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Five simple ways to motivate church volunteers

Summer is almost over, families are back from vacation and everyone is returning to work and school. Pastors and church staff are gearing up for the new year too, and the needs are many.

First, there is always a need for Bible study teachers for all ages, nursery workers program directors and other church positions. Churches also need churchgoers to advocate for and support various causes essential to church ministry.  

In his recent Barna Highlight, researcher George Barna addressed the issue of church leadership and motivating members to support ministry.

“If you’re looking for ways to get your congregation more involved in important causes, it helps to know what motivates U.S. churchgoers,” Barna said.

Worthwhile goals

According to Barna, the top reason churchgoers get involved in supporting ministry is that they think they can make a difference. One in six Americans credit their decision to get involved to a vision cast at their church.

Active ministry gives members a worthwhile goal, especially in areas where they can use their personal talents and skills. When church leaders invite members to join in, give them a clear vision of the task, show them how the ministry will make a difference and give them a tangible goal, members are more apt to support the ministry.

People also enjoy working together as part of a team to bring about a clearly defined, tangible goal and vision.

Purpose

In these days when COVID-19 has interfered with people’s plans, work and goals — even bringing some projects to a complete halt — becoming involved with an active church ministry can give purpose.

Work that helps others and is done as part of the church’s ministry provides meaning and value. People live with greater intention when they pursue a goal; they are more motivated to give of themselves when they feel useful and needed. 

Needs 

People also respond to stories that show special, urgent needs.

Members often become involved when they hear or see a story that moves them. It might the plight of the hungry in the church’s community, those impoverished around the world, mothers who have no milk to feed their babies or a community contracting disease because there is no clean water.

The fact that another person suffers touches the hearts of compassionate Christians, prompting and motivating them to ease the pain of another by meeting urgent needs.

For instance, when Charles Spurgeon saw orphaned children, homeless, hungry and dying on the dirty streets of London, it touched his heart, motivating him to found the Stockwell Orphanage in 1867 (for boys) and 1879 (for girls). 

The lost people of India deeply touched Baptist missionary William Carey’s heart, motivating him to spend 41 years there, in spite of incredible hardship and personal sacrifice. India’s desperate need to know Christ propelled Carey to translate the entire Bible into Bengali.

After his 1773 conversion, African American Baptist missionary George Liele, a slave in Virginia and Georgia, felt compelled to travel to Jamaica to teach African slaves that God loved them and Jesus died for them.

Friends 

Friends can be a motivating factor in getting people to take part in ministry. Volunteers often admit that what initially drew them to a ministry is that “someone I know personally was very involved.”

It’s common knowledge that one of the best ways to increase church membership and attendance is for a friend to bring a friend. When friends are enthusiastic about a ministry cause, explain the reasons they are personally involved, share a tangible goal the work will accomplish and issue an invitation to a friend to join in, that can be a big motivator to getting involved. 

Individual Gifts 

One of the best ways to involve members in causes and ministries is to learn the individual’s personal gifts and talents. For instance, when church member Sally, who loves teaching women the Bible, receives the opportunity to teach a women’s Bible study class, she’ll eagerly study and anticipate it. But ask Sally to care for babies in the nursery, a task she doesn’t enjoy and for which she possesses no gifts, and Sally will drag her feet, dread the job and probably quit. 

When church leaders take the time and effort to learn their members’ individual spiritual gifts, then invite them to serve in those ministries about which they are passionate, members will get involved, work hard and enjoy it. A person who works in his or her area of skill, giftedness and passion will feel fulfilled and will work more effectively.

When church leaders notice the effectiveness of their work, give them unlimited opportunities to serve and provide generous encouragement, support and affirmation, the church will increase its volunteers and ministries.

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