the Greeter Team might be that people arrive thinking, “this is a really friendly place,” or that they meet three new people before they walk into to auditorium. A win for the children’s ministry could be a parent feeling totally confident leaving their child in the nursery and bringing the child back the next week. Maybe the children’s ministry could have a survey for parents. A win would be a survey completed and turned in. A win for the set up team could be to have the signage and tables set up before the cafe’ opens. An usher team win would be to have no one get through the door without a bulletin. These sound like small things, but they add up to something huge: people hearing the gospel and connecting to the community. Do you know what your wins are? If not, try to specify three wins by Sunday and communicate them to your team.

3) Ownership. When a volunteer know the purpose (the why) of their ministry and the significance (the win), they will begin to own the ministry (the wow moment!). They arrive on Sundays enthusiastic about their role, with a sense that this is MY ministry!

4) Discipleship. The final aspect of helping volunteers love what they do is showing them that serving is a part of growing as a fully devoted disciple of Jesus. After all, our goal is not just assimilation of people into the church, but their discipleship as followers of Jesus.

So, team leaders, let’s encourage our volunteers by showing them the purpose of the ministry, emphasizing the significance of the ministry, and motivating them toward ownership of the ministry as we equip them to grow as disciples!

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