Guest blogger Stephanie Kurtz shares a volunteer’s perspective on balance, appreciation, and when to say no. She is the kind of volunteer every ministry would want and was once a youth ministry coordinator.
I have a magnet on my fridge, which reads, “Stop me before I volunteer again.” Obviously a silly magnet for someone who has been a volunteer in ministry for ten years, but it serves as a reminder that sometimes I need to say “no.” That reigns especially true during the times when I’m already committed to other volunteer activities or when work is extremely busy. As a former Youth Ministry Coordinator, I know how tough it is to find quality volunteers. While we all have volunteers who have long tenures with our programs or parishes, it is easy to forget that they might get tired, burned out, or not want to volunteer for every retreat, dance, carnival, or youth night. As passionate and dedicated volunteers, they are an easy target, since it is clear they are dependable, faith-filled, and willing to serve. Speaking from experience as a former YMC turned lay leader who is asked to volunteer a lot, it can be overwhelming to decide what I can and cannot fit into my busy schedule. Working 50+ hours a week, my days are busy enough. Then add in the 2-3 volunteer projects I am working on at any given moment, this leaves me little time to spend with friends, family, relaxing, and most importantly with God!
What can you as ministry leaders do to help turn an overloaded volunteer’s “no” or “maybe” into a “yes”? Below are some helpful hints that have always made me want to say “yes” when asked:
- Appreciate my time: Please don’t forget I work. Please don’t try and schedule all of your meetings during the day-time, since I work full time Monday-Friday. Any meetings before 6pm are out of the question for me. When team meetings are proposed for the day-time, it is clear you’ve forgotten who I am and my lifestyle. Also, be accepting if I can’t be at every event. I will try my best, but we all know that not every date will work with every person.
- Appreciate my sacrifice: That pesky job again… I don’t get the benefit of taking a comp day after I’ve spent the weekend helping on a retreat or get to go in late when a meeting is held from 8-10pm. While retreat ministry is definitely my calling and I will happily give up any weekend to serve the teens, please don’t keep me up until 1am each night and up at 6am because it will be really hard to function on Monday morning at work.
- Ask me again: Just because I said no once, doesn’t mean I don’t ever want to volunteer again. I can’t say yes if you never ask! I may have said no last time, but that’s probably because I was already overloaded with work, life, or other ministry positions.
- Give me an option: One of the most thoughtful invitations to ministry I’ve received made me want to say yes instantly because I knew the leader appreciated my time and she wanted me to make the right decision for myself. When I asked what the deadline was for my answer to a retreat directorship, the coordinator replied, “You can let me know after you’ve prayed on it and are ready to answer.”
All ministries depend on volunteers. As ministry leaders, you spend a lot of time to seek out new volunteers and retain current ones. These tips work on me and help me feel appreciated and supported for the work I do in ministry. I know they will work on others.