That dreaded volunteer issue. It happens because we are human and we love to connect. But sometimes, too much connecting (I know, I'm stepping on some toes here) at the inappropriate time or place can get in the way of the ministry.
And when handled the wrong way, ever hear these comments?
"But aren’t we supposed to be friendly at church?"
"What’s wrong with talking with my peeps, my family, my squad…when I’m serving?
Ya’ll are so militant! Ya’ll (can you tell I’m from the south?!) have too many rules! I quit.
First of all, there is absolutely nothing wrong with talking with your people. But as with anything that is good, when taken to an extreme, it can be a negative.
So, let’s dig in and ask the question, WHY are we serving today?
To be seen?
To check off the list: I served today.
To create a genuine welcoming environment for ALL those coming through the doors?
Here is the reality: sometimes we all can forget the WHY. And I get it! I LOVE talking with my friends! Most of the time, the only time I get to see them is when I’m serving.
First, let’s throw out a few exceptions where the issue of “too much talking” does not apply.
1. The talking is random and brief.
2. We are assuming it’s their people, but we could be wrong.
So, how do we handle the situation when a volunteer is always talking with friends and not able to focus on others, or honor their serving role? The easy answer is training!
Here are 3 Trainables:
1. Help them find the right fit for the right post?
This may simply be a simple fix of finding the right place for the volunteer to serve. Sometime, people will serve in an area requiring a lot of flow, moving around or handing out of things and what they really want and need is a place to have conversations. So finding and even creating serving roles that allow conversations provides the best fit. OR maybe it’s a timing thing. Depending on when people serve; before, after or during the services can impact their focus.
2. Help them understand the WHY!
Tell stories!!! Have stories in your back pocket!
Remember when Sally visited our church for the first time?
I was talking with, Vicky Volunteer, and she was telling me about her husband’s upcoming surgery. I truly cared about Vicky’s husband but I also noticed that a woman was hanging out at the information desk and seemed to be waiting.
So, I interrupted Vicky and motioned for her to hang on for a moment.
I then quickly greeted this woman, introduced myself and
learned that her name was Sally.
Sally shared that it was her first time visiting and
was pretty overwhelmed with all the people.
I was able to chat with her and connect her to a ministry.
I found Vicky after service to apologize for interrupting our conversation and
that I wanted to know about her husband.
Jane used the “QTIP” training back to me!
“Mary Ann, I knew that our focus is for those who are new to our church.
And I knew what you were doing.
I can talk to you anytime!
I learned it was a QTIP moment from training:
3. Help them with specific HOW-TO’s get out of long-winded conversations.
This is a great example when role play is an effective training tool.
Sometimes, when a volunteer is serving at the same location, their friends learn this and know where to find them….for long, connecting conversations. We trained for these situations and provided a couple of options for the volunteer.
We gave them words to help them honor their friends and still be able to focus on serving. I reminded them that maybe…their friend finds them because that’s the only time they can time with them. We are all soooo busy and we can lose track of the last time we actually sat down and had conversations. They could say: “Hey! I love that you found me today and I really want to be able to sit down, focus and talk with you. Do you want to get lunch after church today?”
This is a loving thing to do because the volunteer is giving their friends exactly what they are craving; TIME!
We created simple, fun signals if the volunteer needed “rescuing”. Then the Team Leader would know to either walk over themselves or find another Leader to walk over and say: “Hey Vic Volunteer! Excuse me for interrupting, but I need to review something with you real quick. Can you walk over to the “__________” with me?
This provided just a minute or two for the conversation to break and most of the time, the friend would need to get into church or home or get their child.
If all else fails, leaders must have the conversation, one-on-one. Seeking first to understand and really lean into what the volunteers are saying is the best way to earn trust and create an open and loving culture.
And at the end of the day, if the most loving thing was for that volunteer to spend time with someone, one-on-one, then this is where grace lives.