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Why your Church is Thinking about Volunteers the Wrong Way

volunteer

I’ve never met a church leader who said that they had enough volunteers. In fact, the opposite is typically true. Having too few volunteers is one of the most frequent complaints and pressure points I hear from church leaders. Most of the time it’s not due to a lack of effort or trying. It’s usually due to thinking the wrong way about volunteerism in the church.

  • Most churches think they need more volunteers to accomplish the ministry…they don’t.
  • Most churches think they need more talented and experienced volunteers to accomplish the ministry…they don’t.
  • Most churches think they need volunteers to do the tasks of the ministry so the church staff can lead the ministry…they don’t.

“Volunteering is the Ministry”

Jesus said, “I did not come to be served but to serve.” Serving others is both the pathway to and pinnacle of spiritual maturity. Volunteering is not a means to an end (getting the ministry accomplished) …it is the end, because volunteers are not roles to be filled but people to be developed. When ministry staff members say things like, “We need more volunteers to make ministry happen” they begin using people instead of ministering to people. Volunteering is discipleship!

“I See Something in You”

Twenty-five years ago, the pastor of a small conservative Baptist church said he saw something in me. Something that I didn’t see in myself. And he invited me to start teaching a Jr. High Sunday School class. I’m not sure what he was thinking. I was scared to death. But I said yes. I wasn’t really all that much older than those Jr. High Students, and I really didn’t know all that more about the Bible or knowing Jesus than them. But I studied those lessons and did the best that I could. That’s where leading church ministry really began for me. All because someone saw something in me. Church leaders need to start seeing “something” in the people around them. Start seeing them for what they could be in and through Jesus, not just as they are. Start speaking those life-giving words into them and inviting them to take a risk and use their gifting for the sake of the Gospel and the Kingdom. And by the way. When I began volunteering, I began growing in my friendship with Jesus in way that I had never done before.

“Join a Team”

The way you talk about something reflects the value you ascribe to it. Words create worlds and so the way you talk about volunteers and volunteerism at your church will either build or erode the volunteer culture you’re trying to create. Unless you tell them differently people are going to think they’re just helpers…just a volunteer. You’ve got to help them see that they’re not just a volunteer but when they volunteer they are actually no longer coming to church they are being the Church. Stop asking people to volunteer and perform a function, get tasks done, or fill a role. Invite them to join a team and make a difference with their life. Help them see volunteering in the church as what it really is…joining a movement to help people meet, know, and follow Jesus.

A big shout out to Brian LaMew who serves as the Pastor of Campus Development and leads the Campus Pastor Team at Sun Valley Community Church who shared these principles in a Sun Valley all staff gathering recently. Keep up the great work Brian!


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Volunteers

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3 Pressure Points Facing Millennial Church Leaders

hipster

I recently had the opportunity to spend some significant time with 10 talented young millennial church leaders and had a blast! If these leaders are any indication of what the future leaders of the church look like then rest assured, the church is in great hands.

That being said there were a couple of pressure points that came up over and over again in the conversations from different angles.

#1 Anxiety about the Future

It was interesting to listen to these young church leaders discuss their work. They really are passionate and committed to the ministry God has called them to. But they’re also anxious about it. Their ambition to move the ball down the court, help the ministry progress, and get things accomplished can keep them from enjoying and receiving the blessings of the very ministry God has given to them. I also picked up on a longing for a future bigger and better role and ministry at the expense of missing the fruit of what’s been given to them today. I’d encourage young leaders to be faithful to whatever God has put in front of you today and let Him be concerned about where He puts you and what He gives you tomorrow.

#2 Relaxing Today

Many of these young leaders referred to the inability to “turn it off.” Anyone who is deeply and personally connected to his or her work can relate to the difficulty of coming home from work and not thinking about work. Being present is essential to health in life and relationships. “Bringing work home with you,” can be a recipe to undermine your most important relationships. I’d encourage young leaders to learn to take your weekly days off, scheduling your time off that you have coming to you each year, and put the cell phone down when you’re with your family. If you don’t learn what fuels you, fills you, and then schedule those things into your life you’ll end up in some kind of a crisis in your 40’s or 50’s that you could have avoided.

#3 Workload Confusion

It was also intriguing to hear the weight with which they carried the ministry they are involved with. Many young church leaders really do feel as though they are really busy and that one day when they are in a more important role with a more important title, have more authority and more people working for them that ministry and work will be easier. While I agree that many of them are working hard, I think many are confused about hard work. The weight of and the busyness of doing ministry is a very real thing, but not compared to the weight of leading ministry. I’d encourage young leaders to enjoy the season of ministry they are in, learn as much as they possibly can, and not long for greater responsibility too much because you might get it. And when you do, you may discover that with greater responsibility, more staff, and a more important title comes more pressure than you’re feeling today.


Posted in Staffing

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10 Articles that will Help your Church Make Vision Real

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Thank you for making April another great month here at Helping Churches Make Vision Real! It’s fun to stay connected with you through social media and hearing that these articles have been helpful. So, thank you for connecting with me through the content on this blog! You made these the top posts from this last month. If you missed out on any of them, here they are all in one place for your convenience!

5 Things that Make Good Staff Members Leave your Church

Good Church Staff Members leave churches for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes it’s because God has called them to something different. But more often than not it’s because of something very different.

7 Things All Growing Churches Have in Common

Once a month at Sun Valley Community Church (the church I have the privilege of serving at) we gather all of our staff from all of our campuses to have some fun, celebrate wins, keep everybody on the same page and often times do some leadership development training. Last week Chad Moore, who serves as the Lead Pastor at Sun Valley shared 7 Things that All Growing Churches have in Common…I thought these may be helpful to you in your local church context…

5 Proficiencies of Great Church Staff Teams

Great Church Staff Teams are full of team members who not only care deeply about people and are passionate about the ministry; they’re actually proficient in what they are doing. I actually believe you can fake passion for a while until your heart catches up. But you can’t fake proficiency. You’re either proficient or you’re not. That being said, I’ve been a part of Church Staff Teams for more than 20 years and the ones I’ve been on that are the best are always proficient in these 5 core areas:

7 Indicators You’ve Found the Ideal Ministry Spouse

In ministry your spouse can make you or break you. It may be cliché but it’s true, behind every great Ministry Staff Member is a great ministry spouse…and you can’t have one without the other. So whether you’re already married or you’re still searching for the right person, here are a couple traits you should be looking for in the ideal ministry spouse.

Why Leading by Example doesn’t Work

Leading by example sounds like the right thing to do, doesn’t it? After all thousands of pages written on leadership, by leadership experts can’t be wrong can they? The problem is you can’t lead by example. Your example may inspire others, it may set behavioral standards for others, your example may even be a prerequisite for authentic leadership, but your example doesn’t actually lead others anywhere. Instead great leaders set the example and then hold the team accountable to the standard. The secret is in the accountability…not the example.

Trying Harder Won’t Fix Your Church

Conventional wisdom tells us that when things get difficult we just need to work harder, work smarter or somehow upgrade the quality of our work. But what do you do when trying harder doesn’t work? It may that it’s time for you to stop doing the same old thing with more effort with more efficiency or more quality. It might be time for you to stop trying harder and try different. It’s time to try something entirely new.

Avoidance: The Silent Killer of a Team

Great teams keep short accounts and normalize feedback, which allow them to make small degrees of change along the way. These behaviors allow great teams to create feedback loops, innovate, and test new solutions quickly. The problem? Most teams aren’t great teams.

8 Reasons Why People Don’t Volunteer at your Church 

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.

The Difference between a Shepherd and a Leader

I love helping churches and leaders get unstuck and make vision real. In fact out of all the stuff I get to do with churches and leaders one of the things I enjoy the most is Leadership Coaching. Recently I had the incredible opportunity to spend a day coaching a group of Pastors and Church Leaders from Australia (unfortunately their cool accent didn’t rub off). One of the topics we spent time digging into was the difference between shepherding and leading in relation to why some churches are stuck while others move forward. Here are couple of thoughts from the conversation.

The Difference between Preparation and Planning

Do great organizations prepare for the future or do they plan for it? The answer is, “yes.” To be clear preparation and planning are not the same thing, and great organizations become great by doing both.

Photo Credit: justin fain via Compfight cc


Posted in Uncategorized

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How to Draft the Best Players for your Church Staff Team

football

I love football (if you know much about me you know that I have an unhealthy obsession with Florida Gator Football) and I love watching the draft. I actually DVR’d the first 3 rounds…and watched them. I caught the highlights of the other 4 rounds on social media. It’s fun to root for kids you’ve seen play college ball, it’s fun to cheer on the home NFL team, and it’s fun to try and figure out the strategy of it all.

Selecting new players for your team can make your break your team. Get the right people and there is an infusion of new talent, new ideas, fresh eyes, and a new well of experiences to go to. One new hire can literally improve the performance of the entire team. But hire the wrong people…well that can literally set the ministry at your church back years. The good news is that people will tell you who they are during the process…you just need to listen to them and believe them. Stop hoping for them and seeing all of the potential in them and look for reality. Here’s a couple of tips that will help you along the way.

1. Turn on the Tape

Great teams turn on the tape. They don’t draft for potential they draft for production. What have they actually done? What results have they produced?

2. Interviews

Don’t do interviews alone, do them together as a team so everyone hears the same things and then debrief it later together without the candidate in the room. Ask them about past real life situations and see why they acted they way they did and what the results were. Then give them some hypotheticals that they may encounter in the role you’re looking at them for.

3. Dig Deep

Do your due diligence. Don’t just settle for the references they give you. No candidate is going to give you references that speak poorly of them. Dig. Talk to at least 2 past or current supervisors, 2 peers and 2 subordinates. And then ask them who else you should be talking to about the candidate. And don’t forget background and credit checks!

4. Fit the Scheme

You’ll notice that a lot of talent was passed up in the recent NFL Draft. While there are a lot of reasons a team may pass on a talented player, one of them is fit. Do they fit the team, the culture, the role, your approach, and where you’re going?

5. Improve the Locker Room

What will their impact be like on the team? You want to bring people in that are going to positively impact the whole team not just play their position well.

6. Best Available Player

Are they the best available player? Sometimes teams pass up great talent that would be a fantastic fit on their team because they’re waiting on the perfect candidate who isn’t available.

Want more help figuring out how to build a great hiring process and hire the right people at your church? Check out these 10 Articles that will Help your Church Make Better Hires!


Posted in Leadership, Staffing

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Why I’m the Lid to Growth at my Church

lid can

One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that it’s usually the Sr. Leadership Team of a church that is the ultimate lid to growth. Many of them don’t see it and most of them wouldn’t agree with what I’m saying, but it’s true. Whether or not the Sr. Leadership Team of a church is willing to let go of authority, ministry decision making, and truly empower and lead through others can make or break a church.

Early in our multisite journey at Sun Valley we hadn’t developed the Campus Pastor role or team yet. So, like in most growing organizations, that meant double duty. I was serving as the Campus Pastor at our original location and serving as the Executive Pastor at the same time. I love leading teams and coaching church staff members, so it was really a fun season. But before long it became apparent that if I didn’t let go of leading the Lead Team on our original campus I would become the lid to growth at Sun Valley. I wouldn’t have the bandwidth to provide the church what it needed. So as much as I loved leading with that team, I had to let go of that team and build a Team of Campus Pastors to lead the campuses through.

Over time as we added more campuses and we expanded our Executive Team another point of tension came along. Again, I had to let go of leading a team that I loved leading with. I had to let someone else lead the Campus Pastors so I could provide leadership to the Executive Team and Central Service Team at the church. I had to give up something I loved, leading with a great team of Campus Pastors, for something else that I loved even more, seeing the whole church continue to take ground and move forward.

I failed to mention that along the way I also had to let go of teaching. For years I was on the Teaching Team at Sun Valley and taught about 20% of the time at our weekend worship services. I’m more of a leader that can communicate than I am a communicator that can lead if that makes any sense and we have some absolutely fantastic communicators on the team. For the church to grow what was needed from me was more strategic leadership and less teaching. And so once again I found myself letting go of something that I love for something else that I love even more.

This same scenario has played its way out in different ways over and over again the past 20 years of ministry. The secret of leadership that no one ever tells you is that the higher you go in leadership the more you lose. There’s no going up without giving up. But if you’re made for it, it’s worth it.

Every time I’ve given up my personal preference for what’s best for the church instead of what’s best for me the church has grown. And every time I’ve been reluctant to do the same, the church has been held back. When I do what I do best, the one thing where I bring the greatest value to the church, the church takes ground and I find fulfillment. When I do what’s best for the church not only does the church win, but I win too. When I don’t, I’m embarrassed to say it, but I hold the church back from everything Jesus has dreamed up for it to be.

And I imagine the same is true of you.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing, Testimonial
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