4 Church Volunteer Lessons From Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

December 16th 2014

Although it’s an hour of singing snowmen and flying reindeer, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is packed with valuable lessons for kids of all ages.

If you’re not familiar with the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer—well, you should watch it this Christmas season because it’s an American classic. But you can get the gist from the lyrics to the holiday carol.

So what can reindeer and a sleigh full of toys teach you about the volunteers at your church?

Look at the unlikely heroes. The Island of Misfit Toys was filled with polka-dotted elephants and choo-choos with square wheels—not your typical Christmas morning presents. Because they didn’t fit the perfect present stereotype, they were labeled outsiders and banished. The self-proclaimed team of wandering misfits was comprised of an aspiring dentist elf, a reindeer with a light bulb for a nose, and a gun-toting mountain man in search of gold. They certainly made a motley crew. But together, they tamed an abominable snow monster and saved Santa’s Christmas Eve expedition. Yukon Cornelius had the inside scoop on Bumble. Hermey’s dental skills came in handy. Rudolph’s nose shone the way for Santa’s sleigh. And some eccentric toys put smiles on the faces of a few kids Christmas morning.

After pouring hours of effort into recruiting volunteers, sometimes church leaders feel like they’ve been dealt a band of misfits rather than the dream team they were hoping for.

Volunteers may not always be what you expect, but that doesn’t mean they can’t blow your expectations out of the water and provide value. If your church has ended up with volunteersthat are as unlikely as a water pistol that shoots…jelly, follow these four tips:

  1. Find ways to use people’s unique gifts—don’t pigeonhole them into a specific role that doesn’t suit their talents. If you do, you could lose them as volunteers. Remember, not all elves can make toys! Rather than focusing on reaching a volunteer quota, focus on matching people to the right positions. Keep an open mind—if the volunteers you have won’t make good youth leaders, maybe they’re the start of a new ministry at your church.
  2. Get creative and focus on how different people and gifts can work together to help the church. After all, it took a team of misfits and a pair of pliers to tame the snow monster. Don’t focus on one person’s weakness because that’s where another volunteer might shine. Help people discover what their gifts are, leverage those strengths, and form multi-faceted teams. Especially in a smaller church, you’ll need to pool your resources and find new ways to work with what you have.
  3. Keep track of what people are good at in your church database so you can recruit them for similar roles in the future. Don’t you think Santa called on Rudolph each foggy Christmas Eve and every elf with a toothache went to Hermey for an extraction?
  4. If all else fails, maybe you need to recruit better next time. Certainly they made some changes in the North Pole after that fiasco! Use the information you recorded to find individuals with the right gifting. Ask people specifically, don’t just make the blanket statement that you need help. And recruit volunteers face-to-face.

The volunteers you end up with may not be exactly what you imagined, but those misfits might just surprise you and save the day.

Check out these other resources to maximize your church volunteer potential:

7 Key Steps of Recruiting, Training and Retaining Church Volunteers

How to Make the Most of Your Volunteers

10 Ways to Double Your Church Volunteer Recruitment and Retention 

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