All The Sheep Matter (And Have Names)

1As someone who’s constantly scheduling/recruiting/managing volunteers, I’ve been reminded (and amazed) recently by how much it means to people when you tell them that they matter. That you appreciate their gifts, you want them to contribute, you know they’re busy, their presence makes a difference, you really like it when they show up, and you know their name.

At my church we’ve been seriously pouring a lot of time and energy into our loving our choir, helping it to grow, and launching into the Fall with momentum, energy, and unity. A big part of that was hand-writing letters to over 65 people, some of whom had been singing in the choir for decades, and some of whom had only given it a try once in their lives (if ever).

And in the weeks since those letters hit people’s mailboxes, I’ve lost count of the number of folks who have said how much those notes meant to them. To actually receive a handwritten card – to them – that wasn’t just some sort of spammy, church-lingo, form letter, meant the world. One dear lady told me (in tears) how when she read my note that she “was a blessing”, she broke down in gratefulness.

I wonder how many of our volunteers are just hungry for some sort of pastoral connection, however sporadically, by someone in church leadership, that shows that we know their names, we appreciate them, we value their contributions, and we are blessed by their gifts. I think for some people it helps them go from feeling like they’re filling a slot, to actually being a part of a body.

Now don’t get me wrong: we have a long way to go at my church, and this isn’t some sort of pat on the back for having “arrived” at our destination with our volunteers. We have a lot of work, and loving, and recruiting, and community-building still to do. I’m an introvert, I have three kids, and I’m constantly juggling different responsibilities and initiatives like everyone else. Personally, I’m trying to grow in this area, and these last few weeks have reminded me of the fruit that can come from taking the time to tell people they are loved and they matter.

For those of us in any ministry position where it’s up to us to schedule, recruit, or manage volunteers, we have an important lesson from Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for his sheep. The sheep matter to Him, and so they should know that they matter to us too.

2 thoughts on “All The Sheep Matter (And Have Names)

  1. Eric September 29, 2016 / 12:23 pm

    Thank you for this very timely article…you always seems to know exactly what I need to hear(because clearly that’s why you were writing this;) ). I have long established (bad) habit of ignoring my most trusted volunteers…at least in terms of how I run a rehearsal or dole out praise. I tend to be most verbally supportive of the new or weaker members of my team…which typically leads to them feeling well supported which is good, but apparently has left some of my go to people wondering. One of my pillars came to me recently nearly in tears thinking that she was not doing a good job. I was shocked. I had not previously encountered that with team members and felt like I generally had an understanding of “the less I say the better you are doing and more trusted you are.” That being said, in churches I have worked in previously I’ve generally had a much smaller pool of volunteers and therefore much closer working relationships. Perhaps for my teams there that was an easier context to understand my non-verbals. I’ve been at this new church for a couple of years now and am dealing with a team of 40+ volunteers. This recent experience has me rethinking my whole MO in this aspect of communication and has me worried that there are others I may have left out in the rain without realizing it. I’ve been wondering how to change this effectively and your reflection here is inspiring and certainly gives some great ideas. Thank as ever for your wisdom.

  2. Michelle Riley Jones November 14, 2016 / 4:35 pm

    I literally stumbled across this article, and am glad I did. I have been praying and planning a retreat for my entire music team for 2017. God directed me to the scripture: Zechariah 4:10: “despise not the day of small beginnings,” and I’ve been reflecting on what God would have us to understand about what’s important to Him. As part of the invitation and retreat information I had an idea of including hand-written, personalized notes to each member of the team to let them know how blessed our congregation is to have them as part of this ministry. I’ve been jotting down little things about each person to help me once I write the note. It is so important to show appreciation to others. And what a powerful witness this can be to draw others who aren’t even a part of the ministry [yet]. Thank you for this important reminder.

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