National Magazine of the Lutheran Church of Australia

How to care for our volunteers

June 2017

by Chris Materne

The LCA/NZ depends on the service of volunteers in a wide range of areas to bring love to life in Australia and New Zealand.

From musicians, ushers, elders, lay readers, communion assistants, Sunday school teachers and youth leaders, to Bible study leaders, church committee members, school council members, and in many other roles, volunteers are crucial to keeping the doors of our congregations and agencies open.

The Church Worker Support Department of the LCA/NZ is committed to supporting volunteer involvement in our congregations and related bodies. We want to see all volunteers supported, resourced, cared for and celebrated.

Volunteering in the church is meant to be life-giving, faith-growing and relationship-building. It’s meant to be satisfying, and even fun, all while making a difference and bringing love to life in our communities.

However, many churches and other organisations struggle to retain volunteers and have a high turnover in volunteer roles.

In a 2016 survey of Lay Ministry in the LCA, one of the biggest challenges faced by lay workers was the difficulty they had in finding and keeping volunteers to help in ministry. Volunteers can and do get burnt out, feel overworked (Australian Bureau of Statistics research shows volunteering rates are highest amongst those in paid employment), neglected and forgotten. Past experiences can stop people from volunteering again when they are not clear about expectations.

There is good news however, and there are positive steps we can take to help ensure the volunteers we do have enjoy a safe, positive and enriching experience as they serve God and the church.

To help organisations like the LCA/NZ to better support, encourage and manage the service of volunteers, Volunteering Australia has developed a set of National Standards. This set of standards was developed in consultation with organisations and volunteers and is an excellent resource. The Church Worker Support Department is using these standards as it develops policies and resources for the church.

Dr Chris Materne is Manager of the Church Worker Support Department (CWS) for the LCA/NZ. Contact CWS at churchworkersupport@lca.org.au or on
08 8267 7300.