5 Things Your Volunteer Environments Must Have
For your volunteer environments to thrive, you must be intentional about the culture you’re creating. Part of your job, whether it’s in your job description or not, is to help create the culture in which your volunteers serve.
I believe volunteer environments need five major components in order to be successful.
1. A Training or Equipping Element
Volunteers need to know and be confident in what you’re asking them to do. Sure, some volunteers will take some initiative and find things to do to help, but the bulk of your team needs clear, solid direction on what you want them to do. They crave it. If it’s clear to your team members what they are doing and why they are doing it, they develop more ownership of your process.
When executing live experiences, the number one fear of volunteers is that they will mess up the service for hundreds or thousands of people. But what I’ve found is that if they are extremely confident in knowing the position or the tasks you’re asking them to perform, a lot of their nervousness goes away.
At the churches where I’ve served, we’ve implemented some pretty extensive training processes involving multiple fake worship services where volunteers could make mistakes on the same gear they would use for a live service, but without the stress of people in the room.
2. Community and Relationships
We all crave a place where we belong, where everyone knows our name. Volunteers long for relationships with people they have things in common with. Your environments will thrive when you have community building elements in your team. When was the last time your team went to lunch after the service on Sunday? When’s the last time your team had a fun event together? You may try implementing an events team inside your teams that could work to plan small monthly events and large quarterly events for the group.
3. A Clear Leadership Structure
Your volunteers want to know who to report to and who to get direction from. If your leadership structure is loose and people are unclear who is responsible for what area of your ministry, volunteers will get frustrated with your environment. If you have leaders under you, make sure it’s clear who is responsible for what and make it clear to everyone.
4. Spiritual Development and Care
Volunteers long to be cared for and loved. Even if you are in an “unspiritual position”, your role should be your team’s pastor first. Try keeping a spreadsheet with a quick line about where each member of your team is in their spiritual journey. You might be surprised how many people on your team are unclear of their salvation, their baptism, or other parts of their development. Don’t assume you know where a team member is in their walk with Christ. Work to develop and care for them, not just as it relates to tasks, but more importantly, as it relates to their spiritual walk.
Your environment should be a place where your team members know that you, as well as the staff and volunteer leaders, care more about them than the task they perform. You should value people over tasks or processes you may have in place.
5. A Celebration Component
You breed what’s celebrated in your team. Do you celebrate numbers? Are you celebrating salvations? Baptisms? People that are finding community in small groups? Are you celebrating team members that do a great job on your team? Are you celebrating your team leaders? Your interns? Your new team members? Celebrate!
If you are intentional about incorporating these 5 components into any volunteer environment you lead, I promise you’ll start seeing results. You’ll begin seeing a thriving team that wants to be there and serve, a team that is taking more ownership, and volunteers that are more dedicated to the vision.