How To Empower Leaders

Let’s talk volunteers for a moment.

Now I KNOW I have your attention. Volunteers are the lifeblood of our ministry. If you are like most leaders, you spend about 80 percent of your time either actively recruiting new volunteers, praying for the right volunteers or stressing about whether your volunteers will actually show up on Sunday.

You are not alone.

But what if you could create a culture within your ministry where volunteers were not just warm bodies in a room? What if they took initiative and stepped into leadership? What if you could actually attend worship service – worry free – knowing that your ministry was in capable hands? Who wouldn’t want that, right?

It’s possible.

I know it feels counterintuitive. We somehow think that if we can oversimplify the roles for our volunteers, then somehow they will want to stay longer. Right? Wrong.

One of my favorite reads on behavior motivation is a book called DRIVE by Dan Pink. Turns out there are three factors that contribute to motivation.

Autonomy: People want to approach a task uniquely to their giftedness. They do not want to be a robot.

Mastery: People want to develop new skills and become better. They want to master challenges.

Purpose: People want to be a part of a bigger story. They want their work to have greater meaning.

What does that mean for you as a ministry leader? It means you should throw away everything you’ve ever thought about oversimplifying your ministry roles. Invite volunteers to something that requires commitment, responsibility and purpose.

Ministries who have broken the revolving door syndrome of recruiting have mastered the art of developing leaders. Think about this: If life-change happens on the basis of relationship, then we need to structure our volunteer org charts to prioritize relationship over function. The worst thing to experience is a volunteer who has been with your ministry for years only to leave suddenly because they don’t feel valued or appreciated. They were recruited to serve. They said “Yes.” Then faithfully served in the same capacity for 10 years, burned out and left. No one wants that!

If ideal small group ratios are eight to 10 kids per adult leader, shouldn’t we organize our ministry to have eight small group leaders led by a coach? What about our large group teams? Could a team of eight tech, worship, storytellers and hosts be led by a production team lead? The answer is yes!

Go Back to the Drawing Board

Draw a new org chart for your ministry that includes your lay leadership positions. You cannot identify leaders for roles that have not been “created” on the drawing board. Take every area of ministry and break it down into eight to 10 volunteers per lay leader and create a job description for those new leadership roles.

Elevate Mentoring

Identify your volunteers who are knocking it out of the park, and have new volunteers serve side by side with them before going solo in their new assignment. Create a culture where everyone has a part to play in training and development.

Replace Yourself Mindset

Ask your current volunteers to find three to five people who can be a V.I.P. stand-in for them in an emergency. At the end of the day, everyone is a recruiter for your ministry. Empower your volunteers to invite their friends to serve.

Extend a Personal Invitation

People do not step into leadership without being asked! It doesn’t magically happen. Every spring, you should have a one-on-one meeting with your volunteers to collect feedback from the previous year and extend opportunities for them to be stretched in new roles if they are ready for it. Will that mean you lose your best small group leader so they can be a coach? Perhaps. But the gain of having that passionate person duplicates themselves in multiple volunteers far outweighs keeping them in the same role forever. Find out what your volunteers are passionate about and then empower them to do more of that! Stop “filling holes” and start unleashing people in their giftedness.

Let it Go

Your role is to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. Could you do it better yourself? Maybe . . . but no one will ever master a new level of leadership that way and you cannot be all things to all people. When you try do it all yourself, you are withholding the blessing of leadership for someone else . . . and burning yourself out in the process.

The new academic school year will be here before you can blink. Now is the time to reevaluate how your ministry is raising up an army of leaders versus surviving Sundays. What’s ONE thing you can do now to set you up for more success next year? Maybe your starting point is replacing YOU with a few key volunteers who can step into your shoes for a service on Sunday!

Share your next steps in the comments below!

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