How well do you know your volunteers?

One thing I can freely assume about volunteers is that they want to help. Other than that, I should be careful about anything else I assume.

I’ve been working with volunteers for a while and can say I’ve probably had more failures than successes. But those failures have helped me become better at leading volunteers. So I’m writing from my failures in mind here and hoping it helps.

Making assumptions is one of the worst things I’ve done concerning volunteers. So I thought I’d share a few of my lessons learned:

1. Never assume they understand the cause as much as you do. You must articulate the cause and your heart and passion for it. Remember they just want to help, and not everyone helping in youth ministry is called to it. So share, and help them understand the impact of what your ministry does.

2. Never assume they are going to take the initiative. Take the time beforehand and map out what it is you need them to do. When I say "map out," I mean be very detailed in your instructions because they will only do what is expressed. For example, once I had volunteers and gave them the instructions to clean up. Well, they did not do a good job and actually left boxes and trash out because they didn’t know where to put it. You see, I assumed they would clean the way I wanted them to clean. I also assumed they would break the boxes down and take out all of the trash. I was clear on the “what” but not on the “how,” so they cleaned the way they wanted to.

3. Never assume they are self-motivating. Volunteers need you to be a cheerleader for them as they care for students at either an event, small group or the weekend service. Be intentional about pointing out some small wins to them as well as big wins. Let them know the effect it has on the ministry. Thank them for allowing God to use their gifts and talents.

4. Never assume they are going to know what to do next. Idle time to a volunteer is like water to oil. Idle time, if not communicated beforehand, can mean an unorganized ministry to a volunteer. They automatically think, “Didn’t they know we were coming?” Also, if not communicated, you can become frustrated thinking no one's doing anything, when actually it could be they just don’t know what to do next.

5. Never assume they want to do more than communicated. Until your volunteers buy into the purpose of the ministry, assuming they want to go the extra mile could ensure they never return.

For me, these assumptions would happen unintentionally. I would find myself playing catch up and having to stay to clean and redo some of the work I had asked volunteers to do. I had to really evaluate the assumptions I was making and how, because of those assumptions, I was not being a great steward of my volunteers’ time.

This is something to think about as you deal with volunteers this week. I know there is more than just five assumptions we can have, and I know I’m not the only one who has them (or maybe I am—ha!), so what are some assumptions you’ve made about volunteers that weren't so smart?

Aaron Crumbey oversees pastoral care for the high school ministry at Saddleback Church. He cares deeply about sharing Christ with students and seeing them reach their full potential in Christ. He's married with three children, loves family time, sports, movies and all things musical among some other things. He also runs www.yoacblog.com.

For the original article, visit morethandodgeball.com.

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