Pastor’s Column: Becoming a Volunteer Church
Is it true? Are churches paying volunteers?
Yes, it’s very true. Churches are paying volunteers. Not all. I actually wish more were.
As a pastor and consultant I’ve sat with church leaders over and over again as they’ve asked for help in growing volunteer teams. I’ve said the same thing repeatedly. “You’ve got to pay your volunteers, not many people work for nothing.” They tilt their head and look at me like I’ve lost my mind.
And then the astonished words fly out, “Jill, did you hear what you just said? You said to pay volunteers? Shouldn’t people just volunteer out of the goodness of their heart?” To that I smile and say yes, yes and yes. Then I ask, “Do you want to grow your ministry areas?” “Sure!” “Do you want to see others come to Christ?” “Yes, we are a church!” “Do you dream of launching new ministries to reach your community?” “That’s our dream!” “Well, then it’s time to pony up and pay your volunteers.”
The kind of payment I’m talking about isn’t about money. It’s a much richer kind of investment. It’s in time and care.
- Listening to them.
- Training them.
- Encouraging them.
- Being there for them when they struggle and when they celebrate.
- Praying with and for them.
Volunteers want nothing more than to be successful at their volunteer role. They want to be encouraged along the way and they want someone to actually care about what is happening in their lives. Volunteers want to follow a leader that has time for them and cares for them. It’s an investment in them and as a pastor and leader in ministry I’ve discovered something. I’ve never regretted standing by one of my volunteers as they lay in a hospital bed and praying for God to heal their body. I’ve never regretted driving across the city to show up at their office with a card when work has been hard. I’ve never regretted the extra hours I’ve put in to train them so they could flourish in their volunteer role. I’ve never regretted standing behind them cheering loudly as they’ve given endless hours making sandwiches to feed the hungry. I’ve never regretted a single investment in one of my volunteers. Actually, when I reflect on all my time in ministry they’ve been some of the moments that have added the most richness to my own life.
So how much are you investing in your volunteers? How much are you paying them?
*Want to learn more about how your church can be more effective at working with volunteers, check out Jill and Leith Anderson’s two books. The Volunteer Church: Mobilizing Your Congregation for Growth and Effectiveness and Volunteering: A Guide to Serving in the Body of Christ.
Jill Fox graduated from Bethel University and Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, with an M.A. in transformational leadership. She served for a dozen years at Wooddale Church, in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Eight of those years, she oversaw the volunteer development ministry she designed and implemented. She was pastor of creative arts, young adults and The Gathering, Wooddale’s Sunday night alternative worship service. Jill frequently consults and works with churches, seminaries, and other organizations.