So you finally have the volunteers you need to staff the children’s ministry and fill the open slots on the Ministry Council. Breathe a sigh of relief and offer a prayer of thanks!
But as you say, “Amen,” remember you aren’t finished yet. Now that your volunteers are in place, you want to help them succeed, do their very best, find joy in their service, and keep coming back for more—ideally, year after year. In short, you want to build a cadre of volunteers who, like the prophet Isaiah, are eager to say, “Here I am! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).
How do you motivate volunteers? And keep them motivated? How do you engage each volunteer’s “want to”—and eradicate the “shoulds, oughts, and musts,” that spur reluctant service?
The research is in, and it’s clear and simple. Clear and simple, but not always so easy. Here are the three keys, together with a few “how-tos.” Keep your smart phone or a pad and pen at hand over the next few weeks and jot down specific ideas that grow out of these insights. Check out some of the resources CTA makes available to help you! Then watch as our Lord works through you to build an even bigger “want to” in your volunteers’ hearts.
In a now famous TED talk, Daniel Pink explains the three keys to human motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. His talk focuses on the workplace, but the principles also apply to volunteers in many settings, including churches.
KEY 1: Autonomy
No one likes to be micromanaged. But few of us enjoy being thrown into the deep end of the pool to sink or swim, either. The idea of autonomy—self-direction—requires an approach somewhere between these two extremes.
How to use this key: Give your volunteers a clear idea of the outcomes you want to achieve and how their tasks fit into the bigger picture. Provide deadlines. Then let them choose how to achieve these outcomes, deciding on the “hows” for themselves. Provide meaningful feedback—including as many positive comments as possible—at important checkpoints.
KEY 2: Mastery
Think back to your first few trumpet lessons or to the first few weeks in Spanish I. Remember the frustration? Were you tempted to quit? Human beings have an in-built drive to improve, to get better at the things we do. When it seems as though we’re getting nowhere, we tend to give up.
How to use this key: Think Goldilocks! Ensure that each volunteer’s assignment is not too hard—but not too easy, either. Then, provide the support, the scaffolding, your volunteers need. Equipment, articles, webinars, mentoring, books, a conversation over coffee . . . Provide what your volunteers need, and stay in touch with their progress and feelings. How can you help? Are they bored? Frustrated? Look for ways to keep them happy and growing.
KEY 3: Purpose
We might think of “purpose” as the “super key,” they master key that unlocks the whole puzzle. When people link arms to meet a need they care deeply about, something almost magical happens. Even the most difficult obstacles give way.
How to use this key: Look for more and more ways to connect every task to your vision and strategy, to the ministry of your church. Cutting the grass makes the campus more inviting for visitors who might come to learn more about Jesus, the Savior. Ushers, greeters, and parking lot attendants share Jesus’ love in the warmth and caring that they show and keep people coming back to grow in Christ’s love. Every task links in some way to your church’s reason for being there in your community. But don’t assume all your volunteers see this. Point it out—often!
Autonomy. Mastery. Purpose. Want to AMP volunteer motivation–and that of staff, too? Use these three keys to help everyone feel fulfilled and keep them stepping up to say, “I would like to volunteer!”
Editor’s note: If you work with volunteers, you know that you need to recognize their efforts, care for them along the way, and celebrate their efforts. CTA knows this, too, and provides lots of resources to help you get this new ministry year started off in a positive direction. Many are free and downloadable. Check them out!
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.