Avoiding Volunteer Burnout

Avoiding Volunteer Burnout
May 21, 2010 Bob D'Ambrosio

Have you ever heard this before?

“I’m going to take a few months off from… [teaching Sunday school/leading worship/ushering/any other volunteer position]. I’m just a little burned out and I need a break.”

Sadly, many of those volunteers never come back.

Simple recognition of the time, energy, and sacrifice of volunteers, however, can turn them into Energizer Bunnies—they’ll keep going and going.

“Recognition does more than express appreciation,” says Margie Morris, author of Volunteer Ministries (Standard Publishing). “It validates and motivates. It provides both in­centive and visibility to the volunteer. It says to the volunteer that their work is important, and that the church supports their effort.”

Morris lists a number of simple ways you can ensure that volunteers get the recognition they deserve:

  • Mention volunteers by name during worship and prayer.
  • Greet volunteers warmly and ask how their ministries are going.
  • Supply a volunteer suggestion box.
  • Issue a permanent name tag that also includes the job title they hold.
  • Hold a reception for volunteers during the worship service, and encourage members of the congregation to thank volunteers for their service.
  • Invite volunteers to participate in staff planning sessions.Make sure volunteers know you have time to listen to their problems.
  • Send a donation to a mission project in a volunteer’s name.
  • Be generous with well-deserved praise—both publicly and privately.
  • Write a letter of recommendation for the volunteer.
  • Send personal birthday cards thanking each volunteer for another year of service.
  • Honor a “Volunteer of the Month.”
  • Reward innovation.

Nurturing volunteers through public and private recognition and in writing will not only keep volunteers going, it will stretch them further to attempt new challenges. Which of these have you used with your volunteers? Which ones are you going to try?


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