By Carey Nieuwhof
Ask yourself: would you volunteer to work for you? If your answer is no, as it has been at times in my own life, you must then ask yourself why?. How do you get incredible leaders and phenomenal people to volunteer? High capacity leaders don’t randomly assemble, you have to create the environment in which they thrive. Here are seven ways to do that.
Give volunteers a significant challenge.
There is no mission in the world that is more significant than yours. What if we challenged volunteers to believe that? We would see a culture develop that causes leaders to rise to the occasion, and our ministries would be better for it. People with significant leadership giftings respond best to significant challenges. Instead of pitching volunteer opportunities in a way that avoids commitment (such as rotating youth volunteers every week), you can recruit fewer volunteers and see more fruit from a higher level of commitment and deeper connection.
Continually communicate mission and strategy.
You must always reiterate the “how” behind the “what.” For example, if your mission is to “love God and love people,” everyone will support that. Then it becomes a matter of showing how your strategy supports that mission. Ultimately, your church is aligned. As leaders, we have to continually go back to mission, vision, and strategy. When we think that we have communicated the mission, most people still have not heard or they don’t remember. Keep communicating.
Few things are more demotivating to a volunteer than discovering that a staff member did not set them up to succeed. The staff’s job is to make it easy for the volunteers. They should be focused on relationships, people, and ministry, not be in a mad scramble to get things organized. Volunteer ministry is hard enough. Give them what they need when they need it.
Refuse to let people off the hook.
Your organization will drift to the level of accountability that your team leader establishes. Don’t let volunteers off the hook. Hold them to the standards you set, and if they are not meeting those standards, help them find a place to serve that is a better fit. This helps preserve the environment of your team and allows the volunteer to find another team on which they will thrive.
You should spend 80 percent of your time with the people who give you 80 percent of your results. We are naturally inclined to do the opposite, but it is futile. Let the other 20 percent go. Spend time with your champions. It’s a biblical model (see Exodus 18 and Acts 3).
Surround high capacity people with high capacity people.
Like attracts like and keeps like. People look for those who are like them. If you are normally a prepared, punctual person, you will feel out of place on a team of disorganized and perpetually late people. It is not always easy to get high capacity people; they need to be courted, because they want to see that it is a mission worth commitment. The best thing you can do for them is introduce them to other high capacity leaders.
Pay volunteers in nonfinancial currencies.
Paying people does not scale. Eventually, you run out of money. Instead, you must run on volunteers, and they must be motivated. People gravitate to where they are valued most, and leave where they are not valued. If you can get people engaged, then they will want to volunteer. Pay them in gratitude, attention (calling them by name, looking them in the eye, having a conversation), trust (let them figure out ways to do their job better), empowerment, and respect. Call out the best in people.
Would you volunteer for you? Under these conditions, the answer might be yes.
Adapted from Pipeline West 2018. To learn more about how to create a culture of ongoing recruiting and development in your church, check out our free Ministry Grid course Pipeline: Creating a Culture of Recruiting.