What a needle and an email taught me about volunteers

If you oversee or work with volunteers, whether 15 or 1500, I think you need to volunteer somewhere.

Especially if you work in ministry.

This can literally be anything and it can be in whatever frequency that is maintainable for your schedule, but I think it teaches you a lot.

One of the things that I do is I volunteer to give blood.

What I enjoy about it, is as a person whose very job relies so heavily on volunteers, it gives me a chance to see the opposite side of the coin.

What it’s like to raise my hand, volunteer to do something for free, and then observe other people managing, scheduling, and structuring these volunteer positions.

Honestly you can learn so much about assumptions you might be making about what volunteers know about your mission, your values, and your processes.

One of the things I’ve learned from my most recent donation was a lesson on motivation.

It’s no surprise that volunteering can be hard. Depending on what you are doing it, can be a lot to ask of a person for free.

So why do people do it?

Because they connect with what you are doing. They value the mission.

But there’s no question that most often when you lose volunteers, there was a disconnect between mission and what they are doing.

I’ll be honest, when I give blood, sometimes I feel like I’m just getting stabbed by a needle while I sit alone in a chair. I don’t know if I’m really making a difference.

After my latest donation I get this email.

Did you see that?

They connected me sitting alone in a chair, getting stabbed by a needle, to a hospital where saving a life happens.

That makes me want to go back. Sit alone. And get stabbed by a needle.

Because it’s connected to life change.

And I think, especially in ministry, when we’re working with volunteers we need to connect their lonely chair with life change.

Because whatever you might be doing, whether it’s manning a sound board, or greeting at a front door, or a small group of elementary kids, sometimes it can feel lonely or even painful.

Sometimes the important cues are missed.

The weather as you hold the door is freezing.

And the “small group” is 14 kids whose parents keep Red Bull on tap.

And when those moments happen it’s nice to connect the inconvenience, the pain, and the challenges to the life change.

Because I think most people don’t necessarily need recognition or serve to be in the spotlight. I think they serve because they want to make a difference.

So share stories of difference. Share what’s happening in ministry. You may not be able to give specifics or names or details but you can tell them about the “hospital” it went to. You can share the life change that’s happening. Tell stories. Connect the challenge to the change.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s