As you may remember, last week I wrote about 6 Ways to Stop Burning Out Your Volunteers.
The laity out there certainly related to this.
Clergy already know what burnout is, amirite?
The saddest comment I received from a lay person was this one:
I wanted to thank you for your well written pieces. Your last one was about me! (Even though it wasn’t meant to be). My involvement became oppressive! We moved last year to [another state]. I’m enjoying the worship experience again.
This came from someone I know and was one of the key volunteers both in his local church and at the Conference level. He was a star. Indispensable. But it came at a cost to him.
How is it that volunteering can become oppressive in the church? How does the one thing that is supposed to be life-affirming and should inspire generosity end up making people feel like a clean break is the only way they can make it back to a place where the Spirit can feel real again?
Enter my friend and mentor-from-afar, Susan Howlett.
Susan responded with a (perhaps) workable solution. A solution that may seem counter-intuitive:
1. More volunteers with fewer responsibilities.
Hear Susan out:
Ever since Covid, I’ve heard that everyone’s having trouble finding volunteers, especially higher echelon volunteers, like board members or essential committee chairs. I’m encouraging people to break those jobs down into much smaller pieces and give them to more people. If the job is smaller and less daunting, more people are likely to say yes, and in the process, you’re building the leadership pipeline for the future.
One other advantage to giving lots of little tasks to more people is that doing so helps foster a sense of ownership among more people in the congregation, who end up feeling like helping the church run is “their gig,” not just the minister’s gig or the board chair’s gig.
Is it possible to break down job descriptions into more manageable pieces? This will take time. By taking a day or two of your time (and it's precious time, for sure) you'll
a. have volunteer job descriptions and
b. more volunteers.
2. Here’s another thought – is it time for your congregation to consider a Single Board Governance (SBG) Model?
In the United Methodist world, the SBG Model "moves churches from four administrative committees (trustees, finance, staff-parish relations, and church council) to one Leadership Board encapsulating all responsibilities and authority of the previous four separate administrative committees."
Does this pique your interest? Here are some resources:
Nuts and Bolts Overview of the Single Board Model from the Peninsula-Delaware Conference
Simple Governance: Liberating Your Church for Mission by Rev. Stephan W. Ross
Mission Possible 3+: A Simple Structure for Missional Effectiveness by Kay Kotan and Blake Bradford
Webinar on Mission Possible 3+
Here's a graph Susan passed along that explains why getting volunteers and then treating them well is so important: it unleashes generosity. The Tarnside Curve of Involvement shows the impact.
Your MVA’s (Most Valuable Assets) need love and nurturing…just like you. Spend a little time thinking about how to make their lives easier – and then guess what? Your life should be easier too.
Photo credit: Ralph Nas at Pixabay.