Personal Reflections on Church Leadership

Nobody Works for Free

Nobody, and I mean nobody, works for free. 

This is an extremely important principle when it comes to leading a non-profit organization (like a church). 

One of the ways pastors hurt themselves and the church is by ignoring this principle.  They operate under the illusion that they are leading “volunteers” who do what they do simply out of the goodness of their heart. 

That is only partially true.  Like newly-weds trying to “live off love”, a pastor who thinks his volunteers “work for free” is fooling himself. 

Eventually, newly-weds have to get a real job, and eventually pastors have to figure out how to pay their “volunteers.” 

Now don’t confuse “pay” with money.  Volunteers understand that volunteering involves working gratis.  But they signed up to work for free because they believe that what they do matters and will be worth the sacrifice and commitment. 

Pastor, that is your job—to make it worth it.    

What does this look like?

Here’s a few ideas:

  • Pastor, your TIME = pay. Giving your volunteer’s direct access to you is the number one thing you must do.  (Don’t have “walls” between you and your volunteers.  Answer their calls, get them on your calendar, and make yourself available to them when they need you.)    
  • A weekly walk-through with a lavish outpouring of atta-boys, thanks, and hugs is huge.
  • Regular and intentional public statements and acts of appreciation is pay (Volunteer Appreciation Day, etc.).
  • Providing training and resources is pay (and it is important that you are personally involved in this).
  • Dropping in on their events is pay.
  • Showing interest in their lives is pay (remembering birthdays, anniversaries, special needs, etc.)
  • Constantly and repeatedly explaining why what they do matters and how it fits into the mission of the church is pay.

And here’s three other things:

  1. Just like in the business world, the greater the responsibility given and the more strategic the job, the greater the “pay” should be.
  2. And if you are fortune to have “paid” staff, remember, money is never enough, your staff also needs this kind of “pay”.    
  3. And if you are one of those special volunteers that no church can succeed without, remember, your pastor also needs this kind of “pay” too.  Pay him or her well! 

The ONE THING for today: Pastor, you may be leading a mostly “volunteer organization” but, whatever you do, don’t confuse volunteering with working for free.  Nobody works well or for long for free (that’s called slavery).  Pay your volunteers well; make this one of your top priorities and watch your church improve and flourish

One thought on “Nobody Works for Free

  1. This is something you excelled at! It’s great advice.

    This is a great reminder: “And if you are one of those special volunteers that no church can succeed without, remember, your pastor also needs this kind of “pay” too. Pay him or her well!”

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