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7 tips for volunteer and employee wellbeing for church leaders

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

As church leaders, we want to see Jesus transform our communities, our nations and the entire world. But that vision shouldn't come at the cost of the wellbeing of our volunteers and employees.

This is a tricky balance for church leaders. Here are 7 tips for volunteer and employee wellbeing for church leaders:

1. Stop overworking your volunteers

As Scott Morrison said recently, "Stop it." Overworking your volunteers and burning them out isn't building the Kingdom of God. Prioritise your volunteers the same way you'd prioritise a seeker who walks through your doors for the first time and doesn't know Jesus.

It is possible to passionately chase after the calling God has for you and your church AND to look after your volunteers.

2. Create clear role descriptions for volunteers

Our church has rolled this out recently and I think it's super important. Role descriptions are important because they clarify expectations. Unclear expectations foster unrealistic expectations which lead to frustrated volunteers, frustrated pastors and frustrating ministry.

3. Model healthy family relationships

In churches more than anywhere else, leadership is about modelling. Your volunteers look up to you. If you want your volunteers and employees to have healthy families then you need to model what healthy family looks like.

How healthy is your family? If it could be healthier, then get whatever help you need to in order to get a healthier marriage and family.

4. Take mental health seriously

God is the God of medicine and the supernatural. He's the God of both. And mental health, like physical health, is an area where God moves naturally and supernaturally. Pray for people to have breakthrough in their mental health but also take mental health seriously as a medical condition.

In the past, mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety have had a stigma and in the church and have even been disregarded with a, 'Get over it mate' approach. Organisations like BeyondBlue are doing incredible work to reduce the stigma around mental health in our communities. I'd love to see the church pick up the baton and lead the way in normalising and caring for mental health in our communities and it starts with how we approach mental health with our volunteers and employees.

5. Invest in your personal physical health

One thing that comes up again and again in wellbeing is the importance of physical health. Tom Rath has a great book called Eat, Move, Sleep which unpacks the impact of diet, exercise and sleep on employee engagement.

Let me ask you as a church leader, how much sleep do you get every night? How healthy is your diet? How often do you exercise? If you want to invest in the wellbeing of your volunteers and employees, start by investing in your own wellbeing to model the way and consider starting by investing in your physical health—it's incredibly significant for wellbeing.

6. Stop rewarding dysfunctional behaviour

You know that volunteer whose family is falling apart at the seams and the way they're coping is to spend 85 hours at church every week? Stop calling them out to thank them and to put them up on a pedestal and put your shepherd hat on.

Stop being nice to them and be kind instead. Sit down with them and find out how they're really going. Set some boundaries as their leader to make sure they're looking after themselves. Even if you take a hit in ministry because of doing this, I think it's worth it.

You're putting them first as a person above ministry which I believe is always God's heart for these sort of things. It also sends a great message to everyone else implicitly that being a great volunteer at church is about loving God and loving the people around us more than it's about doing lots of stuff for the church.

You know the difference between those two phrases and I believe your intentions are for the best—but some of your volunteers might not know that and they might need the reminder.

7. Tell the good news stories

At the moment, John Krasinski of The Office fame is all over YouTube because of his 'SomeGoodNews' show. It's hilarious and timely. He just tells a bunch of good news in a humorous way to remind everyone there are good things happening in the world.

What was the most meaningful story in your church community in the past year? Have you filmed a testimonial about it? Have you asked the people involved in you can tell their story? Have you written the story out and shared it on social media or in an email to your volunteers?

Patrick Lencioni talks about leaders being Chief Reminding Officers. Now, more than ever, your volunteers need to be reminded over and over and over and over again that Jesus is the name above all names, that He's hurting with the hurting right now, that He's still saving lives in 2020 and that the harvest is plentiful.

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