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Best Practices of Orthodox Parish Volunteer Management

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

Few parishes have the vision, the finances and the staffing to fulfill all the practices below. However, the list does provide an array of options to choose from for any sized parish in order to improve volunteer management practice. Just to think about managing volunteers systematically, professionally and with purpose would be radical action for many parishes. Yet a recent survey of 100 Orthodox priests revealed that undependable and poorly performing volunteers was their number one parish challenge.

1. Each volunteer’s spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing is of primary concern to the priest, parish council and staff members of the parish with thoughtful regard given to potential burnout. 2. Staff and especially the priest and the CVO (Chief Volunteer Officer) resist enabling poor performance or rude behavior by volunteers for fear of a difficult conversation or the appearance of not showing compassion. Such matters are dealt with diplomatically, but firmly and professionally. 3. The parish views volunteering as an authentic calling to serve Christ both within the parish and externally to those who suffer and are in need. 4. Parish leadership appreciates what volunteer participation can do for the parish and the people it serves. 5. Volunteers within the parish represent the diversity within the community. 6. The parish has strategically addressed the benefits and challenges related to volunteer involvement within the parish. 7. Parish leadership invests in training for the CVO – could be a staff person in a large parish or a carefully recruited key volunteer. 8. The parish has developed a written statement as to why the parish welcomes volunteers. 9. The parish maintains a volunteer manual with relevant and up to date information concerning volunteering in the parish. 10. Volunteers are viewed as the non-salaried personnel department. 11. The parish has planned for the resources that will be necessary to support volunteers. 12. Training and supervision resources for volunteers have been identified. 13. Job descriptions have been developed for volunteer positions. 14. Flexibility has been built into volunteer positions as a means of accommodating different skills and schedules. 15. Volunteers understand the mission of the parish and are eager to support its efforts. 16. There is a screening and selection process in place to aid in matching new volunteers with appropriate positions. 17. All volunteers participate in an orientation session that provides them with an understanding of policies, procedures and responsibilities. 18. Volunteers receive start-up and ongoing in-service training. 19. Positive volunteer/staff relationships are nurtured and problems are dealt with quickly. 20. There is a clearly identified leader within the parish that is seen as having the responsibility for coordinating and staffing volunteer programs (the CVO). 21. Supervision is provided to all volunteers to provide support, communication, and accountability. 22. The work of volunteers and the impact of their activities are evaluated on a regular basis. 23. Volunteers receive formal and informal recognition of their contributions. 24. Records are kept of what volunteers are accomplishing and results are reported and shared with the volunteers, staff and the general parish. 25. The parish regularly seeks input from volunteers. 26. There are clear goals for what volunteers are expected to accomplish. 27. There are written policies for and about volunteers. 28. The parish has developed a risk management plan for paid and volunteer staff. 29. Tasks that are based on parish office needs and parishioner needs have been identified. 30. Defined volunteer job assignments that can be completed in 2-3 hour blocks of time have been identified. 31. The parish has a plan for seeking out volunteers with the potential to do a good job. 32. Written task descriptions have been developed for each volunteer work assignment. 33. Staff members have been consulted relative to the role of volunteers within the parish. 34. Problems between staff and volunteers are resolved quickly. 35. There are strategies and events in place that are intended to build relationships between staff and volunteers. 36. The parish conducts a talent and skills survey of the general parish and maintains a database of these resources. 37. Targeted recruitment efforts based on each volunteer job description are conducted instead of vague, general calls for volunteers. 38. Effective public relations campaigns have built a positive image of the parish within the community. 39. There has been a concerted effort to diagnose and address reasons why people might NOT want to get involved in the parish. 40. Exit interviews are conducted of long-serving volunteers in positions that hold a high level of responsibility.


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