Volunteers can be a valuable asset for any team. Used effectively they can provide substantial help in the growth of any church or ministry. One question that often comes up in our coaching huddles is “How do I recruit, and get the most out of volunteers?” So we’ve asked Rich Robinson, in a couple of posts, to give us some insight into how he has recruited and worked with numerous volunteers in ministry.
Building with volunteers
I’ve always found volunteers to be an invaluable part of any ministry I’ve led – without them I honestly don’t think we would have seen the same level of Kingdom breakthrough in Sheffield. I always liked the joke “The Titanic was made by professionals, the Ark by volunteers”.
Over the next couple of posts I’ll look at some of the Core Values & Core Practices I’ve used, and tried to live out, when working with volunteers.
Over the years, I’ve tried to take the model of Jesus and apply it to working with volunteers. When Jesus called his disciples he said “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19) He invited them into both relationship (covenant) and adventure (kingdom). Jesus called his disciples to walk closely with Him as well as living out a Kingdom life that was way beyond their own natural ability. As humans we need to be connected to God and to others, as well as ‘going after’ a Kingdom cause that is bigger than ourselves. Jesus called people into both relationship and adventure and when engaging with potential volunteers I try to consider and include both these two components.
Over the years, I’ve refined this down to some Core Values & Core Practices we’ve developed as we’ve worked with volunteers. Let’s start today by focussing on the Core Values:
“Disciples not Servants”
I try to always view volunteers as disciples, not servants. Operating out of this value affects both the way I relate to, and utilise the gifts and skills of, any volunteer. The biggest mistake we can make is to try and recruit servants – people to fill our gaps, do jobs for us, and work to our agenda. This means they never progress beyond the task they’re given and levels of ownership and development are low or non-existent.
Treating every volunteer as a disciple means that I will always aim to invest in volunteers. I have seen numerous times that my input leads to an increase in their output – but my input comes first. This investment will be in both character and competency. In the next post I will look at some of the practices we’ve used to ensure that good investment happens.
If we view volunteers as disciples it also means they are potential leaders – disciples who make disciples. This means that our volunteers may be the people who raise up the next level of volunteers. This creates a culture with momentum that increases over time rather than a system with gaps that appear periodically.
“Volunteers are a Medium & Long-term Solution so take a Medium & Long-term view”
Volunteers are NOT just a short term solution to make sure that an administrative or frustrating job gets done. Having volunteers is actually a short term cost. You have to spend more time explaining, supporting, clarifying, encouraging and informing volunteers in the first instance for them to gain the necessary traction to be able to be productive. Investing both time and energy into volunteers in the ‘start up’ phase not only makes the volunteers more effective in the medium term in what they’re doing it also makes them more likely to stay as medium/long term volunteers. A few medium/long-term volunteers are much more effective than lots of short-term volunteers who help for a while, get fed-up, and leave.
“Invite them into your life”
Some volunteers may not be as close relationally to you as other members of your core team but they should have some access to your life and family. They need to be close enough to learn from you rather than just doing a job for you.
Think about what you can invite them into – huddles, socials, team prayers, time with your family. Think about times of both purpose and play and engaging with them in both a structured & spontaneous way. These interactions (outside of them being ‘on task’ with you) gives a chance to deepen the relationship, gives them a sharper sense of vision, helps them to feel part of a team as well as opportunity to more intentionally disciple them.
Next time we’ll look at some practices I have adopted to help me live out these values and grow teams of volunteers.