How to care for over-engaged volunteers

2015_Big_Logo.jpgWe are part of the Plano campus of Watermark Church here in Dallas.  It was a Saturday morning in July, I was at our church for the second week of training on speaking.  I had spent the week putting together a 10 minute talk using the structure we had been given.  I had also had 3 lunch meetings that week, a morning ministry team meeting, an early morning accountability group and an evening spent with a couple's group.  I was tired that morning and wanted to be home to get stuff done around the house.  As I was talking with a good friend, I found myself complaining about all the time I had invested in ministry that week.  Now, that's not really like me.  I love ministry and am grateful for the opportunities to invest in the lives of people.  But, something was happening in me that morning that happens all the time in the lives of your most engaged leaders.  I was feeling over-engaged.

My friend is part of the directional team for our campus and I'm sure he mentioned to our staff my comment, because a couple of weeks later at a ministry team meeting our Community Pastor asked if I was doing too much.  I so appreciated that question.  This meant that he cared for me and wanted me to be in it for the long haul.  That's what great leaders of volunteers do.  They keep their feelers out for who might be over-engaged so that they can shepherd them to regain margin and ministry health.

That got me to thinking about how CT can help pastors and staff discover and care for over-engaged volunteers.  If you suspect someone may be over-engaged, go to their member profile page and check the following:

  1. Last activity date.  This date tells you when someone last gave or attended anything.  It could be an initial indicator to look deeper.
  2. Volunteer schedule.  Use this feature to quickly review an individual's serving responsibilities and recent history.
  3. Involvement (Groups).  Probably the most helpful place to quickly see how many different ministries, groups, and events someone is involved in.
  4. Spiritual gifts.  Look under custom attributes to see a person's spiritual gifts mix.  Does this look like a good fit for what they are engaged in?  One of my ministry mentors, Paul Ford, suggests that healthy individual ministry is serving 65% of the time using your spiritual gifts.
  5. Contact information.  If you suspect someone might be over-engaged, call, text or email them.  All their info is right there.
  6. If they are married, it might be wise to see how engaged their spouse is as well.

But, what if you'd like to do an audit to raise your awareness as to who might be over-engaged?  Here are some ideas to help you.

  1. Run a report.  I would do a Member Listing that included contact information, spiritual gifts, and current group membership.  Then filter by a couple of the key group profile responses that would get your main serving and community groups.
  2. As you review the report, look in the current group column for people that might be engaged in more than 2 or 3 time-consuming groups or teams.
  3. In another tab or window, create a group for your eyes only to pray over and populate it with people you suspect might be over-engaged. 
  4. You might customize that group view to include their spiritual gifts, current group membership, last activity date and notes.
  5. As you pray for them, call, text or email that you had prayed and make notes of your prayer times and their responses.
  6. If you find some who need help prioritizing, meet with them and help them find the areas that are the best fit.
  7. Then, help them replace themselves in ministry areas that others can do.

As you develop the tools and skills to help your volunteer teams, you will free up some opportunities, maybe even significant opportunities for others to begin engaging more in ministry.  That's the next post.

Boyd Pelley

Co-founder, Churchteams. From 1990 to 2008 served as discipleship, administrative and family pastor of churches in New Mexico, Nebraska and Texas. Married 30+ years, 2 married adult children.