One problem churches face today is how to engage more volunteers in their programs. People tend to think because they are not directly asked to do something, the church does not need help or someone else will volunteer. This mindset can create some issues for the church leaving a shortage of volunteers for the nursery on Sundays, outreach programs, missions, etc. The list can go on and on. How do we create a sense of community and increase our volunteers? Research shows not only does a volunteer serve their community but their personal faith is affected also. Even though you are volunteering to help someone else, most volunteers also need to feel a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in their ministry in order to continue volunteering. If the church does not provide this sense of fulfillment in the form of challenge, encouragement, support and opportunities most volunteers will not return to the mission.
The following is an excerpt from an article I recently read on this very topic.
Yet in spite of the confirmed spiritual benefits accrued through faithful service, volunteers may find themselves feeling unchallenged and unfulfilled by their work in the community. Strengthening the faith-life of volunteers should be an important focus for congregational leaders, not only because service is such an integral component of the Christian lifestyle, but also because community needs are great, and volunteers are consistently in high demand. Here are some steps church leaders can take to revitalize their congregants' commitment to serve, and to strengthen the faith-life of volunteers at the same time.
- Challenge members to get involved in community ministry as a necessary outgrowth of the Christian faith, then provide the means for them to respond to your challenge. Offer mission opportunities through the congregation itself, and seek out opportunities for volunteers in public, private, faith-based and secular venues. Consider programs that require once-daily volunteers as well as once-monthly volunteers, so that even members who have very little time to donate can get involved in volunteer work.
- Work on moving members from short-term volunteer ventures to long-term commitment. Many congregations literally move their members, sending them on long-distance mission trips during which participants can gain a new appreciation of the positive impact made in people's lives because of their efforts. But opportunities for joyful service exist close to home, too. Volunteers who thrive in distant missions settings may be inspired to get involved in similar projects locally.
- Define volunteer jobs in ways that emphasize the relational aspect of volunteering. Services such as delivering meals weekly to a regular set of people, or tutoring the same child over a period of time, give volunteers the chance to develop personal bonds with other people. The challenges and rewards involved with personal relationships are far more significant for the faith formation of volunteers than non-relational service.
- Set the standard by setting an example: get personally involved in community service. Congregational leaders who are involved and visible in community ministries will be better equipped to connect the church's services with the community's needs.
- Celebrate and educate volunteers. Pray for upcoming volunteer events, and plan time afterward for the volunteers to share and reflect upon their experiences. Consider establishing a prayer group or Bible study to help support volunteers through potentially difficult experiences in their community work. Use the group time to examine the social and economic factors that create the problems that volunteers are called upon to alleviate. Encourage volunteers to find ways to respond to systemic problems as well as to the impact of such problems on the lives of individuals.
- Encourage service for service's sake, and discourage the congregation from equating success as a volunteer with solving the community's problems. Remind volunteers that volunteering is an act of Christian discipleship, an opportunity to learn, to befriend and to support, and that the burden of changing lives doesn't rest on them personally, but on God.
With the right balance of encouragement, opportunity, challenge and support, church leaders can lead their congregations toward a renewed commitment to serving their communities and renewing their faith through community service.
Excerpt taken from "Research Briefs from Related Projects Connecting Faith and Service," Baylor University School of Social Work and partners