I recently spent some time with long-time pastor Steve Stroope, who’s been in the ministry now for forty years. We talked a lot about what he felt was critical to building a strong church. As he put it, pastors need to see themselves as the servants of the people in their ministries. We need to develop the attitude of Christ, who used his position of leadership to wash feet, not to command respect. And one of the key ways we can do this as a church, Stroope says, is to pay our volunteers.
When we thinking of getting paid, we immediately think of cash. But Stroope pointed out that we don’t have to give out money to give people something of great value. It takes some thought, but it’s worth our time to figure out what replenishes our volunteers. After all, if we aren’t paying them, then we’re punishing them.
Stroope gives nine ways to pay your volunteers:
Praise can come in two forms—public or private. The public stuff, done sincerely and in moderation, is vital. So thank specific people publicly or give them shout outs for a job well done. And get creative: if you’re writing books or posting on Twitter, that’s just as public as when you stand in the pulpit.
Private praise is just as important—and for many people, much more important. Many people are uncomfortable with public praise, but no one dislikes a personal pat on the back. So write a letter of gratitude. Give them a call to let them know you see their hard work. It doesn’t take much time for you, but it just might be the highlight of their week.
2. SPECIAL ACCESS TO YOU
Like it or not, if you’re in the ministry, your volunteers think you’re important. So don’t treat them like a burden. When they call you or email you, respond quickly. It affirms them and reminds them that you don’t think of them like a stranger. In short, be their pastor. After all, Jesus didn’t have financial wealth to spread around, but he gave special access to twelve specific men. What greater wealth could we hope for?
Your volunteers have the most on-the-ground data available. So even if you think you have a handle on the ministry, they can offer unique and invaluable insight.
3. ALLOW THEM TO GIVE INPUT
This isn’t just a way of paying your volunteers. It’s also just a smart strategy. Your volunteers have the most on-the-ground data available. So even if you think you have a handle on the ministry, they can offer unique and invaluable insight. Ask questions and listen. Even if you don’t follow every suggestion they give you, simply being heard goes a long way.
4. MORE RESPONSIBILITY – I.E. “PROMOTION”
On the face of it, you might think that giving a volunteer more to do was cruel. They aren’t getting paid—why make them do more for nothing? But think about it from their perspective: would you rather fill the same role forever, or have your talents recognized? Wouldn’t you be happier if someone saw your leadership and said, “Hey, I think you might be capable of much more.” Giving away opportunities isn’t a sign of poor leadership. It’s just the opposite: insecure leaders hoard every responsibility, leading to burnout; but strong leaders create more leaders.
5. EMPOWER AND RELEASE THEM
If you’re going to promote volunteers, you’ve got to give them room to roam. Don’t hover over them and wait for their every mistake. Empower them for the task and give them a measure of legitimate freedom. You can go too far with this, of course, sacrificing your ministry’s vision by allowing too much flexibility. But don’t let the fear of that extreme keep you from empowering altogether.
Insecure leaders hoard every responsibility, leading to burnout; but strong leaders create more leaders.
6. CONNECT THEIR JOB TO THE GREATER KINGDOM MISSION
It’s easy to forget the big picture when you’re serving with the kids, you have crushed Goldfish all over your shirt, and a very persistent 2-year-old seems interesting in nothing more than screaming in your ear. So remind that volunteer that their service means a mother had a chance to hear the gospel uninterrupted. Nothing your volunteers do is busy work, but it can feel that way. Show them how what they are doing plays a role in the mission of the church—and in the kingdom.
7. GIVE THEM TOOLS TO DO THEIR JOB WELL
Volunteers are usually a scrappy bunch: they’ll get by with whatever scanty resources they have. Why not give them a boost by making their job a little easier, noticing what could make their job easier? As an added plus, if you provide key tools before they notice the need for them, you’ll seem like a genius.
8. GIVE THEM JOB KNOWLEDGE
Take your team to conferences. Buy them books. Information is valuable, so share what you’ve learned through your years of ministry. I can attest—personally—that what many volunteers have found most valuable when working with me was not something I thought particularly groundbreaking at the time. You aren’t a savant, but you have something they don’t. So share it.
Take your team to conferences. Buy them books. Information is valuable, so share what you’ve learned through your years of ministry.
Did you get a couple free tickets to the game? Have a spare gift card? Why not give them to a volunteer? It won’t cost much, but people love unexpected gifts—so give them!
Big impact, Stroope says, comes from small leadership. So serve those you lead, and show them that you care more about how they are doing than about what they do for you.
 This list compiled by Tim Harvest, https://www.harvestministryteams.com/blog/2014/02/how-to-pay-your-volunteer-teams/
For more resources from JD Greear. Visit his website, https://www.jdgreear.com.
Published March 17, 2016