Apr 12, 2022

ChurchPulse Weekly Conversations: Brad & Leah Leach on Honoring Volunteers

On a recent ChurchPulse Weekly episode, Brad and Leah Leach (pastors at City Life Philly) talk with co-hosts Carey Nieuwhof and David Kinnaman about celebrating the volunteers in their church, touching on the power of humor and practical ideas for volunteer support and retention.

On the Importance of Celebrating Volunteers
Sharing a way that they honor volunteers, Brad Leach states, “The Onesies is a night where we honor everyone who serves in our church. We give away various awards throughout the night that have unique names. At the end, the annual Onesies award recognizes somebody in the church who has embodied the mission in a really unique way.” Brad continues, “The heart of the night [is] to say thank you to people who serve to make church happen.”

Leah Leach talks about the spirit of the night, saying, “We decided that this night, the focus was going to be honor and fun. We weren’t going to do vision casting, we weren’t going to try to raise money for anything and we didn’t want any of our volunteers to serve. This [event] was for them to be celebrated, honored and thanked for all that they do every week.”

“Volunteers want to feel like they’re a part of something that is moving forward, that’s making an eternal difference,” shares Brad. “One of the best ways we found to do that is to help people feel good about what’s being done and about what’s happening [through the ministry of serving].”

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On the Importance of Personally Connecting with Volunteers
When it comes to volunteering at present, recent Barna data show that 13 percent of churchgoers are open to volunteering online with their church, while 17 percent are open to in-person volunteer opportunities. 

Leah emphasizes the importance of connecting one-on-one with volunteers. “[If] anybody [is] interested in serving, we immediately have them connect with someone on our team to get to know their story. [We ask them to] tell us about what they love doing and [ask them if] they have ever taken a spiritual gifts test. … We try to connect them to a place where they might like to serve. And we also make it very clear they are not signing up to this one position for the rest of their lives.”

Additionally, Brad talks about the importance of retaining current volunteers, stating, “I think sometimes we’re so focused on getting new volunteers that we forget the power and necessity of retaining the volunteers we already have. One of the reasons we lose people is because they don’t like what they’re doing, they’re burned out and nobody knows it. Nobody’s asked them how they’re doing.”

“I’m really proud of our team in this season because everybody has let go of their own departmental agendas, “explains Brad. “The goal has become not [about] filling up my roster; it’s about developing and finding people’s spiritual gifts and getting them into their sweet spot. We’re switching people around to help people discover where it is that they’re truly going to come alive, feel like they’re being effective and actually look forward to engaging people.” 

He concludes, “I think [it is important to] be willing to check in with people, have conversations and know where they are thriving and where they’re not thriving so that we can add new people to the team and grow the people who are already there.”

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About the Research
The data shown above is based on a representative sample of 2,007 interviews with U.S. adults, ages 18 or older. The interviews were conducted online from April 23 to May 5, 2021. The margin of error is +/- 2 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence interval.

Featured image by Helena Lopes on Unsplash.

About Barna
Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.

© Barna Group, 2022

About Barna

Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.

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