I love to volunteer. At my church I’m a Sunday school teacher, confirmation small group leader, and vacation bible school teacher, and in school I’m a PTA member, a kindergarten room mother, and the list goes on. When my phone rings and I am asked to help more, I usually say yes. But that was before I returned to being a working mom with three boys involved in extracurricular activities. There is a struggle in my heart between wanting to make a difference by giving back, and managing my time so I can fight off exhaustion.
“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” Elizabeth Andrew
Volunteers are the most important resource in a church. It’s hard to find reliable people who are willing to volunteer. When you find a good one, you want to ask them for more, and some people just don’t have it in their heart to say no. This leads people to over-commit, and could eventually lead to the silent epidemic: volunteer burnout.
Common causes of burnout
- High expectations
- Lack of support from the church leader overseeing the volunteer
- Poor self-management by the volunteer
Action your church can take
- Try to know your volunteers personality.
- Keep the lines of communication open.
- Make sure volunteers know they can say “no” if they are feeling overextended or overwhelmed.
- Make sure the work environment isn’t too demanding.
- Match the right person with the right job.
- Provide services to help with emotional burden.
- Acknowledge their work to keep them inspired.
- Be prepared to make changes as you evaluate the circumstances.
The next time my phone rings, or a volunteer request is posted in the Sunday bulletin, I’m going to have to say “no”. It’s time to limit my volunteering so I don’t feel overwhelmed. Do your volunteers know they can do the same?
Are you asking too much of your volunteers?