Last week I had the opportunity to teach a workshop at the Orange Conference for the very first time. Loved it! I am definitely not called to kid’s or student ministry, but I love hanging out with family ministry leaders.
In my session last week, we talked about building healthy volunteer teams. You’d think in volunteer intensive ministries like we engage in churches, that there would be more written and talked about on this topic. Yet, Simply Strategic Volunteers is still one of the few books I’m aware of that’s focused on engaging volunteers in the Church. (What other good resources do you know of on this specific topic?)
These are the five keys to building healthy volunteer teams that I offered to the Orange leaders last week:
- Think volunteers before staff. It’s our responsibility to “equip God’s people to do his work.” When we’re overwhelmed, our first question should be “How can we equip more volunteers?” As I’ve shared before, the church I’ve worked with that had the fewest staff members per attendees also had the highest percentage of people volunteering. They are thinking volunteers before staff, and it’s working.
- Teach shoulder-tapping. My friend Tim taught me this one. In the church, we tend to rely on promotions to recruit volunteers. We use platform announcements and bulletin ads and pleas for help. Volunteer recruitment is relational. It’s one friend inviting another friend to join them in serving. Four out of five people show up to church for the first time through an invitation from a friend. That same principle works for every next step people take at your church.
- Stay focused. This is a simple math problem. The more ministry programs and events your church offers, the more volunteers you’ll need. Focused ministry means less competition for people’s time and attention. People are busy. Their church shouldn’t be compounding the problem. We should be helping people prioritize their time rather than making their lives more complicated.
- Identify leaders, not doers. The church needs doers, or servants, too. But, as Jethro pointed out to Moses, we also need capable leaders. We need leaders of tens, fifties, hundreds and thousands. (See the 4 Stages of Leadership.) And, this may surprise you, but you don’t have to be on paid staff to be a leader in the church. Volunteers have leadership gifts too. If you feel stuck, you probably don’t need another person to get tasks done. Instead, you need another person to lead.
- Empower people to use their gifts. We need to remember it’s about the body of Christ using their gifts to fulfill God’s mission. It’s more about helping people be who God created them to be than it is about us finding people to get tasks done. I love this line from Tony Dungy, “I wasn’t there to be their boss. I was there to help the players get better.” That same philosophy of helping people pursue God’s potential applies in ministry as well.
Share what you’re learning about building healthy volunteer teams. What’s working? What’s not? Join the conversation by sharing your comment.