Webinar series to teach a deeper view of stewardship

The word ‘stewardship’ can conjure up spectres of fundraising, finance committees, and sermons about tithing—but stewardship is about much more than money. Churches of all sizes and types need to become better stewards of the people that make them run—their time, talents, and energy.

Marilyn MacKenzie and Suzanne Lawson—life-long Anglicans and well-known volunteer management professionals—want to help churches better understand how to build and lead an effective lay ministry that not only serves God’s mission in the world, but also respects, honours, and nurtures its volunteers.

To that end, Ms. MacKenzie and Ms. Lawson will lead a series of three webinars on behalf of General Synod’s Resources for Mission department entitled Engaging Volunteers in Ministry: A Deeper View of Stewardship, running on Sept. 17, Sept. 24, and Oct. 1.

The webinars—which are free of charge, and will be available to watch indefinitely after their initial release—are designed to be user-friendly and informative for people of all levels of volunteer knowledge and technical skill.

Lawson, who also serves as national campaign liaison for Resources for Mission, hopes the webinars will be an occasion for brainstorming in parishes across the country.

“One thing we’re trying to encourage is that people in a parish or diocese try to watch or participate in the webinar together, if there’s a way that they can do it,” says Lawson. “And then add an hour for conversation on ‘where do we go from here?’ I think that would make it really effective.”

Online resources available with the webinar will provide more opportunities for participants to continue learning together even after the webinar sessions are over.

MacKenzie—while working on a project on church volunteer screening-found that many volunteers she talked to were overworked and on the edge of burning out. “A handful of people in each parish were doing everything.”

“The message I’m trying to get across,” says MacKenzie, “is that because we want everyone in the parish to grow in faith… we have to be looking for opportunities for every person that’s sitting in the pew… to make a contribution in a way that’s meaningful for them.”

Lawson adds, “It’s important to keep volunteers or church members engaged in the ministry of the church, not just for the sake of the church, and not just for the sake of their own faith.” Church members are “far and away” the largest sector of volunteers outside the church, working with professional volunteer organizations in their communities.

“This is a way that the church can be doing outreach for the community—by treating its own very precious people in a precious, careful, nurturing way so that they can ‘go out and do.'”

On the other hand, if a church doesn’t take care of its volunteers the consequences can be serious. “If a church volunteer is badly treated or ignored there’s a high chance that people will leave the church, and it’s not like leaving the Red Cross and going to the Cancer Society,” says Lawson.

“They often leave the church and don’t find a way to reconnect, perhaps even ever. I know we do a lot of talk now about people who don’t find the church helpful, but for people who find the churchdamaging… that’s just not what we should be about.”

Adds MacKenzie: “What we’re trying to do is help people see how certain behaviours in fact discourage folks from volunteering. But if we make a real effort to say ‘We’re going to try and find a volunteer assignment that’s going to give you joy,’ it’s like a hobby. You don’t have to convince a lot of people to work hard at something they love.”

Learn more about webinar series.

Register for the first webinar here.

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