An unexpected day off affords me the opportunity to catch up on things I’ve neglected, cross off overdue items on my to-do list, or do some real strategic thinking. COVID-19 has opened up far more than a day. We along with our volunteers may be trying to replace normal activity for the better part of two or more months.

Here are nine ways to increase your volunteer engagement:

1). Avoid Distancing. Of course, we need to keep our physical distance during this crisis. However, social distancing may not be the ideal term. Covid-19 restrictions are about “physical” distancing when person to person. While ultimately protecting us physically, these restrictions could have serious mental/emotional consequences. Seclusion breeds fear and fear may catalyze a loss of perspective.

Now is the time to increase connection with volunteers by phone or web-conference. Volunteers are starving to see familiar faces and hear friendly voices. Leader after leader I talk to are either expanding web-conferencing with their teams or are beginning to use platforms like GoToMeeting, CyberLink U Meeting, Zoom Meetings and Bluejeans and many more, both free and subscriber services. Don’t let much time pass before establishing regular rhythms in your individual and team volunteer meetings. One leader told me that people are wanting to stay longer on calls. Seeing their team will bring a sense of normalcy with volunteers, even if their physical ministry activity is curtailed temporarily.

2). Collaborate with volunteers on how to creatively carry out the ministry. Many aspects of volunteer ministry have to be delayed or curtailed. Yet many parts don’t. Analyze and collaborate with volunteers about what parts of their ministry may still go on! Face to face small groups or team meetings can easily morph into web-conference calls. I teach a ten-week two-hour leadership development class at my church. Last Sunday we did it by web-conference. We had perfect attendance and it may have been our best class to date! Volunteer advocates can still make their calls and contacts. Social media volunteers are not impacted. One leader told me how their online ministry has drastically increased, and their volunteer teams are excited and busier than ever, realizing that they are perfectly positioned for such a time as this.

3). Increase the activity away from the battle. J.O. Sanders, former President of OMF International said, The activity away from the battle is more important to the battle than the battle itself. Praying together is not an add-on to the important tasks, but the singular crucial undertaking that will advance your ministry more than any other. That has been true, is true, and will be true long after this crisis ends. Yet how many times I have treated praying like a second or third-rate ministry activity, necessary but not for the board room or important meetings. Take advantage of this time to not only increase team prayer but also to cement it as “the central piece” for ministry advancement. I recently sent a request to my prayer team to join me in prayer in the middle of the day. Almost half joined me though they only had a two-hour notice. Where two or three are gathered…Pray for God to have mercy and stop this virus and heal those with it! Pray that in this great suffering, hearts will yearn for God and draw close to Him. And of course, pray for your ministry! Can you imagine the impact this could have?

4). Challenge your volunteers to seek God deeply. What a struggle it is for me and for many ministry leaders I know to “set aside” a day to seek God. Encourage individual volunteers to seek God. Offer to do it together. Or better yet it may be the perfect time to do a team or organization-wide Re-Visioning Day that each volunteer or staff person could do from home!

5). Have volunteers complete on-line learning or other training. What better time to improve the volunteer equity of your organization by having your staff and volunteers complete leader training? Or by having frontline volunteers complete ministry specific training. Remember, repeating training has an enormous impact on learning retention. High Impact Volunteer Ministry Development On-line training.

6). Enhance your volunteer training. So many volunteer organizations, possess little or no training for their volunteers. For the first time in 28 years our ministry canceled a course. However, hundreds of people are still using High Impact e-learning. That’s because several years ago by God’s grace, we developed it. Those with online learning solutions for volunteers are not skipping a beat with regard to equipping their volunteers. Okay so if you don’t have it, there’s no better time than now to develop online learning.

7). Encourage volunteers to limit their virus obsession time. When people are grieving or dealing with trauma there remains a great temptation to continuously replay the loss or trauma which leads to despair. Similarly, to sit and fixate on news is paralyzing. Be bold and challenge volunteers to spend no more than an hour a day learning or reading about the crisis.

8). Encourage distractions. After we lost our daughter Amy, a therapist told me that “distractions are good”. That phrase allowed me to give myself permission to do activities that were simply mindless or fun as a way to keep my focus off the loss of my daughter. You may ask, how is that possible since sports, restaurants and the gym are closed. I admit it’s going to take some creativity. Social media is replete with examples of creativity. You probably saw the one family that turned their home into a Disney ride. Create a video. Play games, read a novel, do a huge puzzle, watch a move, binge on some cool documentary.

9). Encourage volunteers to enjoy the rest. I know I can be just a bit too busy. Sometimes, it has felt like God has allowed me to be sick to force me to rest. Have you ever felt like that? Who knows? We could be back to frenetic schedules before we know it. So, make sure to encourage your volunteer to enjoy the peace, enjoy some rest, while it lasts.

by Al Newell

© March 2020 Newell and Associates


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