This week has been a busy week for me, both professionally and personally.
Professionally, this past Sunday was the launch of our new ministry year. 1300 kids and 700 volunteers made for a really exciting day! I was excited about the number of new volunteers that we have in the Preteen Ministry.
Personally, this Thursday is our little girls’ 1st birthday. It doesn’t seem like Maggie should be a year old already, but we’re excited about celebrating that with family. It’s been so much fun watching her grow and develop over this first year.
As I think about the way that Maggie has developed over this first year of her life, I can’t help but notice the similarities between her development and the development of new volunteers in their first year of service. For example…
1. Most of what our daughter learned was learned in the last 4 or 5 months.
Talking, crawling, walking (not there yet), following instructions, eating solid foods…all of these things were learned in the final months of her first year. This is a good reminder to stay confident in new volunteers. While they may not completely get it on the first week, they will grow and develop. Give them time and keep encouraging.
2. Most of what our daughter learned was what we chose to teach her
My wife was intentional about teaching Maggie some sign language. She consistently taught the signs over and over until our daughter understood and used them on her own. New volunteers are going to learn what we chose to teach them. What are we choosing to teach our volunteers? Even if the answer is “I don’t know”, we’re still teaching something and chances are it’s not good!
3. Some of what our daughter learned was through others’ example
Being around other kids has helped Maggie to learn new things. This is especially true when she is around older kids. I love for Maggie to be around kids who can walk and talk because this models the behaviors that she is trying to develop and master. It’s important that we give new volunteers the opportunity to rub shoulders with experienced volunteers. Trust in your experienced volunteers to model the vision and strategy for the new volunteers. Pretty soon the new volunteer is an experienced volunteer and ready to model for someone else.
4. Our daughter was motivated to learn new things because we rewarded her and celebrated her accomplishments
When Maggie says a new word or masters a new skill, we can’t help but love on her and praise her. She gets the biggest smile on her face because she knows that she’s done something well. New volunteers need the same type of encouragement. As they develop and grow, they’re not sure if they’re doing everything correctly and they are searching for approval. Spend time each week celebrating and rewarding new volunteers. If the time comes when you need to correct a volunteer, it’s much easier to do so when you’ve also poured encouragement into their life.
5. Our daughter is not perfect and she has a lot of boo-boos
Part of growing up is making mistakes. Maggie is learning to stand and walk, and it seems like she falls 100 times a day. New volunteers will make mistakes. I don’t know about you, but I definitely make my fair share of mistakes. There will be scenarios that you just can’t train them for. It is the role of the leader to keep encouraging and helping them to learn through mistakes.
How do you nurture your new volunteers?