Can You Really Trust Your Volunteers?

I had a meeting with one of my key volunteers who is helping lead a big ministry project. I was sharing my expectations of her within the context of her volunteer job description.

As I often do, I turned the conversation around. I asked her point blank: “What are your expectations of me?”

Since we have worked together for quite some time on different projects, she only mentioned one: “I expect you not to get that involved in the project.”

Wow. That’s a statement many ministry leaders would like to hear.

The reality is that I trust her completely to lead the ministry project I have entrusted to her. She knows that. Is she perfect at the role? No. Is she really good at the role? Yes.

I often fall prey to the idea that I can do ministry better than any of my volunteers. That may be true some of the time, but not always. However, it is that attitude that stops me from fully trusting and empowering my volunteers to do the job I have given them to do.

Can I really trust my volunteers? The answer is a resounding “Yes!”

However, trust is not something I just give away easily. It is something that is earned. A competent and trustworthy volunteer has done certain things that encourage me to trust them.

Here are 4 reasons that cause me to trust my volunteer:

They are 100% honest with me.

The funny thing about ministry is that people feel like they have to sugarcoat the truth. This is motivated by the desire not to cause conflict. I understand that feeling, but I need volunteers who tell it like it is. I need them to tell me everything I need to know, good or bad. In turn, I know that I can be 100% honest with them. I really value this in my volunteers.

I have worked with them numerous times.

Nothing beats experience, time, and a history of working with someone. Trustworthy relationships take time to develop. I sometimes wish it could happen overnight, but the reality is different. Once I have worked with someone, I have a much better sense of their style, their personality, and their gifts and strengths. This allows me to better position them for success. Plus, I usually have had the opportunity to train them as a volunteer minister.

They excel in their role.

Basically, they do excellent work. This could mean all sorts of things. They are organized, they have made wise decisions, they work well with people, and they get the job done.  When one of your volunteers succeeds, it becomes easier to trust them. However, my role is to do everything in my power to make sure they succeed.

They haven’t given me a significant reason not to trust them.

No volunteer is perfect. I expect them to mess up and fail from time to time. I’m okay with that. There are certain things that a volunteer can do to make me lose my trust in them. Aside from the biggies, there are some small things that make me lose confidence in my volunteer. Examples would be always being late, not showing up to meetings or events, or abusing social media. This list could go on and on. I imagine you have your list of things that causes you not to trust a volunteer.

In the end, my goal is to empower and equip my volunteers to succeed and grow the ministry beyond what I, myself, am capable of. I can only do that if I can trust my volunteers enough to hand them ministry projects and walk away to develop other areas of the ministry.

I still need to continue to support them. That support becomes a lot easier when I trust them.

Question: What does a volunteer do that causes you to trust them?

John Rinaldo

As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.

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