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Churches need to value volunteers

VALUED: Churches can learn from the crucial role played by London 2012 volunteers

WITH THE London 2012 Paralympics due to start today, Britain will I’m sure, be gripped by sporting fever, as it watches athletes, who’ve overcome physical disability to compete at the highest level.

The Paralympics will also provide the public with another opportunity to serve as volunteers. The important role volunteers played in the recent Olympics, and will play in the Paralympics has inspired me to reflect on how the church treats, trains and nurtures its own volunteers. And I’ve concluded that there’s room for improvement.

Volunteers play a very important role in the life of a church. In fact, if it weren’t for volunteers, most churches would have to do without choirs, ushers, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, church elders, musicians, worship teams, cleaners, a catering team, a prayer team, an evangelism team, woman’s department..... the list could go on.

I believe there’s more churches can do to fully utilise their volunteers, and make them more equipped for the tasks they carry out.

Many a Christian volunteer has complained to me that although they are happy working for their churches, they dislike the fact that they are rarely thanked or acknowledge by church leaders for their voluntary work, rarely reimbursed for any expenses that they might have incurred carrying out voluntary duties for the church (for example travel expenses, food costs) and rarely receive any training.


There are three key things that churches can do to make their volunteers feel more committed about the contribution they make.

Provide training: Although being a church volunteer provides individuals with invaluable experience, that can be applied in their work and everyday lives.

Churches can enhance the experience and skill set of volunteers by providing free training. This in turn would enable volunteers to provide a better level of service within the church and make them feel like they are making a worthwhile investment of their time working for the church.

Pay expenses: Whilst churches can’t always cover the expenses of volunteers, they should try to do so when they can, particularly travel costs which can add up to a tidy sum. There are some volunteers who use their own cash to pay for things that the particular department they work in needs. Individuals who do such things should be re-imbursed.

Publicly thank volunteers: There are many church volunteers who are slowly dying of discouragement because they feel unappreciated for the work that they do.

Church leaders must help strengthen the morale of volunteers by publicly acknowledging their efforts, and where possible saying thank you either by word, handing out a certificate or by throwing a special party/dinner for volunteers to let them know that their contribution to the church is important.

A trained and appreciated volunteer makes for a good church worker, so it makes sense for churches to treat their volunteers well.

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