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Keep volunteers (motivated)

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A children’s pastor known for her ability to mobilize volunteers says keeping people happy in ministry stems from the commitment of leadership.

Speaking to the Canadian Pacific Border chapter of the National Association of Church Business Administrators, Merri Ellen Giesbrecht, of Ross Road (MB) Community Church, said volunteers need to learn three things about churches. First, “who we are” – the church’s actual identity. Second, “our calling” – the big picture in which the church functions. Third, “how we operate” – the policies, boundaries, and expectations that, together with the other two elements, give volunteers a good sense of how they fit in.

Giesbrecht said workers are discouraged by a lack of training, having to guess how they fit in, and especially by a lack of clear expectations.

Motivating factors are just the opposite of those negative experiences, she said. A volunteer who feels part of a team knows she is trusted with the job. Appreciation and recognition are vital, said Giesbrecht, and so is the volunteer’s knowledge that he is part of something, making a difference.

Giesbrecht advised church leaders to ensure they have the budget to train their people each year, because trained volunteers are not just motivated, they are more effective in ministry. The training needs to cover safety issues, especially in children’s ministry.

Training should also include team-building activities and stories that set out positive models for workers. Structure the training to include learning pyramids, she said, so those who are working at a ministry can teach others.

“Pray. Pastor your people. Mentor them,” Giesbrecht said. It’s an ongoing process, so include orientation throughout the year. Ensure that a volunteer can say, “I don’t do things by myself because that’s no fun.”

The day-long seminar was part of a special series for church administrators and leaders in B.C. President of the chapter is Marilyn Hiebert, director of administration, BC Conference of MB Churches.

—Barrie McMaster, B.C. correspondent

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