This topic was originally part of Rotation.org's larger "Return, Rebuild, Renew" Sunday School forum created to help get us through the 2020-2021 pandemic and return to the new normal.
While it describes the RETICENCE of volunteers to return to volunteering after taking a break due to COVID, I think it also describes volunteer issues and needs over the decades!
Here's a good crop of article excerpts on the subject of re-engaging volunteers and making changes as we come out of the COVID pandemic.
They were all written during the pandemic by various well-known church ministry experts. Each of the articles I've linked below tend to complement and complete each other, and thus, I suggest you browse all of them.
I've excerpted some of their insights and added some of my own wording to gear them for our "re-engaging volunteer" topic here.
As Sunday Schoolers and church leaders, we know we're not returning to the same place where we once were -- and neither are our volunteers. As we approach the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel (sometime this year) and look beyond it, it's good to be challenged by some of the talented church leaders speaking to us through these articles.
Your thoughts and article links are welcome! --Neil
by Brian Yeager, church volunteer management expert, posted by Lifeway Research
Some leaders and programs may be setting themselves up for disappointment by not taking into account how the pandemic has changed the habits and attitudes of many of our volunteers.
- Many of our volunteers will have been changed by the wilderness experience from which they are emerging. Many are stressed and have experienced turmoil and loss.
- Many have or will be re-evaluating how they want to connect within the congregation and their faith (and "if")
- Many may find it hard to return to "wrestling the family to get to church on time."
- Some may use the "break" as an opportunity to try another church or continue with no church at all.
To wit: we need to get out and talk to people, make commitments easier upon re-entry, and be prepared to reduce program needs.
by Aaron Buer, teaching pastor, Ada Bible Church
People have left. People are nervous. People like watching from home. People won’t serve if they have to wear a mask. People won’t serve if everyone isn’t wearing a mask. It’s a mess.
- We need to listen.
- We need to create serving opportunities that fit their needs/restrictions, rather than leave them out.
- We need to challenge them to get off their couch and re-engage without overwhelming them.
from Life.Church's Open (Training) Network
- Cast a stronger vision. Reinvigorate the "why" we gather and do things together.
- Set clear expectations about roles and any pandemic expectations, such as masks.
- Anticipate, ask for, and listen to volunteer concerns.
- Model flexibility and fun.
- Show great care for those who choose to serve AND those who choose to sit out.
by Karl Vaters, pastor, and noted small church leader
- They got out of the habit.
- They haven't missed it.
- The break gave them excuse to quit.
- They feel they're still at risk healthwise.
- Fear (and the last year has given people things to be afraid of)
- The church didn't reach out to them during the pandemic
- We haven't given them a compelling reason to get re-involved
*I adapted Karl's insights for our volunteers that we are hoping will return with energy! Any one of these "reasons" might be enough to dampen or delay some people's return.
In his follow-up article: 7 Ways To Reach People Who Aren't Coming Back (now or ever), Vaters suggests the following, which I've again excerpted and adapted for our volunteer subject:
Don't guilt. Encourage. Be Patient. Apologize if needed. Offer them something different. Pray for them. And recenter them on serving Christ -- and ministering to kids in need (and our returning kids are in need!)
by Ron Edmonson, pastor and noted clergy coach
People resist change because of a sense of loss. (And they have now been through over a year of "loss.") Loss of ...
Acknowledging and empathizing with their/our loss is the beginning of healing. Until you get through the grief and even anger, you won't get to acceptance of the way forward, or people's "yes" to fully take that journey with you.
by Shanon Hopkins, co-founder of RootedGood, a non-profit that teaches businesses and organizations about "systematic change"
Disruption can be a good thing when it leads to needed change. But it’s hard. Here are the five stages of a "healthy pivot" when the things you’ve built no longer work as they should:
- Recognize (admit) what's not working
- Grieve it so you can get beyond it. We believe in death and resurrection.
- Learn what you need to leave behind and what you need to take with you.
- Renew "the why" --the vision for what we are trying to accomplish, especially in light of the current situation, not the past.
- Rethink "the how" --this is the stage where it is time to be brave again --knowing what we know now --but with our eyes and minds wide open.