Leading not normal volunteers takes a not normal leader.
1 Peter 4:10
Each of you should use your God given gifts to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. Every member of the body of Christ has been given an amazing skill set, gift set, and/or a passion; and, it’s our responsibility to find a way to use those skills/gifts/passions in serving others.
How can we help volunteers succeed? We know volunteers are not going to lead themselves; they need direction, guidance, and leadership. Volunteers have signed up for free work, and we need to be prepared to instruct them.
1. Start Somewhere
Stop asking “How do we recruit for volunteers?”
Start asking “How are you going to motivate people to volunteer?”
Then ask yourself “Am I ready for them once I motivate them?”
- Make it easy– Don’t have an application process that’s more difficult than getting a loan for a house. You should have a system in place, especially if volunteers are signing up to work with minors, but don’t make it so difficult that people won’t want to start. Begin with a conversation. Think of them as a friend, not a client.
- Become an expert at casting vision– Volunteers want to know what they’re signing up to do. They want to do something significant, not just fill a void. We need to have a vision and know it inside and out.
- Have service options– If people want to serve and you don’t have a specific spot for them, create one. Volunteering is more than just a task. It’s about being on a team with a common goal. We’re never full.
2. Small is BIG
In leadership, we spend most of our time imagining BIG ideas; we’re going to change the whole world, feed the homeless, stop human trafficking, etc. However, when we talk to volunteers that say, “All I did was hold a baby for an hour.”, we need to be able to connect the dots for them. Holding a baby for a service could mean an hour of unconditional love from an adult.
The smallest things we do can have the biggest results, not normal results. Every baby you hold, every hand you shake, every tear you wipe away actually has the largest impact! The things people assume are insignificant which you do week-in and week-out make a HUGE impact.
- Pay the postage– Wouldn’t it be great if a child received a birthday postcard from their small group leader? Make it happen; buy the cards, buy stamps, and even offer to send it for them. Make your small group leaders look awesome!
- Show up to a ball game– Show up randomly. Let them know that you care. As a leader, show up to your small group leaders’ kids activities. Show them you value them!
- Celebrate small stories– Love, Peace, and Kindness over time can help spread the good new of Jesus Christ in a tangible way to those who watch you. Not normal volunteers seize moments when they can show unconditional love to someone else.
3. Own, Don’t Rent
It’s our job as leaders to move people from renters to owners.
- Owners believe deeply in what they’re doing. Which is why it’s very important to communicate your vision to those seeking to serve. You have to display the vision for them to believe it’s true.
- Owners push the limit for the sake of the mission. They’ll push back. They’ll question. They want to do what they do better.
- Owners invest more for a bigger return. They show up every week because they comprehend what’s at stake. They understand that a child’s faith can be an eternity changing process.
How do you move renters to owners?
- Get the right people in the right place. Discover their passion. What do they like to do? Find out their gifts and arrange the puzzle pieces in the right place. Ask them questions such as: “How is this working out for you?” and “Do you feel that storytelling is your strong spot?” Inform them up front that the place they start may not be the place they end.
- Develop them. They will not train themselves. They will not lead themselves. Train throughout the year. Be consistent. Provide blogs, podcasts, books, Facebook groups, etc. to equip them!
- Allow them a platform to express their ideas. Be accessible. However, when you give them a platform, it doesn’t mean that your every answer has to be “yes”.
4. You, Me, We
Not normal volunteers understand that it’s not “all about me”. It’s not about you. It’s about how we do this together. We must work together differently.
- Begin Strong— You need a kick-off where people can get energized. Give them T-shirts, invite a guest speakers, etc., so that they leave excited to serve.
- Have a Huddle— Have a pre-service meeting for your volunteers. They get to know each other, they share prayer requests, and they get to share their personal stories. Make this meeting excellent and people will show up. If it’s meaningful for them, they will be there.
- Navigate Conflict— Nobody likes conflict,; but, if it’s not handled properly, your volunteers will scatter. You’re going to have conflict. People don’t always get along. When people are passionate, they express emotions. You’re going to have hurt feelings. Don’t ignore it. Our enemy is aiming to divide our ministries. Let’s prevent him from winning. It’s not fun; It feels terrible to do it, but it’s necessary.
5. Honor the Leader
It’s important that you, as the leader, are respected and your vision is embraced. Not normal volunteers know how to support their leader’s vision.
- Model It. If you expect your volunteers to honor you, you should honor the leaders whom you serve.
- Be All in. Volunteers are receptive to half-heartedness. They’re going to take their cues from you.
- Stand up for yourself. Don’t be a doormat. Volunteers won’t follow a doormat.
6. Replace Yourself
Who’s your next person? Who can do what you’re doing so it unlocks your opportunity to do what’s next for your ministry?
- Plan to Grow
- Encourage Apprenticing
- Understand it’s Emotional. Processing change can be difficult for volunteers.
7. You Can’t Always See It
Faith is a process that takes time. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t working.
- Fill in the bucket because vision leaks. Talk about it. Tweet about it. Remind people of the victories.
- Celebrate what you can see.
- Recognize tenure. Sometimes the more you’re in ministry, the more you get looked over. People who serve others are heroes.