by Bob D’Ambrosio
After being the “volunteer-getter” on church staff for 25 years, I’m now sitting in the pew as a volunteer.
The view from this side of the pew is often different from the view of the church staffer. I’ve found that the people I serve with have similar thoughts as those I’ve had since entering the world of church volunteering.
While we love serving in ministry and are willing to share our time, there are some things we probably won’t say to you directly but may be helpful for you to know.
1. We’re not serving because of you. Thanks for asking me to step into a ministry role, but I’m serving because I see it as an expression of my faith walk. The church staff functions as the catalyst to help people find a ministry match, but it’s not about me helping you with your ministry: it’s about you helping me find mine.
2. We didn’t volunteer because we want appreciation, but it sure helps us stay motivated. I’m serving because it’s a way for me to give back, use my gifts, and bring others closer to God. I didn’t step into this role to receive compliments, a coffee mug, a T-shirt, or a pat on the back. But the absence of any expression of affirmation makes me feel like I’m on the “B” team—like my ministry doesn’t matter. I didn’t sign up for validation, but a lack of it makes me think that what I do doesn’t matter.
3. Lack of communication makes us feel undervalued. We don’t attend staff meetings, have offices at the church, or know what’s on the agenda for the next council meeting. So please keep us informed, especially if it impacts our ministry area or a direction we’ve been given. Don’t let us get too far down the road and then tell us you’re turning the car around.
4. You’re our voice to the paid staff. When my team has an idea, challenge, or needs approval, you represent us. You bring our joys and concerns to the executive staff. When needing direction or focus, you help us stay on track with the mission. Validate who we are by advocating for what we do.
5. Give us adequate time to accomplish assignments. When a ministry plan needs action, it can take many hours to get it done. My ministry time is on top of my 40-hour-a-week job, and I can’t always address the assignment right away. Give me as much time as possible to do my ministry responsibilities. If something needs immediate attention and my day job won’t allow me to get it done by the deadline, recruit extra workers or be willing to take over as needed. I won’t be offended if others need to step in to get the job done.
I love serving in my church. I want to partner with the staff team, not feel alienated from them. Help me be a successful volunteer. We’re all in this together.