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I Thought I Knew How to Manage Volunteers – Until I Had to Run a Church

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Vicar Fraser Dyer of St. Anne and All Saints, an Anglican Church in South London, believes that the “whole business of volunteer management in churches is somewhat tricky.” And he should know. Before Vicar Dyer became ordained, he was an active and passionate secular volunteer manager.

For starters, he writes, “there are no volunteers in church.” Though some churches do run proper volunteer programs for such projects as food banks and charity shops, Vicar Dyer notes that the rest of church life requires the active participation of those who hand out hymn books, drive elderly to church, arrange flowers, usher, take up and count the collection, and serve at the altar, to name but a few critically needed functions. And while these people are technically volunteering their help, they mostly do not self-identify as ‘volunteers.’

In this e-Volunteerism feature, Vicar Dyer argues that many of the strategic approaches to volunteer management don’t automatically apply in churches. He offers advice and guidance to clergy and volunteer managers in religious settings, and explains why “it is vital to understand which roles will benefit from more conventional approaches to volunteer management (such as office holders or those volunteering for a discrete church programme), and those for which a more relationship-based and collaborative approach will work better.” Above all, he believes, “individualisation rather than standardisation is the key.”