Stew on This: Looking for Ideas to Retain & Direct Church Volunteers?
Written By: Glenn C. Stewart
Delegation and successfully working with church volunteers is a key aspect of church community and growth. Volunteers need to stay motivated, feel appreciated, understand the vision, and be responsible for certain tasks. That way the pastor can focus on pastoring. Being able to initiate action and clarify direction are two important skills for effectively leading ministry volunteers.
How to Initiate Action
Leaders are active not passive. They act rather than react. A bold vision without corresponding execution is only a dream. Taking the initiative to act involves being dissatisfied with the status quo, seeing the changes that need to be made, and seizing new opportunities. Perhaps church volunteer problems, malcontents, or conflicts went unattended for years before you arrived as pastor. Rather than bemoan the situation, it’s time for you to lovingly, patiently, and firmly address the issues. Do not see the hurdles as barriers, but as challenges to overcome and opportunities to improve ministry effectiveness.
Through prayerful preparation you must develop a plan, communicate a sense of urgency, and establish high expectations for your people. Pastors need to take the initiative in moving the ball down the field. Progress isn’t all about the fifty-yard touchdown bomb; rather it is the consistency of three yards and a cloud of dust. Leaders and teams can always celebrate one hard fought first down after another, because that’s what leads to progress and advancement in ministry.
Proverbs 6:6 uses the illustration of ants to teach some valuable lessons about initiating action.
Lessons from the Ant:
- The ant takes initiative on her own without needing external prompting –
No one is prodding, pleading, or motivating an ant to do something. You can emulate the ant in taking initiative by pursuing opportunities and figuring out how to get the work done.
- The ant takes action –
When the ants’ mound is destroyed, rebuilding begins immediately. Nothing stands in their way. It’s easy to succumb to talking about what needs to be done instead of doing what needs to be done. Ideas are easy, executing is hard.
How to Clarify Direction
A key aspect of leadership is getting everyone on the same page. Imagine a team huddle. It is building ministry alignment. The leader (pastor) and followers (people) know where they are going, why they are going there, and who does what to help get the team there. Ask yourself, “Do people have the direction they need to carry out their ministry responsibilities?” This requires clear communication.
Two Vital Aspects of Clear Communication:
- Structure –
Some people don’t like structure. It seems stifling and inhibiting. But for clarity of communication, time must be taken to determine what to say and how to say it. As a pastor, you do this every week with your sermons. It also needs to be done with your leadership communication. Meandering doesn’t work well when preaching and it doesn’t work well in setting direction either. Well-structured messaging gives confidence to the listeners that you know where you are heading and where you are taking them.
Quick Tips for Delivering Clear Communication:
- Spend time anticipating questions and objections. Form appropriate responses.
- Establish your mental and emotional framework.
- Determine which attitudes you want to express.
- Say the words out loud. Try different combinations to hear how they sound.
- What tone of voice will you use? What facial expressions and body language will match the words and attitudes you have chosen?
This may all sound like too much work for a seemingly simple leadership communication. But misunderstanding happens easily and takes precious time to reverse.
- Inspiration –
Inspiration helps leaders gain buy-in and reaches people at the level of their emotions. It provides positive energy for the group and the achievement of their goals. Effective leadership communication delivers the message with passion. Being expressive says, “this is important.” At the same time, it is positive and encouraging.
Encouragement gives confidence and hope to those you lead. It helps them feel good about the work they are doing in advancing the mission of the church. The Bible exhorts us to, “Encourage one another and build one another up,” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, ESV).
As a shepherd of God’s flock, you are the leader taking the sheep to the green pastures of responsibility. There may be unexpected obstacles when you’re coaching in the most important championship of all, but the good news is that you’ve got the ultimate head coach! He’ll see you through.