Imagine a world in which every Christian church had an acknowledged volunteer champion in their midst, a leader who saw that volunteers were supported, who encouraged best practices in recruitment, and who helped people use their God-given gifts in their Lord’s service, both in and beyond the church.
Why do I imagine such a world and long for it? Because the church has the largest volunteer base in the world. Because the world so desperately needs the acts of service, the love and compassion and grace of Jesus, that the church has to offer. Because Jesus called each of us to (voluntarily!) serve. Because we serve more and better when we have others’ support, encouragement and wisdom in our callings. Because churches so often and so easily continue to use volunteerism practices that worked just fine a couple generations ago and wonder why it’s not working any more.
What would a volunteer champion (and their team) do?
- Help people find places to serve at the church and in the community
- Help people see all activities in everyday life as loving their neighbor, serving as God has gifted/called
- Show how our faith helps as we make choices and face challenges in our everyday serving
- Help church leaders use best practices to recruit, train, support and affirm volunteers they work with
- Help leaders facing challenges with volunteers they work with
- Help all serve more joyfully, intentionally, impactfully and faith-fully
What would a volunteer champion not do?
- Fill all the volunteer positions.
- Manage all the volunteers.
- Twist arms.
Every church has someone who can be a volunteer champion. A paid position generally opens the door to more candidates who can give more hours, but a volunteer position can work well too. The technical skills are learnable; the needed ‘soft’ skills are not difficult to discern in a candidate. And every volunteer champion should build their own team of volunteers, which brings a variety of gifts and skills. Most anyone with a love of Jesus, a heart for volunteering, decent people-skills, and a willingness to learn could succeed as a volunteer champion. The secular world of professional volunteer engagement is one source for resources, trainings and networks that would resource a church’s volunteer chamption.
However, there is a challenge, a cost that the church’s leaders must be willing to pay. It is absolutely essential that the volunteer chamption is given:
- Official recognition of their role
- A voice at the table: input on major events, initiatives, etc.
- Regular access to top leadership to share ideas, challenges, concerns on both sides.
- Support from top leaders, including a willingness to change the “we’ve always done it this way.”
- Physical support: office space, equipment, database, etc.
Today’s younger volunteers are highly skilled, and are willing to use their skills when given flexible opportunities that support causes they believe in. Imagine every church with a volunteer champion, who helps them tap into the potential of today’s volunteers. Imagine every church serving more hours outside their building than inside it. Imagine every church filled with people asking God to show them their calling in everyday life. Just imagine. What’s your next step to make that vision a reality?