Thursday, December 28

What Volunteers Want

The following comes from Jay Lorenzen's OnMovements.

In an article he did for Christianity Today, Ted Harro suggests the following five things that every volunteer wants. As we lead local movement building efforts, we’re all dependent upon volunteers.

Volunteers want:

1.You to call them to a clear, compelling purpose.
Happy volunteers are crystal clear on their ministry’s purpose. They can tell you not only why their group exists, but also why that cause is important. For an important cause, they will give selflessly, and thank you for it.

2. You to involve them as much as possible.
This principle is counter-intuitive, but miss it and you’ll drive volunteers nuts. On one hand, volunteers are busy and juggling multiple priorities. On the other hand, we desperately want to have input into the direction and execution of the ministry. Simply donating funds or executing staff-made plans fail to excite long-term motivation.

3. You to help them celebrate moments by creating traditions.
Harro writes: I recently decided to do a take-off on the foot-washing story at a recent volunteer appreciation retreat. We gave each leader a servant’s towel and, as a group, affirmed some way that they had imitated Jesus’ service. Dry eyes were at a premium as we soaked in the affirmation of God and our peers.

The next year, with the same result, we decided to make the towel-affirmation a tradition. It allows us to underline core values and say the positive words that often go unspoken. And it speaks to the desire of volunteers—consistent relational investment punctuated by meaningful moments.

4. You to not waste their time.
Remember, volunteers want to contribute. They see their unpaid work as a wonderful way to build meaning and purpose into life. And they evaluate every meeting, e-mail, and phone call to see if it adds meaning. If not, they will withdraw and allocate their time elsewhere.

Our volunteers develop a sensitive nose for the hopelessly under-resourced project. Nothing leads to the starving of projects more predictably than a failure to regularly prune the ministry

As a leader, Harro finds that he needs a “stop doing” list at least as much as a “to do” list. Otherwise, he argues, we’d simply confuse and frustrate our volunteers.

5. You to stop the ball-hogging.
Any ball player knows how little fun it is to play with a ball hog. What that player is silently communicating is that he doesn’t trust you to do something good with the ball. And eventually, you just want to sit down. How often do we really entrust our volunteers with doing the most important part of ministry?


Kevin, Somewhere in South America said...

This was a good, concise piece of advice, Guy. Thanks for putting it out there. Amen, and amen.

Ken said...


I agree with all five and believe that we as missionaries who hosts volunteer teams need to be aware of and implement each of these at some level in our efforts.

My concern in reading, just your post at the moment and not the entire article, is what is NOT asked for. Here are things I would add to the list that hopefully someday, volunteers will ask for along with these five you have listed.

1. Training - Teach us how to do what it is you want us to do correctly. Help us understand what you know that we don't know but need to know.

2. Be honest with us. Tell us where we are needed most so that we will be drawn to those locations of greatest need.

3. Help us help you in communicating with Southern Baptists. You the missionary have a message for SBC churches, let us help you get that message out to everyone.

The list could go on but you get the idea. Thanks for the reminders in this post.

GuyMuse said...


Good to hear from you again, I trust you and your family had a great Christmas. We've been out of town this past week and are just getting back home today.


Excellent additions to the list. I will definitely remember these suggestions you make.

Strider said...

Thanks for this list Guy. In our part of the world we have treated short-termers and volunteers with respect and as a result some of the greatest strides forward in reaching new and unreached areas were done with these tremendous people. Seeing volunteers and short-termers here on the field has renewed my own faith in our beloved SBC. I left the US ten years ago discouraged and burned out about the Church in the West. But after seeing these great people come out I am amazed. God used us to disciple people like this? He is raising up a mighty generation. These suggestions in your post will keep that mighty generation engaged with us. We need them and dare not take them for granted and abuse them as has happened in the past.
The big word for your list is respect. Let us honor one another and thus fulfill Christ call for us to love one another. Then volunteers will truly be a blessing to His work in all our areas of service.

GuyMuse said...


Good point about RESPECT being at the top of the list. When respect runs from both directions a lot can be accomplished in/through volunteers.

St. Jose said...

Hermano, que tenga un feliz fin de año. Que el 2007 venga lleno de alegrías para ud. y familia.
Que Dios bendiga mucho su ministerio, y lo llene a ud. de alegrías y bendiciones.

Feliz Año Nuevo.

GuyMuse said...

st. jose,

Gracias, mi hermano, yo también le deseo lo mismo para Ud. y su familia. Siga adelante con su blog que para mi es siempre una bendición.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Guy,

Great post. Thanks for the reminder of what my people are crying out for.