Encourage Those That Volunteer

A little goes a long way

by Jessica Downs/ March 17, 2016

So you’ve done it! You’ve gotten the volunteers you have been hoping and praying for. But you begin to notice you are losing people as fast as you are gaining them. What’s going on? You try to make sure they have all the materials they need and even have helpers in their class. What more could they possibly want? 

One word: Encouragement. 

But how do you do that? 

Generally speaking, it’s easy to be on the receiving end of encouragement, but to be the one giving it can be a challenge for some. What do you say? And how do you say it? What if your team member really didn’t do anything deserving of a “well done”? I’m here to tell you that everyone needs positive words spoken over them even if they don’t earn it. 

I know, it seems counter intuitive, but if all you ever do is correct (or say nothing at all), your volunteers won’t last long. We all have insecurities and unless someone speaks directly in opposition to them, they’ll get the best of us. Imagine if your senior pastor only spoke correction over you. Seriously, think about it. How long could you stay in that position? 

Most of our volunteers don’t have formal training, so from the get-go they may have uncertainties about their ability. But when we come alongside them and encourage them in their journey, it gives them the strength to keep growing and moving forward. So how do you do that? Here are some suggestions: 

  1. Verbal – Make a point to say something to each volunteer you see on the weekend. Whether it’s a “Looking sharp this morning!” or a “Thank you for your faithfulness each week!” Don’t underestimate the power of being seen.
  2. Written – Consider writing 3-4 thank you cards each week. Keep track of who you’ve sent them to so you don’t miss anyone. This does two things: encourages your team and helps you look for things that went well instead of just the things that went wrong.
  3. Spiritual – Intercede for your volunteers. Find out what they need prayer for and go to bat for them in the spiritual realm. Include verses or devotionals in your team communication and let them know that you pray that their relationship with God is deepened through their service.  
  4. Physical – Show up for your team. Invite them into your home. Attend your teen helper’s high school play. Offer to babysit for a couple in your ministry. If you are invested in them, they will be invested in you.
So there you have it…four ideas for supporting and encouraging your volunteers. You may not be able to implement all of them right away, but start with one and add more as you’re able. Bit by bit you’ll see the difference a little encouragement can make.