Volunteer Burnout - Greta's Story

Greta has been a volunteer in Guest Services for five years, including three as a Team Leader. Guess what? She is now on staff with us in Guest Services. It is fun to watch how God works in the life of people. I am proud to work alongside someone who deeply cares for volunteers and wants each guest to feel comfortable at church. Here is Greta's story.

I was starting to lose my love for volunteering, and I realized I was burned out. Have you ever been there?

Let me back up a little. One year after I became a Christ follower, God gave me a desire to serve at my church. I was excited to get involved, meet people, and participate in expanding his kingdom. The next step was figuring out how God wanted me to serve.

I don’t know about you, but I think God has a sense of humor and gets us where we’re meant to be by any means necessary. One day, I walked into church and saw a good-looking guy standing at the door greeting people as they came in. I think I signed up to be a greeter that same week. I knew greeting people would be a great fit for my personality. What I didn’t realize at the time was that God would use this experience to grow my relational and leadership skills, which would eventually lead me to where I am today.

I was nervous the first day because I didn’t know how to be a Greeter and didn’t know anyone on the team. Fortunately, my team was so nice and helpful. God gave me the courage to step outside my comfort zone, and he ran with it. I fit right in, met a lot of great people, and truly felt like I was a part of God’s plan for that church. A year after I became a Greeter, God nudged me to also become a Community Group leader. So I did. He grew me even more. I was then asked if I’d like to become a greeter team leader. I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do, so I led an amazing team for the next three years.

During that time, I also mentored two fifth grade girls, volunteered at and attended many church events, got involved in a second Community Group, and went on a short-term mission trip out of the country. I loved being a part of these many activities, but eventually my enthusiasm began to fade.

2 Corinthians 9:7 says: “Each of you should give what you decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  

I began to realize that...

  • I wasn’t a “cheerful giver” anymore.
  • I felt like I had to show up, instead of wanting to be there.
  • I didn’t engage as much with people.
  • I didn’t fully prepare for my small group discussions.
  • I developed a negative attitude, and eventually realized that my heart wasn’t fully in it.

After five years of volunteering, I went through a difficult situation in my personal life, which led me to see that I hadn’t created enough margin. I was stretched too thin and completely burned out.

After realizing I was no longer volunteering for the right reasons, I prayerfully stepped out of my various church roles and took a short amount of time to pray about where God wanted me to serve. Within a couple of months, I started feeling disconnected from my church. I missed the community of people I served with, the accountability I had with my small group, and the smiles on our guests’ faces as they walked into the building. After my time of reflection and prayer, God nudged me to step back into leading a Greeter team. That’s where I decided to concentrate my energy.

So, how did I get to the point of being burned out? I loved volunteering my time, gifts, and energy, and I had been eager to get involved with any possible opportunity. Had I not prayerfully considered all those roles before I took them on? At the time, I thought I had; but looking back, it’s clear that I rushed into some of those decisions. I now realize that I took on too much and therefore wasn’t able to fully give myself to one or two areas. Instead, I gave each area a small piece of me.

Don’t get me wrong—I think it’s great to serve in more than one area, but now I am careful to reflect, pray, and receive an answer from God before stepping into an opportunity. And once I’m there, I want to be sure I’m growing.

Ultimately, I know God is constantly at work in my life. He used my time away from volunteering to change my heart and lead me to the amazing job I currently have, which is leading volunteers as a staff member.

From my own experience, here is the advice I would give my volunteers and any others reading this article:

  • Carefully evaluate if you are serving in too many areas.
  • When you take on a new volunteer opportunity, fully consider if you will be able to give the proper amount of time and energy to it.
  • Make friends with the people on your team.
  • Keep your commitment to be there.
  • Have fun with it! You could even invite a friend to join you.
  • Be sure your motives for volunteering are right with God, and that you’re sure he has called you to step into that opportunity.