March 7, 2012

Preventing Volunteer Burnout at Church


An important part of the efficient function of any church organization is the services provided by volunteers. Volunteers are non-paid workers who assist in a variety of ways. Their tasks can be as simple as welcoming worshipers to the church or as complicated as putting together an annual budget. Whatever their task is, they are an indispensable part of the church which is why it is extremely important to ensure that these selfless individuals do not burn out. Tips which help businesses succeed in a collaborative environment, found at MBA Online, can be similarly applied to managing a group of volunteers. There are a number of helpful tips that can be utilized by church leaders, staff and the volunteers themselves to keep them from doing too much.


When one single individual or group of individuals is relied on too much, their commitment can become overwhelming. It is therefore a good idea to make a list that enables a number of church members to sign up for different services that are needed. This enables the church to know what tasks different volunteers are interested in or capable of doing, and rotating their request of help.

Preventing Compassion Fatigue

Depending on the type of task a volunteer is involved in, there is a potential of something called ‘compassion fatigue‘ which is defined as a state of depression or negative attitudes resulting from continual exposure to pain, suffering, or injustice in society. A church volunteer that works with the church’s underprivileged population like the homeless or volunteers on mission trips to developing countries, can easily experience compassion fatigue. The first step to combating this phenomenon is awareness. By helping volunteers realize what compassion fatigue is and providing support, they will be better equipped to deal with it.

Inspiring Increased Motivation

The University of Kentucky published an article describing important aspects of motivation. Two Harvard professors, David McClelland and John Atkinson, classified three volunteer motivators: achievement, affiliation and power, and affirmed that every volunteer is compelled to be attributed by a different aspects of all three motivators, but one tends to influence more than the others in most situations. Recognizing these motivators and applying them can inspire increased motivation in demotivated or burning out volunteers.

Recognizing and Showing Gratitude

Another significant way to inspire volunteers is by making sure they are recognized for their efforts and services, and expressing gratitude for the things they do, no matter how big or small they are.

An article by Baylor University indicated that most volunteers in the United States actually attend church congregations and are predisposed to volunteer outside of their churches having learned and experienced service within the church itself. The church’s ability to raise up balanced volunteers is not only a tremendous help to their own organizations, but to a society as a whole.

How do you protect your volunteers?

This post originally appeared as a guest post by Elaine Hirsch on Scott Couchenour's blog Serving StrongElaine is currently a researcher/writer interested in a variety of issues ranging from education to public policy to finance. She's currently developing her web design and editing skills by working on several online projects.

[CC Image • ParaScubaSailor on Flickr]

Originally Published: March 7, 2012
Category: Volunteers
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