Nine Ways to “Pay” Your Volunteers

JD Greear says we need to develop the attitude of Christ, who used his position of leadership to wash feet, not to command respect.

I recently spent some time with long-time pastor Steve Stroope, who’s been in the ministry now for forty years. We talked a lot about what he felt was critical to building a strong church. As he put it, pastors need to see themselves as theservants of the people in their ministries. We need to develop the attitude of Christ, who used his position of leadership to wash feet, not to command respect. And one of the key ways we can do this as a church, Stroope says, is topay our volunteers.

When we thinking of getting paid, we immediately think of cash. But Stroope pointed out that we don’t have to give out money to give people something of great value. It takes some thought, but it’s worth our time to figure out what replenishes our volunteers. After all, if we aren’t paying them, then we’repunishing them.

Stroope gives nine ways to pay your volunteers:[1]

1. Praise

Praise can come in two forms—public or private. The public stuff, done sincerely and in moderation, is vital. So thank specific people publicly or give them shout outs for a job well done. And get creative: if you’re writing books or posting on Twitter, that’s just as public as when you stand in the pulpit.

Private praise is just as important—and for many people, much more important. Many people are uncomfortable with public praise, but no one dislikes a personal pat on the back. So write a letter of gratitude. Give them a call to let them know you see their hard work. It doesn’t take much time for you, but it just might be the highlight of their week.

2. Special access to you

Like it or not, if you’re in the ministry, your volunteers think you’re important. So don’t treat them like a burden. When they call you or email you, respond quickly. It affirms them and reminds them that you don’t think of them like a stranger. In short, be their pastor. After all, Jesus didn’t have financial wealth to spread around, but he gave special access to twelve specific men. What greater wealth could we hope for?

3. Allow them to give input

This isn’t just a way of paying your volunteers. It’s also just a smart strategy. Your volunteers have the most on-the-ground data available. So even if you think you have a handle on the ministry, they can offer unique and invaluable insight. Ask questions and listen. Even if you don’t follow every suggestion they give you, simply being heard goes a long way.

4. More responsibility – i.e. “promotion”

On the face of it, you might think that giving a volunteer more to do was cruel. They aren’t getting paid—why make them do more for nothing? But think about it from their perspective: would you rather fill the same role forever, or have your talents recognized? Wouldn’t you be happier if someone saw your leadership and said, “Hey, I think you might be capable of much more.” Giving away opportunities isn’t a sign of poor leadership. It’s just the opposite: insecure leaders hoard every responsibility, leading to burnout; but strong leaders create more leaders.

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