Editor’s note: Today, we continue the series titled: Ask Karen. CTA’s volunteer expert, Karen Kogler, will answer one of the most pressing volunteer-related questions facing church leaders in 2017. If you have a question you’d like to ask Karen, just post it in the comments section!
Question: We have a care ministries team that deals with mentally ill individuals living in low-income areas. This work is usually very serious and can be disheartening. This volunteer job is hardly ever fun or light-hearted, but I think the team would bond a lot better if they were able to laugh once in a while! How can I lighten up the mood while still remaining respectful to their work and the people they serve?
Answer: No matter the task, we volunteers tend to take our work seriously. So when the work is difficult, serving people facing steep challenges, with no happy ending, it’s a heavy load indeed. Your volunteers are truly blessed that you want to lighten the emotional load!
To do that, you and your volunteers need time together; meeting together several times a year and staying in touch by phone and email or text more frequently. The more draining the work, the greater the need to recharge.
Here are three tools to encourage your volunteers to step back, take a deep breath, and push the “reset” button.
1: Reminders that Jesus is in control
The peace, joy, and rest that Jesus gives cannot be extinguished by difficult work or challenging circumstances. We don’t have to fix people. We don’t have to solve their problems. Sin is the root of all problems, theirs and ours, and Jesus dealt with that sin by his death and resurrection. Today he is actively working to set things right in our lives and the lives of the people we serve.
Continually remind your volunteers of this good news. Share Scriptures that talk about joy and the reasons for our joy. Do it often. More than often! Share devotions and stories and songs that encourage them. A recording of kids singing “I’ve got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy . . .” makes everyone smile. It’s even more uplifting when we sing along!
Pray for your volunteers regularly and tell them you do. When meeting with your team, pray for the ministry, for each other, for the clients you serve. Invite the volunteers to pair up as prayer buddies. Turn some phone calls into prayer time. Emails and text messages can ask for prayer requests or be prayers themselves: “Joan, God give you strength and wisdom as you visit Emily tomorrow.”
Do something fun, silly or unexpected when you meet: play croquet on the church lawn; set a bowl of marshmallows on the table and start throwing them at each other; have party horns for everyone to blow as you praise each other’s strengths. Use a children’s book like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day or a movie like Patch Adams to make a point in a fun way. Laughter can be shared by phone, email, and text, too: silly knock-knock jokes; “this [selfie] is me when I heard the good news of your success;” “this silly dog video reminds me of us hunting down those lost supplies last month.”
Use these tools as part of your regular routine and your volunteers will learn to do the same. Maybe other ministries will pick up on it, too. What could be more healthy than a church of people continuously sharing joyful Scripture, holding each other up in prayer, and laughing?!
Do you have a question for Karen? Post it in the comments section and you may see it in a future edition of “Ask Karen.”
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