5 Must-Have Values for Leading Volunteers
In my 30+ years of developing leaders, I understand the privilege it is to build teams of volunteers. I also know that over time I have learned 5 must-have values for leading volunteers.
For most of us, trying to carry out the vision of ministries we are involved in would be impossible without the sacrificial ministry that our volunteers continuously give on top of their tent-making jobs, raising a family and keeping their relationship with Christ strong and vibrant. These volunteer teams are the core of what makes ministry effective in churches everywhere. It is central to what we do. It is this reason I have settled on some values, These 5 must-have values for leading volunteers play a large part in what separates those who see success and those who are always chasing it.
Over the years leading volunteer and paid leaders, I have witnessed a noticeable difference in the approach that leaders take recruiting and retaining volunteers. Many leaders face challenges with high rates of turnover and frustrating results. Others seem to enjoy strong teams and ministry effectiveness. So what makes a leader effective in building teams of volunteers? I believe these five must-have values are a good start towards success.
1. Connect with your volunteers.
Must-have values begin when you invite a volunteer to join your team. Carve out time to really get to know the person you are recruiting. Every person has a story, and they usually want to tell it. Do your homework on every person you recruit. It shows you care more for them as a person than a position they are gonna fill for you.
I encourage my team leads to watching people as they are attending services for a couple of months, After doing our homework over those we want to invite onto the team, go with an invitation to meet with them over a lunch break. Meet them near their place of employment on their time table. Be ready to describe the key volunteer position that you see them in and why you believed they are the right person for the position. Help them feel valued and needed in that conversation.
2. Give volunteers your time and attention.
Leaders need this must-have value to be good listeners. Listening involves remaining quiet while the other person speaks and processing what they are saying about themselves. The temptation is to respond with your story or related experience. Don’t do it. Instead, listen to what they are saying and pay attention to the details. They will respect you more, and you will learn much about the people on your team. Good listening indicates you care and will help you pray for your volunteers and resource them more effectively.
3. Value each person.
This must-have value is a biggie. Our volunteers are on a journey, and we get to be a part of their transformation. We have to remember that when we bless someone with the opportunity to serve, we have no idea how God will change them. As ministry leaders, we often focus on the results of our ministry in numbers, while overlooking the impact that is happening within our volunteer teams. We all have to keep in mind that the ministry leader is not ours – they really belong to God.
4. Help volunteers find the right fit.
Here is where I am constantly saying, “I care more for you as a person than I care about what position you can fill for me.”
There are so many factors that come into play when we place a new volunteer into a serving role. This much I know; if we put volunteers in the wrong spot, they will not serve very long. One method that I have used with great success is giving volunteer tours of all the ministry areas. This allows each volunteer to see how we may be doing ministry, to watch when that ministry is in action which how many of us know that oftentimes looks different than the theory that many ministry descriptions are written from. This approach allows them to make a choice that fits best for them, rather than us trying to figure that out for them. Taking the time on the front end, helping volunteers find the right fit will result in volunteers serving with great fulfillment and enthusiasm. The last step on this value I believe is beneficial is for you to learn and be comfortable in a specific gift test practice that fits you and your culture. Live these values out and you may just hang on to them for a long time.
5. Communicate clear expectations.
Be sure you know what you desire volunteers to carry out in their roles. Likewise, they need to know what to expect from you. As much as possible, create written ministry descriptions for volunteers that serve with you. Putting your thoughts in writing will help reduce confusion that can often lead to volunteer losses.
Through these descriptions don’t make them a long list of to do’s. Don’t tell them how to do the job, give them the results of what being successful in this ministry would look like and let them be them in how they get it done. People may surprise you when given the chance.
There is so much to say when leading volunteers, but these five values will sure help you build and retain effective volunteers.