How to be a Good Volunteer

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.

Matthew 21:28-31

I spoke with an employee of a ministry who oversees fundraising and volunteers over coffee in comfy chairs. “How many volunteers do you have?” I asked. 

“300, globally” she said. I sat back, shocked. Three-hundred is a lot of people to direct, appreciate, and cultivate: especially when volunteers live overseas. 

This particular employee developed a dozen or so leaders who then go and coordinate the larger groups, split by geographical region. The volunteer leaders collect the supplies, send in the paperwork, and lead their groups. It alleviates pressure on my friend, the employee. Delegation can become a catalyst for larger groups and organizations when it comes to managing volunteers. 

I assumed the delegation challenge would be the answer to my next question, but I asked it anyway, “What is your biggest challenge as a paid volunteer coordinator?”

One word came from her mouth quickly, “Attendance.”

While she could produce a list of 300 volunteers, not all of them consistently joined in the mission, showed up, or even answered the phone when the ministry had a need. If 300 people engaged with the ministry consistently, the forward motion would mean the ministry would reach their mission–and soon. In the end, too many people had said, “yes” and had not followed through.

Much like the short parable in Matthew 21, the organization felt the burden of those quick with a “yes” but the lack of follow-through. One of my sermon notes from a decade ago had this quote I can’t get out of my mind, “Attendance is poor substitute for participation in ministry.” It’s not only that a person shows up, but actually helps that makes ministry and the Kingdom flourish. 

If you are a volunteer, make good on your commitment. Whether that is a yes or a no, don’t vacillate on your answer. And, if God calls you to volunteer, do so whole-heartedly. 

If you are a volunteer coordinator, be grateful, understanding not everyone lives as you do. People will come and go, and for those that fulfill their commitment, they deserve our gratitude for volunteering when no one compensates them for their time and love of your mission. It is those volunteers God appreciates and we should follow His lead. 

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© 2023, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at

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