Hi, my name’s Michelle Anthony. Welcome to family ministry conversations. Today our topic is: How do we inspire our volunteers? And how do we create a culture and a climate for them—where they’re not just serving us, but we’re actually serving them as well?

One of the things that I feel is so important when we are talking about our volunteer culture, is that we have their needs in mind. Oftentimes we have a ministry that we feel has needs, and so we recruit volunteers. And we train volunteers so that they can serve that ministry.

Our focus becomes the product. Maybe it’s the students, the children, the families, and we neglect thinking about the needs of the volunteer.

Think of the ways that you can pray for volunteers, serve them, and work to create a culture where they can be in community while using their gifts.

Volunteers do have a “need” to use their gifts. Ephesians 4 tells us that they have been given gifts by God to use, and that our job as ministry leaders is to equip the saints to do the work of the Lord.

I tell my staff members, “If you have a paid position at our church—whether you’re part time or you’re full time—your job really is to recruit, train, and come alongside volunteers. And so, yes, you have a ministry to children or youth or families—but really, your job is also to come alongside of these volunteers and train and equip them and pour into their lives.

When we have a volunteer-focused ministry, it means that we’re going to use our time to invest in volunteers. But we’re going to consider their needs.

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So What Do Volunteers Need?

What are a volunteer’s needs? To use their gifts, as we said in Ephesians 4, but then also to give them a place of community.

Oftentimes in our churches, the best way to get involved is to start volunteering somewhere. If we can create community around them, while they are volunteering, this is the best of both worlds.

They are serving and using their gifts. But we are creating a community culture where we say, “Hey we’re going to do some things after church.” Maybe a luncheon or an ice cream social? Or a time for them to network with other volunteers in their specific time, stage or age?

That becomes a place where they can grow, and the church starts feeling more like a community for them.

I’ve seen great friendships that last a lifetime. Volunteers who meet and start rooming together. I’ve seen volunteers get married. We’ve had a lot of success in seeing community built—when we intentionally think about the needs of volunteers.

We pour into our volunteers before we ask them to pour into others.

Take some time and consider your ministry to volunteers—not just the ministry that your volunteers are doing today. Think of the ways that you can pray for them, serve them, and work to create a culture where they can be in community while using their gifts.