Posted by: Justin Wallace | December 7, 2009

Appreciation & Motivation :: Get your hands out and their hands in

Garrett Curry is the Minister of Outreach at Purdue Christian Campus House. He started The Shack, a Campus Ministry at the University of South Carolina. He’s been doing Campus Ministry for over 10 years.

There comes a time in campus ministry when you realize you can no longer do it on your own. So, of course, you recruit others to do what you’re doing, right?  Then, there comes a time soon after when you realize that the people you recruited don’t care about  the ministry nearly as much as you do, or don’t perform their tasks the way you would.

Eventually, you may find yourself working even harder to keep people motivated, to provide quality control and to even clean up the mess when they’ve dropped the ball.  In the end, you may conclude that doing it all yourself was probably a better idea.  This is what every non-profit faces when it comes to volunteers.

A few ideas that may help motivate students to care about your ministry and take their volunteer role a bit more seriously:

•   Give them a title. With titles come a bit of prestige in the mind of most, especially when titles include things like “manager”, “director” or “starfeet commander”.  Besides, titles look nice in resumes.

•   Give them a clear job description. Keep it narrow and keep it simple, so their role is easily comprehended and understood, the performance is easily measured, and the encouragement or criticism you give is tangible.

•   Tell them “Why”, not just “What”. Reinforce to them why their role matters and how it fits into everything else happening around them.  This will help their responsibilities not just seem task-oriented or goal-driven, but significant, even critical to something bigger than themselves.  What they do matters.  Let them know it.

•  Surprise them. People don’t necessarily volunteer with the expectation of reward.  For this reason, throw them off guard and show them how much you appreciate them.  Have your staff do a live performance of the “Thriller” dance routine, drop off some cookies, toilet paper their porch while leaving a $10 iTunes Gift Card on their doorstep.

A few ways to get your hands out of it and their hands into it:

1.   Give them a firm briefing. If there are a few non-negotiables in their volunteer role, then sit them down and make those really clear.  It’s critical that students understand the direction you’re pointing and how you intend for them to get there.

2.   Give them liberty. Even after sharing non-negotiables, students need room to be themselves, to showcase their style, and for their role to be an expression and extension of who they are.  Be clear in showing them the empty spaces you want them to fill in with their own ideas and means, and encourage them to own it.

3.   Welcome their initiative. Sure, students can come off a bit idealistic, but it says a lot then you’re willing to entertain some of their ideas, whether it be through an extensive conversation, directing them to research, develop and formally propose their idea, or even backing it with resources, giving the freedom to fail or succeed

4.   Get over it. Don’t lose a lot of sleep over what people are doing or not doing.  Sure, there’s a degree of control and influence you may have, but past that it’s a bottomless pit of worry, which can be faithless.  Give God a little room to his thing within the hearts of his people, even if it isn’t always the way you’d go about it.



  1. I think I certainly needed this post quite a bit. Thanks bro!

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