The Best Volunteers Are F.A.T.
Disclaimer – I write “Leadership Moments” for the volunteers at my church who work in the youth ministry. Each Leadership Moment is meant to equip the everyday youth worker with the knowledge and skills they need to disciple teens as best as they can. Because these articles are for people I know personally and meant for my own church and city context, they may not always be relevant to the wider public. However I put them here for anyone who might benefit from their content.
Most churches are carried on the backs of volunteers, and for them I praise God! But we all know that not all volunteers are created equal. Some are awesome and some are lacking in awesomeness (that’s a real term, right?). I can say from experience that there is nothing quite like a team of great volunteers working together. But what is it that makes one volunteer stand out from another?
The answer is that the best volunteers are F.A.T.! It is an acronym that has endured for decades, partly because it is catchy, partly because it is true, and partly because it is easy to remember. It’s also borderline politically incorrect, but let’s just pretend we didn’t notice and move on.
The best volunteers are:
Being faithful to a ministry means you are invested in it. You care about how things are going. You don’t just slip in and slip out, doing the minimal amount of work required of you. A faithful volunteer is one who desires to see the mission move forward, and takes personal responsibility to do their part to make it happen.
Just as people are more likely to notice that a restaurant is dirty rather than it being clean, it is sometimes easier to recognize a volunteer who isn’t faithful than one who is. A volunteer who isn’t faithful might exhibit some of these characteristics:
- Often late without a valid reason
- Forgets to fulfill their responsibilities
- Is quick to take time off
- Will quit once it doesn’t seem fun anymore
- Knows the policies but doesn’t follow through on them
- Shows up unprepared
- Seems disinterested at team meetings
Sadly, most ministries are better off with a void at a volunteer position rather than having an unfaithful person filling that slot. Consider the calling that God has placed on all of his Kingdom workers:
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24)
Volunteers are only good if they consistently show up. Some people have a genuine heart, a real and godly desire to help out. But some of those people simply don’t have the open schedule to pull it off. They mean well, but they end up making commitments that they can’t follow through on.
This is just the way life is. It’s busy! But it is important for people to know that if they are going to commit to something, they need to be able to have the time to give it adequate attention. You can be the most gung-ho volunteer in the world, but if you simply have too many things on the go, you’ll end up being ineffective.
Great volunteers show up. They come early and stay late. They do their best not to miss important meetings. They aren’t multitasking personal tasks while trying to do ministry work. They are present in every sense of the word: physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally.
Another mark of a great volunteer is having a teachable spirit. There is no place for pride in God’s work. Sometimes volunteers – especially those with lots of experience or strong skills – feel like they know it all, that training and teamwork are important for others but not for them. This is a destructive mentality. Good ministry work happens when team members work together. In fact, one of the most destructive things to the advancement of ministry work is conflict between ministry workers. It was something that the early church dealt with (1 Corinthians 1:10, Philippians 4:2), and it is something that every church still deals with.
The truth is that we all have room for growth. We all have areas we can improve, and ways that other people can stretch us and help us become more effective. Being teachable is about having a spirit of humility, one that is willing to have your ideas challenged and take on the role of a servant, doing what needs to happen for the greater good.
Questions for Reflection
- Out of these three areas, which one do you think you struggle with the most?
- How can you aim to improve in that area?