All churches talk about volunteers and what they can contribute to ministry but many find it difficult to find and retain high quality volunteer staff. The following factors contribute to this problem but all of these can be overcome if we take them seriously.

When we treat volunteers as “second rate staff” rather then treating them like staff we send a message  that they are not as appreciated or important as paid staff. When you think about that you realize how crazy that is when these volunteers are willing to contribute their gifts and talents for free. If we truly want their expertise and involvement we need to give them the same appreciation, information and asking for the same input as they do staff.

When we are not willing to invest the same energy into helping volunteer staff grow and flourish in their ministries as we do paid staff we also send an unwanted message. I would argue that we ought to offer a level of growth and building into their lives that they would greatly value the opportunity to serve Jesus and be thankful that they are being built into. Just as we want to help staff understand their wiring and gifts and grow in faith and EQ, we ought to want the same for our volunteers who will often be the future leaders of the church.

When we are not willing to give volunteers responsibility commensurate with their gifting and experience - as we would with paid staff we desensitize them from continuing with us. After all, if they carry significant responsibility in their non church life and we ask them to fill slots that are below their interest or experience they may become easily bored. Of course some volunteers just want to help and they don’t care much where they end up. Others want to lead or contribute their knowledge and skill in a ministry setting and we should get as close to their heart passions as we can.
After all we are about releasing people into ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12) in light of their God given gifts (Ephesians 2:10-11).

When we don’t listen to our volunteers the way we would listen to staff we lose their trust. Volunteers bring a unique perspective to staff because they can see ministry from the outside in rather than the inside out. Both are important perspectives but too many church leaders are more interested in their own perspective rather than the perspective of the outside in. Listening to only one perspective limits our understanding of reality. Listening to both perspectives not only gives better perspective but it values both groups equally.

Finally many churches lose volunteers when they only focus on ministries inside the church. There are many believers who long to see the gospel penetrate their communities but find little interest on the part of church leaders to do so. When this happens mission driven individuals will follow their passions. And the church loses!

TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at

Creating cultures of organizational excellence

  • Jun 04, 2019
  • Category: News
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