Years ago I was sadly surprised when I found out that some of our key volunteers who had been serving as small group leaders next to other small group leaders for 40 weeks of a school year didn’t know the name of the person sitting right next to them. I was abhorrently disappointed in my own leadership at that point. How could two individuals who sat 10-15 feet apart from one another for 40 consecutive Sundays not know the first and last name of that other individual??
You might find that surprising. However, it was a reality and that reality pointed to something that was painfully true about my leadership — I was not creating opportunities for volunteers to get to know one another.
We, of course, stressed that we wanted volunteers to know the kids in their small group — their names, their passions, their sporting events, their dog’s name and so on. But we had not provided an ample opportunity for volunteers to get to know one another.
Now granted, I was making my way around the room to get to know all of these volunteers personally. That is a fantastic start. But I found that a greater level of relational victory was going to be achieved if volunteers knew one another.
Be in Community
People want to be in community and serving should lead to a greater sense of community. We just weren’t providing an opportunity for that to take place.
The way that our team sought to solve this problem was by creating volunteer family gatherings once or twice a quarter at someone’s house. These volunteer gatherings included family members and were quite well attended. We went so far as to host volunteer gatherings on a Friday AND Saturday evening to accommodate schedules.
It took a lot of work but we figured out ways to scale this opportunity. We created meals that could be easily stored from Friday evening to Saturday evening. We would have large crock pots filled with taco meat, we would have a soup night where we could save the soup one night to the next and we would have sign ups to allow people to bring food.
I cannot begin to tell you how important this was to the health of our ministry. Volunteers began to get to know one another, sit by one another at dinner, and their kids got to know one another. Volunteers were no longer these isolated entities who were somehow missing out on relationships with other adults.
Part of the fear — and sometimes an unintended consequence — of serving with kids is that you will miss out on adult relationships. Therefore, we as ministry leaders have to find and carve out ways for our leaders to connect with us and one another.
These volunteer dinners did so much good. We found people rearranging their schedules to ensure that they could be there. We even had backyard barefoot kickball tournaments. These volunteer gatherings turned into an event NOBODY wanted to miss.
My encouragement to you, in your context, is to find ways for volunteers to connect with one another.