I have a quasi-confession to make. I worked as an employee of a church for 10 years before I ever volunteered for anything. Don’t get me wrong, I worked for other ministries outside of my job I was asked to do, I just don’t see that as true volunteerism like we ask out of the people that attend our churches.
It took years to cultivate a desire to volunteer. Once I did start actively volunteering, I came to the conclusion that anyone who leads volunteers should also try to volunteer because it will change the way you perceive and treat them.
In 2010, I started serving on the school board for a 4,000+ school district that leases space out of our church building. My daughter was starting school that year, and this was my way of getting involved in her education. Being on the board was my first time to experience what it was like to be a volunteer.
I learned three things about volunteering:
- Respect their time. Our first monthly meeting was scheduled to go until 5 p.m. and ended up running until a little after 5:30 p.m. I remember thinking, “Don’t they know I have other things I need to do?” I’m not proud of that thought. I love my school, but it was something I thought. When leading volunteers, it’s important to respect their time just as much as you respect yours.
- Provide necessary training. Because I’m on the governing board of a school that receives over $35 million a year in public money, there is a certain amount of training that is required to stay on the board. Like any normal person, I dread this training but I also appreciate that it helps me be more effective. Every year my school invests resources so I can receive that training.
- Say thank you. My wife has been volunteering with CASA for the last year. One day, we arrived home and noticed a sign in our yard thanking Andrea for serving CASA. It was such a small thing and yet such a big reminder to her that she was valued.
I would have never truly realized these needs without becoming a volunteer myself.
When was the last time you took your leader hat off and put your volunteer hat on? What did you learn?