Rest your stars

Kile’s Blog – Resting your stars – Why resting volunteers is better for the church.

I’m a huge basketball fan. My team is the San Antonio Spurs, and they have a rather unique way of running their team on long road trips. Instead of playing their best players to get the immediate wins that will get them a better playoff seed, they rest players to get more out of them during the playoffs later. As one of the NBA’s oldest teams, their star players seems to perform their best and be adequately rested when they need them most. I think this same type of strategy can be used with our volunteers, as resting can help them perform better, but is more about , joy, and longevity.

One of the first things I did when taking on a large leadership position at my last church was to give permission to one of the foundational volunteers to take a much needed break. This person was highly influential, a great leader, and one of the pillars of our church – however it was becoming apparent that their energy and joy were running on empty. I knew that I still wanted them to serve, but just not in the way they were. They needed a recharge. Here’s what I did and what happened:

Discover & Recover
* I started off by asking questions not about their ministry work, but about their personal life. This let them know that I cared about them and their family, before their service to the church. This is pivotal and must always be done. When meeting with a volunteer, the first part of the conversation should never be about what they do for the church, but what the church is doing for them.
* Secondly, I let them talk. This may sound absurdly simple but for the most part people who are worn out, unhappy, or want a change generally have opinions to be expressed and they want to be heard. I was listened for answers to questions like: Do they feel cared for by the church still? Are they still behind the leadership? What frustrations have repeatedly come up? Where were they overcommitted? Where could their family life be better?
* Thirdly, I gave permission to rest. I believe this is the most important part in the process as it can define a relationship with a worn out volunteer. Many times volunteers needed a break months or even years before, but because of the needs of the church they either felt too worried or embarassed to do so. A pastor saying it’s ok, and even suggesting a mini-sabbatical for a volunteer can release an enormous amount of pressure from dedicated volunteers, and in turn place a large amount of trust in you.

Discern & Return
* Discern when they return. At some point you want the valued volunteer to return, so some clear communication and boundaries need to be set. I give people a time period suggestion usually no less than 90 days, and no more than 6 months. Pesonally I’ve found this to be the right amount of time for rest, but not so long as they feel disconnected.
* Make them take the full rest. God rested a whole day when He didn’t need to, so how can we not rest the fully alotted time when we need it? This process shouldn’t be rushed, even if the church needs something pressing. It can be tempting to mention a project or a need that they used do in their presence – don’t! They may feel like they’re ‘rested enough’ and come back too early.
* Return them with celebration and purpose. A volunteer returning from rest is a great time for celebration. They often bring back joy, excitement and a refreshing spirit that revitalizes others. Make it a big deal that they’re returned, have some group volunteer time together, take pictures, and give lots of hugs. Who doesn’t like seeing a vital part of the team return?

Is there a volunteer or staff member that you know of that could use a rest? What do you think would change about them if they rested?