Listen Closely to Your Volunteers

Barbara Graves —  April 26, 2011

We have all heard, and believe, that ministry is all about relationships.  But in the typically over-crowded schedule of a volunteer, how do you build relationships with people who you get to spend very little time with.  If you can’t have leisurely lunches or afternoon coffee with each of your volunteers, how do you build that bond that allows you to speak into their life effectively?  A key element to building a great relationship can be found in simply becoming a great listener.

If you listen closely to the bits and pieces of conversations that you do get to have with your volunteers you will find that they can tell you quite a bit about themselves and their lives.  And that is what we need to know in order to have a relationship.  If we are going to pray effectively for our volunteers we need to know what is going on in their life.  The problem I have with this is that I listen, hear what they say, and then forget the details.  I don’t mean to, it’s just that there is so much information and communication going through my head, especially on a Sunday, that I just can’t remember everything.

So here’s a suggestion.  Make a file on each of your volunteers and record little bits of info that are personal to them.  For example, lets’ say you are talking with Sarah, a volunteer in the nursery for your early service and you make a comment about needing one more cup of coffee.  Sarah may reply that she is one of those people who can’t drink coffee, but loves her Diet Coke in the morning.  Now, as you walk away from the nursery, you are going to think to yourself, “Ah! Sarah doesn’t drink coffee.  I’ll remember that.”  But, you probably won’t. So you need to make a note of that on Sarah’s file.  What? Sarah doesn’t have a file?  Then make one.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate.  Just make a volunteer info file on your computer, or even an index card file.  But somewhere, record that Sarah likes Diet Coke in the morning. And, of course, Sunday morning as you are walking away from the nursery, you can’t go to your file right then, so how about using the voice recorder on your cell phone.  Or, just take out the pen and note paper that you carry in your pocket and scribble a note.  Later you can input that in your file.   Then, the next time you want to make Sarah smile, slip her a Diet Coke into the nursery and say, “Here, thought might help you through the morning.”  The fact that you remembered that she likes Diet Coke makes her know that you care about her personally, not just as a person to fill a slot in a nursery schedule. These types of small, personal touches will build a relationship even though your time together is short.


Barbara Graves

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Barbara is a married mother of 4 grown kids. She is the volunteer Children’s Pastor at Momentum Church in Woodstock, GA where she oversees kids from birth to 5th grade. She can often be found driving around north Georgia, usually with a cup of coffee in her hand.