Joel Muniz / Unsplash

The transition to virtual worship during COVID-19 was one of the most remarkable shifts we’ve seen in congregations in decades. It’s now clear that one of the unintended consequences of that shift is that a significant number of volunteers have not returned to their pre-COVID roles.

We can only speculate on the reasons for this. Some volunteers were tired before the pandemic, but they did not know how to step back without feeling guilty. In congregations with few paid staff, volunteers could not step back. The pandemic gave people space to breathe. And it seems that not everyone wants to go back to the way things were before.

That said, serving is one of the ways Christian disciples are called to use their God-given gifts and talents. The world needs to hear the good news about Jesus Christ. In this new season of ministry, how do we effectively recruit and motivate people to share the incarnational presence of Christ? How do we inspire people to return to the church’s communal life and corporate worship? Online community is good and serves a valuable purpose, but let’s not fool ourselves: posting a comment is not equivalent to exchanging a reassuring glance with another human being or being amazed to see how tall the children have grown since last year. You can only do that face to face.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re reconnecting with volunteers:

  • Reimagine roles – Plugging people back into their pre-pandemic roles may not achieve the best results. Consider what you need people to do now. Are there roles you can split so they require less time from each person?
  • Hybrid is here to stay – Virtual worship and ministry are here for the foreseeable future. How can you use volunteers who aren’t ready to dive into in-person service? Do you need online hosts?
  • Check in – There is an even greater need to show volunteers that we care about them and not just what they do. Create a sustainable system for checking in with your volunteers.

Resources

Research-based guidelines for leading the church in a new era of ministry

How can Christian leaders adapt to the changes the pandemic has brought? A scholar who has studied pastors and volunteers during the past three years offers suggestions for adjusting to a new reality.

By Eileen R. Campbell-Reed

Long-term adoption of hybrid services represents a major shift from the traditional church model

The pandemic has drastically changed congregational leaders’ attitudes about virtual services, experts say.

By Shari Finnell

Declining volunteerism is changing the church experience

Congregations struggle to maintain educational programs without volunteer support.

By Shari Finnell

7 ways to reengage volunteers

Whether it’s due to post-pandemic fatigue, lingering health concerns or broader cultural shifts, volunteerism hasn’t bounced back as readily as other aspects of congregational life. Here are seven ways to revitalize volunteer engagement.

By Susan Beaumont

Nurturing gifts and talents in your organization

For churches seeking to engage in community ministry, it’s vital to get people out of the pews and into the community. A consultant offers some ideas for leaders who seek to mobilize people by identifying their gifts and passions and offering opportunities to use those gifts.

By Joy Skjegstad


Before you go…

I’ve decided to view the challenge of finding post-pandemic ministry volunteers as an opportunity rather than a problem. I keep asking myself how we can be more creative in our appeals and more supportive of those who do serve. In addition, the Holy Spirit keeps reminding me of what Jesus said in Luke 10:2: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask [emphasis mine] the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Let’s not forget who the church belongs to. Continue to dream big and ask God to send people to make the dream a reality.

You can reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

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