Where Honor is Due | Recognizing Your Volunteers

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One of your most valuable assets as a ministry leader or a non-profit leader are your volunteers. You've heard me say it a million times that volunteers are the lifeblood of your ministry or your nonprofit organization. They are indeed your most valuable asset, and while we all recognize that (at least I hope we do) we really, really, really, really need volunteers. I will tell you that it can be very easy to need your volunteers, to expect a lot from your volunteers, to lean in on your volunteers, but yet not recognize your volunteers. How much time are you spending recognizing your volunteers?

We spend a lot of time realizing how much we need them, asking them for more, trying to come up with strategies to get more volunteers and keep them sticking around, and then coming back next week. However, we can sometimes neglect this important word: recognition. If you want volunteers that come back week after week, if you want volunteers that just don’t come back every week as a warm body but are really passionate and excited, if you want volunteers that are recruiting other volunteers, you need to get these two things down. You need to make sure you've got a good reputation, and you need to make sure you are recognizing them.

Here are two important R words: reputation and recognition. Your reputation, and not just my reputation as a leader, but the reputation of this ministry or this organization. Are things organized? Are they done with excellence? Is the mission and vision very clear? Maybe it is clear in your head as a leader, but you need to make sure it is clear in those that are listening. Howard Hendricks said that when there's a mist in the pulpit, there will be a fog in the pews. His point was that as a leader, you have to speak your vision and mission with such great clarity that everybody understands it crystal clear.

You also have to make sure you have a good reputation. People know why this ministry exists, why this organization exists, and why we are doing this. They know what is expected of me, and they know what I can expect of you. Not only does the organization or the ministry have to have a good reputation, but you need to have a good reputation. In other words, these volunteers need to connect with you. They need to have a relationship with you; they need to have trust in you. They need to connect with your heart. Once you've got the reputation part down, make sure you are recognizing them. Go overboard in recognizing your volunteers.

I wonder if I asked you to take an honest analysis of how much time you spend recognizing your volunteers, how would you score? How would you do? Recognizing your volunteers is not something that should just happen once a year at an annual event, or once a year at a Christmas party or open house. You should be recognizing those volunteer every week. Volunteers need to be reminded that they are part of something significant; they are part of something much bigger than themselves. They are part of a movement; they are part of a mission, and we need to recognize those volunteers every week.

Here’s a frog I want you to eat today. I am amazed; I talk about eating the frog all the time, yet when I read comments on Facebook people say, “what do you mean by eating the frog?” So here’s a reminder; Mark Twain said that if you eat a live frog first thing in the morning, that nothing worse can happen the rest of the day. I think about how true that is. So here’s the frog, the most difficult thing I want you to do today, and just choose to do it. I want you to think about who you can recognize this week. Pick two or three volunteers, and ask yourself what can you do to recognize these volunteers this week and then next week? What can you do to recognize some more volunteers in the following week? What can you do to recognize some more volunteers?

Recognizing your volunteers. This same principle works for employees as well. Paid employees: they need to be recognized. Recognizing your employees and volunteers on a regular basis is so important. Listen, it will pay you dividends starting with day one. A lot of times you make an investment, and you won’t see dividends for months or years. When you start recognizing your team, when you start recognizing your volunteers, when you start recognizing your employees, the people that you lean in on the most, you start seeing a return on that investment right away. You start seeing dividends, and people re-up their commitment. They’re more excited to be a part of your ministry or organization. They recognize that they're appreciated. They'll start talking to their friends, their family, and their neighbors. It really does pay off.

Treasure those most important things in your life. When we think about the most important things in our life, I hope that you think about your relationship with God and His word, your family, your spouse, and your kids. Treasure those important things. If you’re a non-profit leader or if you’re a church leader, one of your most important possessions would be your volunteers. Treasure them, and treat them like a treasure. Make sure you are going out of your way every week to recognize them.

Your #1 fan,


Ryan Frank