It’s no secret. People need people. Sociologists, psychologists, and theologians agree. It’s become even more essential as we are pulled apart by hectic schedules, geographic mobility, consumerism, affluence, and technology.
The result: people who are hungry for relationships.
Relationships are important to God. He exists in a Trinitarian relationship with the Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus experienced relationships while he walked this earth. And he gave up his life so we could have a never-ending relationship with him. In his body, the Church, relationships matter.
Whatever your position in your church, you can improve relationship-building. It takes time and effort. Yes, it might slightly decrease the amount of “work” that gets done. But people trump tasks any time. People are eternal, our tasks are not.
Many churches default to small-group ministry when they want to build relationships. But have you ever thought about bringing people together through service? Serving is especially attractive for those who are too busy, or otherwise reluctant, to join a small group.
Some ways of serving have an obvious focus on relationships: teaching Sunday school or visiting a homebound senior. But what about stuffing bulletin inserts or doing data entry, painting a classroom or serving on a board? We still have relationships with the people we’re working with, such as the other board members or office staff. Even the volunteer doing data entry at home has a relationship with the person who supports him or her.
Think about the ministries at your church. Do you see people serving alone and witness those ministries slowly declining? Or do you see thriving ministries and strong teams supporting them? When someone new joins your ministry, do you make a point to get to know them? How much caring and sharing is there among people in your ministry? Are new relationships being formed?
Building relationships is a crucial part of retaining volunteers. We’d all rather work with people we know and enjoy. When relationships are strong, we are more committed and more productive.
Serving builds relationships within the church, but it also can build them beyond the church. As your church looks for ways to serve the community, pay special attention to long-term, relationship-centered serving, such as volunteering in an after-school study program. And invite people from the community to join you in serving the community!
How do you become intentional at building relationships? This “Building Relationships While Serving” worksheet suggests using shared prayer concerns, social time together, and get-to-know-you activities as ways to build relationships. It also includes additional questions to help you evaluate your progress. Encourage leaders to try some of the tips, then check back in three months to see how it’s going. Only an ongoing commitment to improve relationship building will bear fruit.
Editor’s note: Watch our blog in the coming weeks for more information on retaining volunteers. If you’ve missed any of the volunteer retention series, you can find a list of the articles here.
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