I don’t know about you, but this particular season of the ministry year is kind of weird for me. Recently we mailed out Ministry Letters of Intent to all of our Small Group Leaders (SGLs) and volunteers. These letters allow them to each think and pray over where God is guiding them in His ministry within our church community. SGLs and volunteers make their commitment and we use the collected forms to guide our ministry plans and recruitment for the coming year.
It is a great process in that we have a sense of where our leaders are spiritually, what issues or concerns they have with ministry, and what might be going on with their family or in their personal life. It’s also weird because people tend to struggle with the idea of endings. While a natural part of our life, endings are way less fun or exciting than beginnings, right? How do we as church leaders embrace and plan for these transitions? Here are some ideas to start the conversation; please comment with your own experiences!
Focus on your expectations from the start
It is very important for us as leaders to invite others to join us in ministry as partners, not as slaves. This means clearly outlining the duties and role ahead of time, training and supporting the SGLs or volunteers throughout the commitment, getting to know and care for each person personally, and having an easily marked “off ramp” for each person to reevaluate and either recommit or step off. Knowing that we are valued and supported underscores the ministry experience we have as we serve God and His church! Allowing volunteers the space and permission to step away increases commitment because the person feels appreciated and wants to serve more wholeheartedly.
Help volunteers plan and pray for opportunities to serve
Sending out a letter of intent will allow volunteers to better plan and pray for opportunities to serve. Giving them time and space to think about where God is using them also supports them and their family as they are discipled. Remember, our volunteers might be given the task of discipling others, but our important task is to disciple the disciples! Our ministry areas will be richer, fuller, and stronger when our volunteers are people who are strong and supported in faith. The hope is by the Spirit’s leading, to grow beyond ourselves!
God will provide volunteers!
This knowledge will ease the anxiety as leaders heed the Spirit’s call to serve. With so much crazy anxiety in our world, ask God to grow peace in you so that you can share peace with your volunteers and create a joy filled space for them to serve God in His church!
Start and end on purpose
This is as simple as the sentence—begin with a purposeful opening, sharing why you are doing what you are doing. Share and restate this why as often as you can! Make sure to communicate it until everyone knows the why—and then communicate it some more! Starting is fun—balloons, special schedule, a great snack or treats. Ending needs to be just as purposeful. Be sure to publicize the end date. If ending means your ministry will switch to a different schedule, be sure to communicate this at least four weeks ahead and three weeks after the date.
If you have volunteers stepping off of your ministry area, be sure to publicly thank and acknowledge their service and pray for what’s next for them. Send a note or card to their family as well.
If you have volunteers who are continuing on with you, be sure to acknowledge that in some way as well. I have provided a special treat, a thank-you gift, and a blessing within the church community in different years.
Pray for God’s blessing on your ministry, your families, and the community in which you live! God is able to do exceedingly more than all you can hope for or imagine. Remember that He is guiding this ministry and He will provide for you and your programs! Sharing that firm trust and the peace that passes understanding with your volunteers will be a treasure that blesses you, your volunteers, their families, and the people to whom you are ministering. Please share what ideas you have for ending on purpose.