About once a month, Brian and I used to have the same conversation. As the leader of our children’s ministry, he would be having difficulties with a volunteer leader. Perhaps the volunteer was being stubborn, reflecting a bad attitude, or creating other difficulties. We’d discuss our options. Most often I would end up saying, “Brian, he just needs your touch. He needs your inspiration and your motivation. And he needs your encouragement.” I said this so often that one day we realized that I’d inadvertently created an acronym: T.I.M.E. So from then on, we would remind each other, “They need our T.I.M.E.!” And nine times out of ten, giving a volunteer our T.I.M.E. creates healthier ministry relationships.
T – Touch
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that being touched by the right person, at the right time, and in the right way feels very good. We’ve all heard about scientific studies proving that human touch can actually improve mental and physical health, boost career performance, and even increase longevity. An appropriate touch can go a long way toward communicating love and acceptance. The well-timed touch on the arm, pat on the hand, squeeze of a shoulder, or platonic hug can improve a person’s outlook, and it may be the only pure touch he or she receives.
I – Inspiration
We all need inspiration. We need to know why we are toiling and sweating and sometimes putting up with difficult situations or people. Make sure that your volunteers are attending worship each week. In the rare instances that our volunteers can’t attend a service because of their roles, we make sure they receive a free CD of the message.
M – Motivation
Two sources can be used to motivate most volunteers. The first is training that is specific to their role. If you can find the best seminar, conference, book, or CD that will help them do better in their role, most people will be very grateful. The second is stories of life change. Make sure volunteers are hearing about the lives that are being positively influenced by their ministries. This could be done through a simple Internet-based “bulletin board” that captures and shares the stories.
E – Encouragement
What is the best way to encourage people? Listen. Take the time to find out about their families, hobbies, and interests, and in the process, listen to their hearts. More than anything else you can do, listening causes people to feel special and valued. Think about it: people will sit in a bar late at night, click into an online chat room, or call a nighttime radio talk show just to be heard. We all need someone who will listen to us. Of course, in order to adequately listen, you must make sure you plan the time to do so.
Make sure you are giving your volunteers T.I.M.E. Teach your leaders the importance of giving T.I.M.E. to those under their care. If this isn’t natural for you, then systematize the practice into your life. There’s nothing wrong with putting it on your schedule or to-do list. People matter too much not to make this a priority.
Excerpted from Simply Strategic Volunteers: Empowering People for Ministry, by Tim Stevens and Tony Morgan, published by Group.