Children’s Volunteers Who Don’t Quit
On any given Sunday, it can be heard from thousands of pulpits in churches of every size, “We need workers, we need workers, we need workers, we need workers, WE NEED WORKERS!” Wouldn’t it be nice if recruiting workers were like a game of Red Rover? You remember, “Red rover, red rover, send workers right over!” It would be nice if it were that easy. I have had the privilege of working at some wonderful churches of different sizes, and the one thing they have all had in common was that I was always on the lookout for more workers. The truth is, the bigger the vision, the more people serving and helping it takes to make that vision reality.
Three Dog Night taught me something valuable years ago: “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do!” The ministry was never designed to be done by only a select few. Our mission found in Matthew 28:19 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” That’s a big job that calls for a great team. The Bible says Jesus had the Spirit of God without measure, yet the first thing He did when He started His earthly ministry was to recruit help. If Jesus needed help, you and I need truckloads of it.
Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others also.” In this verse, we see four groups of people taking the message of the gospel to others. Paul taught Timothy, Timothy taught reliable men, who were to teach others also. In thirty years of building teams of volunteers, this is what I’ve realized: “People need to be needed more than you and I need the help.” Raising up volunteers that stick is a win-win for the local church and for the individual!
Encourage your team to recruit others. Jesus allowed His team to recruit two of the twelve. I shouldn’t have to say this to people in the ministry, but be touchable, available, and friendly. I’m on the lookout for potential workers at church, special meetings, Starbucks, Sam’s Club—in fact, I’m on the lookout for workers everywhere I go.
Identify giftings you are looking for and be watchful for people who display them. Look for people who vocationally manage people. Look within your organization for people to promote; your answer to your need for workers isn’t always someone from the outside. Pray team members in. Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Be specific—make a list of what you need and want. If people were no problem, where could you use a worker? Make sure you qualify all candidates. I require potential volunteers to complete an application, submit references, allow us to do a criminal background check if they are working with minors, and conduct an interview.
Once you’ve located them and qualified each candidate, here are twenty things I believe you need to do to cultivate volunteers that stick in your ministry.
1. Start volunteers slowly. Don’t dump them in a class with a Sunday school for a quarter and say, “Tag, you’re it.” If you’re a dumper, the word is out on you! Start new recruits out watching, and add responsibility slowly. This is also the time to teach them your church’s way of doing things. Train them in your policies and procedures; these should answer the questions: “What do you want me to do?” and “How do you want me to do it?”
2. Immerse them in your vision. Use every method available to you: spoken, written—whether on blogs, Web sites, or brochures—and visual. Let pictures and video tell your story. Vision is contagious. Over the years, I realized my vision is what kept me going. If that vision wouldn’t allow me to quit, neither would it allow others to quit.
3. Give them a model or example. People do what they see. “Show” is a much better way to train than “tell.” When you model ministry on an ongoing basis, it keeps everyone moving forward on the same page.
4. Build trust. If you want your volunteers to trust you, be a person of integrity and do what you say. Prove yourself; don’t lead by position only. Show people you are worthy to be followed.
5. Be real and transparent. People like a leader who puts their pants on one leg at a time. Be normal; admit your struggles and shortcomings. Be approachable. Put yourself in the volunteer’s place, and look for ways to make their load lighter.
6. Invest your time in others. The time you spend in others is never wasted. You cannot develop leaders without investing your time in them. Discipleship is taking someone who is Christ-like in an area and letting their Christ-likeness rub off on others.
7. Believe in them. Give them a chance to do ministry. Let them learn by doing. “But Jim, they’re not as good as me!” There was a day you were not as good as you, but you learned by doing. Now it’s time to return the favor.
8 Encourage others. Everyone I know could use a little encouragement. They not only respond well to it, but they flourish. Here’s a great habit to develop: Catch people doing things right! In fact, have your key staff write three thank-you notes each week—this practice will change your ministry.
9. Be a coach. Coaches motivate, teach, make corrections, maintain team spirit, and point their team to the next level, both corporately and individually. Even the greatest athletes in the world have a coach.
10. Ask for commitment. The greater the commitment, the sweeter the victory. Every time I’ve asked volunteers for a greater commitment, those who rallied and said yes were the best volunteers I ever had. Rotating workers might be a quick fix, but it doesn’t produce long time volunteers.
11. Set goals for growth. Don’t allow people or ministries to stay stagnant or stuck. Help volunteers come up with goals to improve and grow. If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. Goals are a good thing, but you’ll never know where you are toward reaching them without constant evaluation. Evaluation is usually the missing link and should go hand in hand with goal setting.
12. Communicate on a regular basis. No relationship can exist without communication. Communicate with more than meetings. Use every method possible. Let your workers know what they need to know to excel, and they will.
13. Give your volunteers the tools they need. It’s easier to do quality work with the right tools. Make sure you give all who serve what they need to minister effectively. What do they need? Start with creative environments; mix in exciting curriculum and teaching supplies plus audiovisual gadgets and gizmos. If we want folks to reach the sight-and-sound generation, then give them sights and sounds to work with.
14. Check on volunteers systematically. People only do what’s inspected, not just expected. I found out years ago I couldn’t spend all my time teaching the children. I was more valuable as a problem-solver and leader of leaders than just a teacher of kids. See for yourself what’s going on. Observe your workers in action.
15. Conduct regular equipping meetings. If you give your workers knowledge and wisdom, then you should also give them the power to do the ministry with excellence. Teach them what to do and show them how you want them to do it. These kinds of meetings are more about developing skill-sets than information.
16. Care enough to confront. As a parent, I confront my kids because I love them, so if I love my volunteers, I’ll confront them when their actions need to change or improve. Confront in kindness always.
17. Ask for ideas and opinions when appropriate. You can give out solutions all by yourself or involve others in the solution process. It’s still your decision, but volunteers stay put when they are listened to.
18. Promote and entrust. Turn over more to those with ability. People stay put when you recognize their abilities.
19. Say thanks and show them you value and esteem them. Everyone likes to hear the magic words “please” and “thank you.” When it comes from your heart, “thank you” is always welcomed.
20. Give them someone else to develop and disciple. Make them accountable to impart what they have learned to someone else. Ministries excel when you develop depth at all key positions. Teams with depth at all key positions win consistently.
This is a lifetime commitment. This process won’t happen overnight. It can only happen after you commit yourself to be a leader of leaders. To pull this off, you must have a goal. You have to have a plan. Each day, you must strive to be a better leader than you were the day before. Concentrate on what you can do for others rather than what others can do for you. Remember you gain those you serve.
Each of these steps is easy to do—the hard part is doing them all at the same time. Commit to make these a part of your leadership lifestyle.