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When a Volunteer should become a Staff Member at your Church

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In growing churches it’s not uncommon for high capacity volunteers to serve as and function like paid ministry staff members. Instead of paid staff members I’ve seen volunteers oversee entire ministry segments in a church even attending weekly staff meetings and staff retreats. But when is the right time to hire that person and move them from a volunteer to a paid staff member?

To put all my cards on the table I must admit that I’m a bigger fan of developing volunteers than I am of hiring staff. But sometimes the right thing to do is to make the hire.

Some people will tell you that this tension hinges on one simple issue. I’m not of that persuasion. In fact I think there are multiple factors you should take into consideration before you pull the trigger on hiring a volunteer who has “worked their way into a job.”

1. Availability: If the volunteer that is leading the ministry moved away would you have to pay someone to replace them?

2. Impact: Is the impact and scope of the ministry the volunteer is leading broad enough and deep enough that you’re beginning to think about whether you should be paying them or not?

3. Specialization: Sometimes the role requires a specialized skill-set that simply demands a salary if you’re looking for a particular quality. This isn’t uncommon in a teaching role, technology, or creative arts.

4. Accountability: While hiring someone involves a salary, it also involves another level of accountability.

5. Time: How much time is the volunteer investing in the ministry? Is it a 40 hour a week job?

6. Leadership: Do they know how to build teams and develop people? Are you going to pay them to do ministry, or lead people to do ministry?

7. Culture: Do they understand, embody, and know how to perpetuate the unique culture you’re building at your church?

What other questions come to mind? What should church leaders be asking to determine if they should pay for a role or not?

Leave a comment; I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Posted in Leadership, Volunteers

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Top Posts of 2015 #4: “Why People Don’t Volunteer at Church Anymore”

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One of the most popular topics on my blog this year was “volunteers.” This is one of the most common areas where churches in America are stuck and the following post describes why.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau 1-in-4 adults volunteered their time in 2013. Altogether, 62.6 million Americans volunteered nearly 7.7 billion hours in 2013. Based on the Independent Sector’s estimate of the average value of a volunteer hour, the estimated value of this volunteer service is nearly $173 billion.

People in the community you live in volunteer their time. That includes people in your community who know Jesus and those who don’t know Jesus. But are they volunteering at your church?

In our research at the Unstuck Group we’ve discovered that:

  • The average church in America engages 43% of their adult and student attenders in some kind of volunteer role.
  • The Top 10% of churches in America engage more than 72% of their adult and student attenders in some kind of volunteer role.

That being said, I’ve never worked with a church that said they had enough volunteers to accomplish the vision that Jesus has given them. In fact here are some of the most common reasons why people may not be volunteering at your church:

1. Your Church has too many Paid Staff

A common reason many churches lack volunteers is because they pay their staff to “do” the ministry instead of “lead” the ministry. At the Unstuck Group we encourage churches to move towards a staffing ratio of 1:100 (1 full-time-equivalent staff person for every 100 people attending the church). The most effective churches have a tendency to move towards having fewer, more competent, and higher compensated staff.

2. Your Church has no Compelling Vision

Volunteering is one of the ultimate statements that someone can make that says, “I believe in this place and I’m with you.” The percentage of people volunteering at your church should act as an indicator as to how many people have bought into your vision and are “with you.” Does your church have a compelling vision that naturally inspires involvement?

3. Your Church has Poor Volunteer Strategies

Poor volunteer strategies are common in church-world. Often times we make it difficult for people to volunteer by making them fill out an exhaustive multi-page application, do a face-to-face interview with a staff member, go through a background check (which I’m in favor of when it comes to working with minors), take a class, or be a church member. Making people jump through hoops to volunteer that are often meant to increase commitment can actually have the converse affect and become barriers for people to overcome that they simply won’t waste their time with. There is a difference between volunteering and leading. I imagine there are probably some roles at your church where someone doesn’t even need to know Jesus to volunteer.

4. Your Church cares more about the Ministry than the Volunteer

Asking people to volunteer every week in the kids ministry because you have a value of consistency for the kids involved in the kids ministry may be noble, but alas ineffective. It’s a sure way to lose volunteers. It also keeps others from getting involved because the same person is in there volunteering every week, not making room for more volunteers. Often times I see churches that care more about what they can get out of a volunteer instead of what they can invest in a volunteer. Churches forget that volunteering is discipleship. People actually grow spiritually by volunteering and living out an others oriented life. So why not do what’s best for the volunteer instead of the kids? Those kids aren’t there every week anyway. If you do what’s best for the volunteer, chances are you’ll have happier, more fulfilled and more consistent volunteers. Which would make for a better ministry wouldn’t it?

At the Unstuck Group we help churches benchmark their behaviors and metrics to gauge their Church Health through a Ministry Health Assessment tool. Interested? Follow this link to learn more.


Posted in Leadership, Volunteers

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Top Posts of 2015 #9: “How Many People Should be Volunteering at your Church?”

This post came in at #9 this year. Volunteering was a huge topic of conversation on my blog this year. You’ll see it show up again on the Top 10 List.

Did you know that there is a direct connection between the amount of money a church invests in staffing and the number of people who volunteer? What we’ve discovered in our research at the Unstuck Group is that the as a church increases its spending on staffing the number of people volunteering decreases.

Translation: if you want more people to volunteer at your church you may need to spend less on staffing.

What we’ve learned through our experience and research is that the average church in America is mobilizing 43% of their adult and student population in volunteer opportunities. The reason it is so critical for churches to address this and take steps to move their culture in the right direction is because volunteering is discipleship. It’s not about filling roles and getting ministry done through people. It’s not about what we want from people, but rather what we want for people. Mobilizing people into volunteer roles is the ministry of pastors and church leaders. It is discipleship. Because volunteering and living an others first life is the very essence of what it means to live like Jesus.

Interested in learning more? Download the ebook “Vital Signs: Meaningful Metrics That Keep a Pulse on Your Church’s Health” or consider engaging the Unstuck Group to do a Ministry Health Assessment with your church to discover the health levels at your church and develop a plan to move things forward.

In the meantime below is a free exercise you can do with your team to begin addressing the volunteer culture at your church:

Step #1: Build a complete list of volunteers that are currently serving in the ministry you are responsible for:

  • What is their first and last name?
  • What is their role?
  • How many hours per week do they volunteer?
  • Once you build a master list of volunteers for your church take a moment and identify any volunteer redundancy and then count individual volunteer roles. For example if someone volunteers in 3 different ministries, or in 1 ministry but volunteers in 3 unique roles that is one volunteer fulfilling 3 roles. Come up with a separate list of volunteer roles and a list of volunteers. Are a few people doing the majority of the volunteering?
  • How long have they been volunteering in your ministry?

Step #2: Build a picture of what your ministry would look like if it were staffed properly with volunteers:

  • How many volunteers would it take?
  • What ideal roles would they be serving in and what would the structure look like?
  • How many volunteer hours would it take?
  • How many new volunteers would you have to recruit and place?
  • How many current volunteers would you have to adjust their role and/or hours they volunteer?
  • Create an actual written organizational chart of your ministry to reflect this.

Step #3: Are there any gaps between the current reality of the ministry and this picture of a preferred future that you have built?                       

  • What’s working, not working, confusing, or missing?
  • What are you currently doing to recruit volunteers? Is it working?
  • How do you place your volunteers? Do they love their role?
  • How do you currently train volunteers? Is it helpful?
  • What do you do to communicate with your volunteers? Is it effective?
  • How do you schedule your volunteers? Is it efficient?
  • What is the span of care for volunteers? Are volunteers who are in leadership roles responsible for 20 volunteers or 5-8 volunteers? Is it reasonable?
  • What do you do to support and care for your volunteers? Do they feel supported?
  • How do you measure if your volunteers are doing what needs to be done for the ministry to win? Are you winning?

Posted in Leadership, Volunteers

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10 Articles that will Help Your Church Build a Stronger Volunteer Culture

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I’ve never worked with a church that has said they don’t need more volunteers. But I’ve worked with a bunch of churches that have trouble getting people to volunteer and stay engaged volunteering. Because volunteering comes up so often when I work with churches I’ve ended up writing about volunteering quite a bit over the years. Here are some of the more popular posts.

Why People Don’t Volunteer at Church Anymore

According to the U.S. Census Bureau 1-in-4 adults volunteered their time in 2013. Altogether, 62.6 million Americans volunteered nearly 7.7 billion hours in 2013. Based on the Independent Sector’s estimate of the average value of a volunteer hour, the estimated value of this volunteer service is nearly $173 billion. People in the community you live in volunteer their time. That includes people in your community who know Jesus and those who don’t know Jesus. But are they volunteering at your church?

How to Build a Strong Volunteer Culture in your Church

Most church leaders I speak with identify a shortage of volunteers and volunteer leaders as one of the top 5 issues holding their church back from reaching the vision that Jesus has given them. It doesn’t have to be this way. You can build a strong volunteer culture at your church by implementing the following 8 principles.

How Many People should be Volunteering at Your Church?

Did you know that there is a direct connection between the amount of money a church invests in staffing and the number of people who volunteer? What we’ve discovered in our research at the Unstuck Group is that the as a church increases its spending on staffing the number of people volunteering decreases.

What the Church can Learn from Southwest Airlines about Volunteering

I was recently on a Southwest Airlines flight and witnessed one of the most amazing volunteer moments I’ve ever seen. When it came time for the midflight snack of pretzels and peanuts a woman on the flight stepped up and volunteered to pass out the snack. And here’s the amazing thing…they let her! No application, no waiver, and no complex training classes. They simply handed over the basket of snacks and said go for it! Watching this whole thing go down I couldn’t help but think about how difficult we make it for people in the church to volunteer. Here are a couple of observations from that moment that I think are worth the church considering.

Why Volunteering is the Biggest Issue Facing the Church Today

Your church is full of talented volunteers. In fact the people who attend your church are so talented that companies actually hire them to do jobs everyday and they actually get paid for it (sarcasm indented). The real issue is that the church needs to change the scorecard. We need to shift the focus of paid-staff from ministry production and execution to volunteer and leadership development. The churches that do this understand the following 5 principles and the incredible results that accompany applying them.

8 Reasons Why People Don’t Volunteer at your Church

The reason why this has to be a front-burner issue is because at the heart of it, volunteering is an essential component of the discipleship process in someone’s life. Plainly put, volunteering is discipleship. Understanding that, here are 8 reasons people aren’t volunteering in your church…and subsequently aren’t growing in their relationship with God.

4 Principles that should Shape the Volunteer Philosophy at your Church

If you’re on staff at a church your job is essentially to be a volunteer specialist. And while volumes have been written on building and leading volunteer organizations, below are four simple (while not easy) principles that should be at the foundation of your philosophy of volunteerism.

Building and Leading a Volunteer Organization

The most important asset you have as a Pastor is not your buildings, budget, or even your vision. It is the people that God has entrusted to you. So below are a few thoughts that may help you in building and leading this volunteer organization called the Church. For your volunteers to jump on board, and stay on board, you’ve got to answer 4 key questions for them…

5 Symptoms your Church Needs more Volunteers

While a lot of churches need more volunteers, most don’t know why they need more volunteers, or why it’s difficult for them to enlist and keep new volunteers.

Stop Paying People to do Ministry

As they grow, many churches eagerly anticipate the moment when they’re finally big enough that they can afford to hire more staff and offer more ministry options for people. For example I’ve heard churches say they can’t wait to hire a Men’s Ministry Pastor. Nothing against Men’s Ministry per se, but that’s an expensive model. If you run it out to its logical end you’re going to have a lot of people on your payroll. Paying people to “do” ministry instead of “lead” ministry is an expensive mistake that many churches fall into. Here are 3 principles that will help you focus the Staffing & Volunteer philosophy at your church.

 


Posted in Leadership, Volunteers

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How to Build a Strong Volunteer Culture in your Church

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I’ve mentioned before that I’ve never coached a church leader or consulted with a church that said they had enough volunteers. In fact, most church leaders I speak with identify a shortage of volunteers and volunteer leaders as one of the top 5 issues holding their church back from reaching the vision that Jesus has given them. It doesn’t have to be this way. You can build a strong volunteer culture at your church by implementing the following 8 principles.

#1 Celebrate Volunteers

You’ve probably heard me say that what you celebrate gets repeated. Ask any parent who’s potty training their kid and they get this principle. I’m pretty sure that’s why God invented M&M’s. That same psychology follows us through life. What get’s celebrated gets repeated. Want a strong volunteer culture at your church, then celebrate volunteers and the great stuff they do. You know what? They’ll do it again and more people will want in on it, because it feels good to be celebrated.

#2 Connect Volunteering to Discipleship

You’ve probably heard me tell the story about the time I was asked to lead a Jr. High Small Group. I was scared to death. Not because they were Jr. Highers, but because I had to be prepared, I had to be further down the road than them and know what I was talking about. I grew so much by leading that Small Group. I think we forget how much spiritual growth takes place as a result of volunteering. Instead of viewing volunteering as roles to be filled to run a church, volunteering should be viewed as a part of the spiritual pathway of our churches. It’s a subtle yet significant shift that needs to be made in our thinking for the sake of the spiritual formation of the people that have been entrusted to us. When you start viewing volunteering as discipleship the way you treat your volunteers changes quickly.

#3 Don’t Hire too Many Staff Members

At the Unstuck Group we’ve discovered that there is a direct connection between the amount of money a church invests in staffing and the number of people who volunteer. What we’ve found in our research is that the as a church increases its spending on staffing the number of people volunteering decreases. Translation = if you want more people to volunteer at your church hire less staff members.

#4 Make it Simple

Most churches make it more difficult to volunteer than most employers make it to get a job. Get rid of the multipage applications, the class that you make people attend, the spiritual gift tests, and the long interviews. Instead let people start volunteering. The leaders will naturally rise to the top. People will gravitate towards areas of ministry they’re passionate about and gifted for. When someone asks, “Can I volunteer?” the answer should always be, “Yes!” Then tell them where and when to meet you to start volunteering. Disclaimer: it’s always wise to background check anyone working with minors or money in any capacity.

#5 Make it Fun

Is it fun to volunteer at your church? People want to be a part of fun stuff. Fun is underestimated and undervalued in most churches. And yet fun can change people’s attitudes, it makes teams contagious, and it keeps people coming back for more. If it’s not fun to volunteer at your church you might be doing it wrong.

#6 Pay your Staff to “Lead People” not “Do Ministry”

Stop paying your Church Staff to do ministry. Instead pay them to lead people. As a Church Staff Member no job should be beneath you, but you shouldn’t do every job either. Unless they’re in a very specialized and technical role, Church Staff should be evaluated on how many volunteers they’re enlisting and how many leaders they’re developing. It’s amazing to me how many times people in ministry forget the basic principles that the Scriptures teach; for instance that the job of the Church Staff is to, “prepare God’s people for works of service” (Ephesians 4:11-13).

#7 Connect Volunteering to Life-Change:

The unspoken expectation of people who volunteer in a church is that they want to see people’s lives changed. They’re life has been changed by the love of Jesus and they want to be a part of that for others. When you celebrate life-change in your church always try and connect it to people who volunteer. This will help people in your church connect the dots between life-change and volunteering and people will want in on that.


Posted in Leadership, Volunteers
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