Every Sunday, coffee is brewed. Kids Ministry volunteers arrive early to look over the morning lesson and its movements. Guitar strings are tuned, communion preparation happens, and greeters await 1st time guests.

Every weekend church happens  because of the endless teams, of volunteers, who love and serve our churches.

One of my favorite days, of the week, is Monday . . . weird, right? Every Monday, I write Thank You notes to our volunteers. I want them to know I am grateful for their service. I genuinely want to connect with them. It is good to honor those who have done well or who are trying new things.

However, there is another side to “Thank You.”

1. When volunteers are proud of something they want to own something.

Emotional Energy

A great volunteer team doesn’t just sign up, out of obligation. They love what is happening. They see life transformation and they want a piece of it. They want to help others get connected because someone connected with them.

A staff person’s job is to track volunteer energy.

Sometimes, when volunteers hear Thank you for doing . . . They will turn into the only machine that runs with no gas in the tank. With a smile on their face and a song in their heart, they will be there every Sunday . . . burned-out.

When your volunteers have nothing, in the tank, passion or drive turns into idolatry. We have to track when volunteers turn good things into ultimate things. It’s a staff persons or team leaders job to track volunteer energy.

2. Volunteers are not what they do.

Work of Volunteering

Volunteers should know where the on-ramps and off-ramps are, in your ministry. Everybody should experience the joy of serving and the joy of resting.

Over time, “Thank You for doing,” can be  heard as – “I’m only loved and appreciated when I’m doing and not being” 

When a ministry ends or a volunteer is asked to take a break, it’s likely these thoughts rotate in a volunteer’s mind:

  • What am I going to do?
  • If I’m not contributing, through serving, I’m of no use to this church.
  • How will I get to know people,  If I’m not serving?
  • Is there anything else to hide behind?

There are a good number of volunteers who are not really sure what to do, if they are not scheduled to “do.”

In our churches, `We don’t have a serving problem. We have an identity problem.

If you are on staff or a volunteer, who is leading a volunteer team, we have an incredible opportunity on Sundays and throughout our week. We get to remind volunteers of who they are. It’s not an easy balance. I’m not sure it’s meant to be, but it is a tension to manage.

There can often be a heavy dose of guilt or obligation with serving.  Volunteers are not what they do. Volunteers are wiling to fill spots or go above and beyond. However, leaders need to find ways to praise or commend folks when they are not volunteering.

3. Volunteers who have found the paintbrush.

Vision

Volunteers with healthy boundaries and developing relationships get the bigger picture.

They get that:

  • Pouring Coffee affords a person to relax, be open to conversations, and to sit and consider the teachings of Scripture.
  • Kids and student ministry volunteers know their ministry has generational impact. They won’t be there for their students graduations, weddings, the birth of their student’s kids, but their parents will. They begin a conversation that will, for most students, be realized in their young adult life.
  • Worship volunteers and preachers know that singing and preaching provide an understanding, to the soul, when words run or fall short.

To this effort, the healthiest “Thank You” is extended.

“To be loved but not known is comforting, but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.”

_ Dr. Timothy Keller

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