The Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ is free to all. It is expected to reach all parts of the world before His return. The responsibility for achieving this rests squarely on those who are called by Him to serve as volunteers. Right from the time of the Great Commission, Christians were warned that spreading the gospel, though of utmost importance, will be an arduous task. The early Church was evangelistic in outlook and approach. And even though it started well, it faced many challenges and hardships. In several instances, it was embroiled in unjust hatred and many of the disciples suffered violent deaths. Yet, Peter speaking from experience encouraged Christians on how to handle such adversities in 1 Peter 4:14-16.
“If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”
As comforting as these words are, the threat to life and property back then was enough to discontinue the spread of the gospel. Thankfully, the disciples persevered and it is a huge privilege that you and I can receive the Word today. The baton has been handed over and the work must continue.
Unfortunately, not much has changed in the way Christians are maltreated. If anything, the challenge faced has morphed into a broader spectrum of attacks due to modernism and increased antagonism steeped in hatred. Christians suffer persecution the world over and there is no end in sight. The worldly distractions and satanic agenda are such that those who volunteer to propagate the gospel are made to question their continued involvement.
For this article, the focus is not on disciples in the field per se, but on volunteers who oil the wheel of progress in Church daily. They earn no income for their service and give freely of themselves and materials. These are people who are either single or married with families, in school, work full time or are business owners. They are also people who are unemployed with little sources of income. Aside from personal situations that put pressure on everyday life, these groups of individuals serving in various departments are not immune to the ravaging difficulties faced by evangelists in the field. But just like Peter and the early apostles, the leaders of the modern Church have to step in and encourage volunteers not to relent.
How do you then keep volunteers motivated and engaged with the work of the Church while balancing the myriad of issues they contend with daily? Below are a few thoughts.
Personal recognition. Human beings like to feel appreciated. No one wants to think that they are just a statistic in the numbers game of the Church. Depending on the size of the Church, leaders should find ways to recognize and appreciate individuals who serve – by reaching each one personally.
Provide training: Nothing frustrates a volunteer more than being ill-prepared for the task or assignment given. Volunteers often take up roles without biblical grounding or formal training with the belief that they’ll “learn on the job,” only to commence work and find themselves struggling. Training should be provided to volunteers regularly so that they are comfortable not just with their specific roles but the overall purpose of volunteering. They should be made to see that they are part of the fabric for the advancement of the Kingdom. Taking ownership is key to engaging and retaining volunteers.
Provide up to date software tools and equipment to work with. Along with training, volunteers should be provided with modern resources with which to carry out their assignments. With advancements in technology, this aspect that makes a massive difference in administration should not be taken for granted. Church management software like ChurchPad makes the administration of departments a lot easier. A lot of activities, including planning and online engagement, can be carried out virtually, thereby allowing volunteers the opportunity to work from anywhere.
There should be some level of freedom and control of what they are assigned to do. Volunteers should not operate under compulsion or duress. Give them a degree of autonomy so that they feel in charge. Since they give of their time freely, they should be able to pace their time within reasonable limits without jeopardizing the key goals. Volunteers should be allowed to step down, take a break or even speak on challenges without emotional blackmail or judgment from who they report to. Note that volunteers will come and go. The key is to find out why they leave and address those shortcomings adequately.
Volunteers should hold meetings amongst themselves and with the leadership regularly to assess their performance. It allows them to seek solutions for improvement and give feedback on their experiences to the leadership. This way, they feel they are being carried along in the overall decisions of the Church and not treated as mere appendages.
Hold “thank you” get-togethers or parties to appreciate their contributions to the work. Where possible, provide gifts to every worker as a token of appreciation. Giving awards to departments that go above and beyond has also proven to encourage others to put in more effort in their departments.
Volunteers often have personal issues and challenges too. They are typically the first line of attack by Satan. Their needs and problems should be looked into and help provided as needed. The fewer the challenges, the higher the focus on the work at hand.
Plan the year out so that volunteers know what is expected of them in terms of commitment. They have schedules and plans beyond the Church and an ad hoc approach to Church work could lead to burnouts, thus discouraging further participation.
Measure performance. In other words, set up key performance indicators from the onset that will help measure performance over a given period. There is joy in knowing that there are improvement and accomplishment of goals. Conversely, determination comes with knowing that more work needs to be done to reach the bar that has been set.
Finally, always keep the mission and vision of the Church in view. It is easy to have them up in parts of the building but there is a high probability of oversight, in which case they are viewed as just another picture frame on the wall. The mission and vision of the Church must be alive in the consciousness of the members and so any opportunity to remind volunteers should be utilized.
Serving in Church should be a spiritually rewarding experience. Enabling the steps mentioned above will bring volunteers closer to attaining this and ultimately keeping them engaged.