8 Reasons Volunteers Don’t Feel Valued

One day Jesus decided to sit and watch people put money in the offering basket. When an unremarkable, poor woman threw in a couple pennies, Jesus honored her above everyone else. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

I wonder how that woman felt about herself. I wonder if she believed her gift didn’t really matter. I wonder if the people in her life ever validated her or what she had to offer. Or did they all pass her by when they looked at what she gave and discount her because they compared her to everyone else, who seemed to give so much more.

That’s not what Jesus did. He valued both the woman and her gift, when nobody else did.

Let’s take a moment and stop thinking of her gift as financial. What if her gift was in service to the church instead? Would we treat her the same?

I can tell a lot of stories about people who never reached their potential in ministry because the people around them (and they themselves) didn’t value who they were or what they could contribute. I’m sure you can too.

The following represents some ideas on why volunteers sometimes feel devalued in our ministries.

Lack of Communication

When people don’t know what’s going on, they feel devalued. The unspoken message they are hearing is, “I wasn’t important enough to be in the loop on this.” Most of the time, it’s not true, but our inadequate means of communication will eventually alienate and drive some of our most committed people away.

Non-Personal Interaction

It doesn’t matter what size church you lead, people are still people and they are craving personal touch. In particular, they will feel valued and important when the people they respect in leadership take the time to connect with them. This can be a huge challenge for christian leaders. Even so, finding ways to give 1 on 1 attention to people through cards, email, social media, personal visits, etc. will help them know they are a valued part of your team.

Responsibility Without Authority

When people are asked to get involved, but aren’t empowered to do it themselves, they feel like wheels in a cog. Systems can add great value to local ministries, but they are meant to serve your volunteers, not the other way around. Whenever possible, programs should leave room for enough creative liberty to allow volunteers to make decisions on their own.

No Opportunity for Buy-In

Announcing change from the pulpit is dangerous. People need time to process what’s going on and how it will impact them personally. If you want to value your volunteers, communicate way in advance and give them a lot of lead time so they can process change before it happens. 

False or Wrong Expectations

One of the easiest ways to hurt feelings and sow discord is to keep expectations vague or confusing. If YOU expect more from your volunteers than they realize, you will be disappointed. If THEY expect more from you as a leader, they will be confused or disappointed. Either way, it’s a recipe that can lead to broken relationship.

Square Peg, Round Hole

I get real frustrated when leaders delegate tasks to people and then get mad at them because they don’t do a good job. If you ask me to serve as the maintenance man in your church, you’ll be disappointed. I’m not good at fixing things. Instead of pushing me harder to do better, realize I’m a square peg, not a round one, and find a better fit for me.

Assume The Worst

Is it possible there are men & women in your church who could relate to the woman Jesus noticed in the above story? Do they think their leaders assume they have little or nothing to offer because of their skill set, circumstances or personality? After all, how much do 2 pennies really matter, right?

Jesus was the Master at accomplishing great things with almost nothing. Think fish & bread.

Invite people to be part of something great, find a good fit for them, and let them serve with the skills, talent & commitment they have to give. Value who they are and what they give just as much as those who seem to give so much more than them.

photo credit: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery via photopin cc

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