My youngest daughter, Sydney, has an arch nemesis at school: math. Truth be told, she and I share this common villain. Not only do we not enjoy it but it proves to be our kryptonite over and over.
What this means is the every afternoon is a marathon session of math homework. There are tears, stress, frustration and terrible thoughts about multiplying fractions. Sydney is pretty chill—those are just my reactions.
Similarly, there is an area of church leadership that proves to be a constant struggle: leading volunteers.
The church is a volunteer-powered organization. You depend on non-paying people to get ministry done. The more committed volunteers and leaders you have, the more ministry you can do in your community.
Yet pastors never feel like we have enough volunteers, we do not have time to train them and simply wish they would show up on time. Let’s be real, if they would just read our weekly emails to them we would feel like a success!
Today I want to share with you some principles we employ when it comes to leading volunteers. These have enabled us to connect over 100 new volunteers just in just a few months. I hope these six actions help you connect more volunteers to your team, train them better than ever and see them become leaders in your church.
1. Build a simple structure.
Every person who walks into your church has potential to be a minister. The role of leaders in the church is to equip and release others to do ministry. My church created a “Leadership Pipeline” to hold us accountable to that. This is our method for connecting volunteers, identifying what they excel at and developing those leadership skills.
2. Make it easy to get started.
Often we make starting out in leadership way too complicated. Simplify the starting point. Our church created an easy on ramp for people to get connected. This is the entry point to getting involved at our church. There are not multiple ways to connect, we narrowed it down to one simple class to attend. We do not set the bar so high that a person who is brand new to faith or super busy cannot get started.
3. Create a system to “move up” the pipeline.
Every person on a ministry team falls into one of five categories. Any department of our church that employs volunteers utilizes this structure. When an individual steps onto a team, we do not need to immediately put them in positions of authority and responsibility. There has to be a plan to how a volunteer will grow.
4. Keep it relational.
For some reason we feel like leadership has to be taught in a class. While there is some value to that (we have two classes in our leadership pipeline), the best leaders are “grown.” This process does not happen best in a lecture hall but in a coffee shop. Sitting across the table one-on-one from someone and speaking into their life still remains the best way to recruit, train, challenge and empower leaders. Be intentional about being relational.
5. Define expectations.
Never assume someone knows the next right thing to do. If a volunteer is unclear about his role, the leader is unsuccessful in her role. For every position on your team provide crystal clear expectations. Just because you are in a church and leading volunteers does not mean you should not have high expectations. The Leadership Pipeline defines expectations for each role’s level of leadership responsibility.
6. Train specific skills.
Every volunteer role has a specific skill set that is needed to thrive. As someone progresses in their role, new skills are needed. Do not increase responsibilities or authority without first increasing skills. A volunteer being “a good person”, “always showing up” or “having been here longer than anyone else” are not skills. Define necessary skills for each role and take time to develop them in people.
Kevin Lloyd is the executive pastor at Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, Georgia. This article was originally posted on Lloyd’s blog, LeadBravely.org.