"Would you make sure the 6pm service greeting team is aware of the changes for tonight?"
"Oh, you already have ten more volunteers signed up for VBS prep?"
"Wow, thank you for helping the new family find their way around and get their kids checked in. They looked nervous when they walked in, but you had them laughing and looking relaxed in no time."
When you can make comments like these to a volunteer, it takes a weight off your shoulders and makes life a bit easier. Finding rock-star volunteers who consistently go the extra mile may seem like finding a needle in a haystack. However, there are some key signs you can look for to identify these high-potential, high-achieving volunteers:
Sign #1: They never raise an issue without also offering solutions
It's easy to point out a problem. Bringing well though-out options to solve the problem takes additional critical thinking and planning skills. What's even better is when a volunteer comes to you with an issue and is simply asking for permission to fix it.
When that happens, let your volunteer know how much you appreciate it. Then, make sure you keep this volunteer in a role that will best play to his/her strengths. This problem-solving ability is also a potential sign this person has leadership skills and could be a good fit for leading other volunteers.
Sign #2: They're willing to do whatever tasks are required
The best leaders are willing to humbly serve. If you know a volunteer has the skills to organize an entire event but at this key moment you really need someone to move chairs, watch to see if he'll handle that task with excellence and joy. When you see that, take note and remember to put him in roles that will best utilize his skills as often as possible.
Sign #3: They're constantly thinking ahead
When you're in the weeds of planning an event or preparing for next Sunday, it's easy to miss something. When a volunteer comes to you and asks how he can help with an event coming up in a few months or if she's thinking ahead to summer and has already checked with other Sunday morning volunteers about their vacation planspraise God and ask for this volunteer to keep doing what they're doing.
Sign #4: They maintain healthy boundaries
This one may surprise you, but one sign of a high-achieving volunteer is her ability to say "no" to serving on occasion. This indicates she's aware of her time, energy, and relational limits and carefully maintains healthy margins in her life. That may not always be the most convenient for you, but it's something to respect as it's a sign of maturity and wisdom.
When you have high-achieving volunteers, here's how to keep them:
Tip #1: Make sure they're in a role that aligns with the skills and abilities God entrusted to them
Ask what they enjoy doing, their hobbies, what they do at work, etc. Consider giving volunteers personality or spiritual gifting tests as well. By matching volunteers with a role that taps into their God-given talents, you provide an opportunity they'll enjoy and will receive the best work from them.
Tip #2: Recognize any specialized skills or knowledge they possess and ask for their input when appropriate
This takes the first tip one step further. When you learn what your volunteers do for a living, add the information to your church database (let's face it, if you don't record it somewhere you'll forget).
Then when you need a particular expertise, you can search by that field in your database and know whom to contact. This can really be helpful for special events (project managers or event planners), disaster relief efforts (carpenters, doctors, etc.), or when you're planning to launch a new program.
Tip #3: Give them challenging assignments with the authority to match
Granted, this is after getting to know someone and making sure you trust his/her judgment. However, give these volunteers room to do ministry and not simply follow directions. They need the challenge plus if they're well respected for their abilities in the workplace but their church doesn't value them, what's the incentive to put those skills to work for the church? Sure, they may still do so out of the desire to serve but make that decision easier for them to make.
Tip #4: This goes for all volunteers, but make sure they know you appreciate their time and talents
Don't take the super dependable volunteers for granted. They're not looking for applause, but a hand-written note or simple thank you is always motivating.
Take some time this week to consider your current volunteers. Who seems to fit the bill of a potentially high-achieving volunteer? What specific skills and/or leadership capacity does each person possess? How can you ensure they're in the best volunteer role and that they know you value their input?
Ministry isn't supposed to be done just by a few clergy and staff members. As followers of Christ, we're all supposed to minister to others. Help your volunteers grow in their ministry efforts. They'll experience the joy that comes from serving others and you'll not only see more people helped but will also see your volunteers mature spiritually as a result.