What I Learned About Volunteering

In 2015 I volunteered with some of the best organizations in the world.  I helped with a couple of large running events with The Atlanta Track Club which is the biggest running club in the country.  I helped organize two of the bookstores at the Catalyst Conference.  I greeted people as they arrived to the Orange Conference.  Finally, I was blessed to minister to students at Gwinnett Church as part of their Student Guest Services team on Sunday morning.

I’m usually the organizer of these large events.  This was the first time in my life that I spent time volunteering.  As always I went in as a learner.  What are some of the things that I took away from volunteering with great organizations.

  1.  Gifts – Every one of these organizations gave me a t-shirt.  Catalyst gave me one for EVERY day!  The Atlanta Track Club gave me a ticket to an NFL game.  Orange gave me a download card so that I could get the messages that I would have to miss.  I loved and appreciated these gifts so much.  Not everybody can do free shirts and NFL tickets, but I think we can do something to show those volunteering that they are appreciated.
  2. Training – I was amazed at how they answered every question that I had.  For the most part all of their training sessions were wonderful.  Volunteers need training, but you probably aren’t going to get more than one or two opportunities to train.  People are too busy and unwilling to come to a separate event for training.
  3. Food – Volunteers might be skipping dinner to come to your event.  It was awesome how these organizations provided nice meals for their volunteers.  Again, you might not be able to do it every time.
  4. Communication – All responded well to emails.  I thought there communication was timely and direct.  I’m sure all of them had a plan on how and when to communicate to volunteers.
  5. Organization – All were organized well.  When I got to Catalyst I had to search a bit to find the volunteer room.  However I was immediately greeted, given a shirt, and the instructions to what I would be doing that morning.  The ATC had several points of contact and a volunteer booth.  Any anxiety I had over what I would be doing or finding my leader was removed because of how organized the events were.

In ministry we spend a lot of time identifying potential leaders and then recruiting people for ministry.  Most of the organizations listed above spend no time recruiting people.  Volunteers find them!  Nobody invited me to any of these events.  I used Google.  So it is critical that volunteers have a wonderful experience, keep coming back, and bringing others.

It is just as critical for us to make sure volunteers have wonderful experiences.  I want them to feel that the Lord used them in this ministry.  I want them to know they are loved and needed here.  My hope is that they stay with us for years.  To do that we need to create a culture that loves and equips volunteers just like the organizations that I volunteered for in 2015.

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