5 Ways to Prevent Church Volunteer Burnout
Most churches would not be standing today if it wasn’t for the support, dedication, and hard work of volunteers. This is by design. The Church was created to be operated by its people. In the Bible, 2 Corinthians 6:16, it states that we as Christians are the church which means we all have a role to play in its success.
Whether you are a pastor, volunteer coordinator, or volunteer yourself, you know that this is easier said than done. Even though 38% of Practicing Christians Strongly Agree Every Person Should Volunteer Regularly For a multitude of reasons most churches struggle to fill their volunteer roles and keep them full.
Volunteer burnout is a big contributing factor churches are facing when it comes to keeping their serving teams full. The damage that ensues when an enthusiastic and trusted volunteer turns into a stressed and overworked volunteer can go far beyond an open serving spot.
Church staff must play a role in not only preventing church volunteer burnout but preserving relationships with volunteers and providing growth opportunities throughout a volunteer’s journey.
Here we have a short list of five ways you can proactively prevent church volunteer burnout in your congregation.
1. Celebrate and Honor Volunteers
Churches must be intentional about recognizing and celebrating their volunteers. Volunteer teams often sacrifice a fun and carefree experience at church events and services to allow others to experience that. With this in mind, a few times a year, it is beneficial to have events volunteers can attend and not serve but simply enjoy.
A night of fun, engagement, and recognition can go a long way, but so can intentional discipleship. As we mentioned before, volunteers, for example, nursery workers, often miss out on speakers and teaching in order to fill the needs of the church. So how can you be sure they are getting filled up at other times or events?
Help your volunteers feel seen and appreciated by publicly acknowledging them. Whether at an event, in a newsletter highlight, or on a Sunday morning.
2. Listen to Volunteers
As a church staff member, one of your remaining jobs is to shepherd those within your church. This leadership is especially important to your volunteer teams. One of the best ways you can both love and lead your volunteers is to listen to them. This is a cornerstone to building trusting relationships.
You must have a connection and genuine interest in hearing and understanding each of your volunteers. This will lead to better communication and greater contentment in your volunteer teams.
“I think sometimes we’re so focused on getting new volunteers that we forget the power and necessity of retaining the volunteers we already have. One of the reasons we lose people is because they don’t like what they’re doing, they’re burned out and nobody knows it. Nobody’s asked them how they’re doing.”
Gathering insight and feedback from your volunteers and taking the time to understand their perspectives can be very valuable for improving your church. Your volunteers act as extra sets of eyes and can introduce new perspectives. They experience your services and events in a very different way from you and can help point out both areas of success and improvement.
Volunteers who don’t feel heard or seen often don’t stick around long.
Even more important than listening to feedback about serving in church is listening to how they are doing outside of church gatherings. Meet with them to hear about how they are doing in their family life and how they are doing in their relationship with God. Listen to their needs and pray for them often. Be their pastor, leader, or mentor. Walk through life with them and show them that they are heard, loved, and cared for by their church. This will go a long way and make a greater impact than anything.
3. Rotate Volunteers
Another common cause of burnout is simply being overworked. This is how we often lose the best volunteers. When teams are short-handed, church staff likely turn to the most reliable volunteers to fill in spots and step up to do more. However, they may become weary when the same person is constantly picking up the slack or filling the same role.
This is where having some plan of rotation in your volunteers is essential. You want your volunteers also to be able to experience services and events and take time to experience the presence of God for themselves or respond in a time of prayer.
A volunteer rotation will also maintain a healthy balance of ownership of an area by your volunteers, without them feeling overly possessive of the area. For example, giving one volunteer total say over an entire ministry area like the church tech booth will lead to them thinking they have total control over it and could intimidate others. Or it could make other potential volunteers who could also contribute in that area feel like there’s no room for their input or giftings.
4. Communicate with Volunteers
Poor communication causes frustration and misunderstanding in any area of life. There is no perfect way to communicate with your volunteers, whether you choose to do so over email, group chats, or text messages, as long as you are communicating in a timely and organized fashion.
Your organization around your communication will be key. Don’t bog volunteers down with too many meetings or contact emails. Don’t wait until the last minute to request help or give updates. You must remember that while you are church staff, most volunteers work other full-time jobs and have busy family lives. The best success will come from effective communication.
5. Equip Volunteers
We know, when it comes to how the church operates, budgets are not usually robust and resources are not always readily available. Sometimes, we do the best with what we have. Most church volunteers understand that and many have innovative skills and connections that can actually help.
However, sometimes there are small things we can invest in that will greatly improve the experience of volunteers who are serving every week. If there’s a piece of equipment that is failing or outdated and causing extra work or stress for your team, make it a priority to replace it.
Remember What It’s All About
Volunteer burnout doesn’t usually happen overnight or as a result of one incident or experience. Volunteer church burnout usually comes from a pattern of feeling undervalued, overworked, not communicated with, or ill-equipped.
The Good news is these are all things church staff can make a conscious effort to notice a change. We know that as church staff you know your church wouldn’t stand without the army of volunteers supporting it. Make sure your volunteers know that. Include them in the mission as much as possible.
Remember the goal is not to fill a serving roster but to develop and identify your volunteer’s spiritual gifts and get them into their sweet spot.