5 Reasons Why People Don’t Volunteer

Not too long ago I was talking to a longstanding church attendee about getting involved in her local church. I was surprised to hear her say the following words to me, “I don’t think they need me anywhere.” When I pressed her to explain more, I learned that she had expressed interest a few times over the years and nobody seemed that interested in pursuing and recruiting her to get involved. So she stopped offering to help, assuming she wasn’t needed or wanted.

Friends, this is not good. Ephesians 4 challenges us to a very high standard when it comes to volunteers. We are called to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. As christian leaders, that means we’re not supposed to overly rely on church staff and/or do the bulk of ministry ourselves. God wants to release His people to use their gifts to grow the church, disciple people and reach the world. That is His model and strategy.

Over the years, I’ve discovered a few key reasons why people don’t get involved. I wonder how many people in your church aren’t involved because of one of these excuses?

1. They Don’t Need Me.

In an effort to create a positive environment during church activities, we sometimes hide the volunteer ‘holes’ we know we have to the congregation. So people don’t see or know about our needs. What complicates this more is when we don’t tell them. It’s important we create methods designed to let our congregation know about the various volunteer opportunities we have available, and how they can get involved.

2. Been There, Done That.

When volunteers have a bad experience in ministry, they may choose to take a ‘been there, done that’ attitude and refuse to get involved again. Whenever you perceive a volunteer has been burned, I recommend you bend over backwards to bring reconciliation to that hurt. Asking questions, listening intently and eventually affirming their hurt and asking forgiveness will go a long way to paving the road for them to eventually get involved again.

3. I Have Nothing To Offer.

A lot of people don’t get involved because they can’t see themselves doing what they see so many others doing. They don’t feel qualified. {Serve on the worship team? I can’t sing like they do.} {Help with the kids? I don’t know how to teach kids.} {Help with tech? Have you seen how many nobs are on that board?} People need to know that they don’t have to be experienced before they get plugged in. They just need to know you believe in them and that they can make a difference.

4. I’m Too Busy.

Yes. People are definitely busy. And they are often convinced they are too busy to get involved in ministry right now. Occasionally it’s true. However, most of the time it’s not about being busy, it’s about priorities. Until people are convinced that what you want them to do is important to them, they won’t give something else up to help the church. People need a good reason to give their time and energy to a cause. You need to convince them that what you’re asking is truly important.

5. Nobody Asked Me.

It may seem like a simplistic excuse, but it’s very real and very common. There are some highly skilled and experienced people sitting in church every week who aren’t involved simply because nobody thought to ask them. We don’t ask them for any number of reasons, but often we have convinced ourselves that they can’t or won’t want to. In other words, we say ‘no’ for them and never give them the opportunity to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ themselves.

Asking people to serve in ministry isn’t easy and can be very intimidating. I know, I’ve recruited hundreds of people into volunteer roles during my ministry career. But I did it, and I believe you can too. 

8 Reasons Volunteers Don’t Feel Valued

One day Jesus decided to sit and watch people put money in the offering basket. When an unremarkable, poor woman threw in a couple pennies, Jesus honored her above everyone else. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

I wonder how that woman felt about herself. I wonder if she believed her gift didn’t really matter. I wonder if the people in her life ever validated her or what she had to offer. Or did they all pass her by when they looked at what she gave and discount her because they compared her to everyone else, who seemed to give so much more.

That’s not what Jesus did. He valued both the woman and her gift, when nobody else did.

Let’s take a moment and stop thinking of her gift as financial. What if her gift was in service to the church instead? Would we treat her the same?

I can tell a lot of stories about people who never reached their potential in ministry because the people around them (and they themselves) didn’t value who they were or what they could contribute. I’m sure you can too.

The following represents some ideas on why volunteers sometimes feel devalued in our ministries.

Lack of Communication

When people don’t know what’s going on, they feel devalued. The unspoken message they are hearing is, “I wasn’t important enough to be in the loop on this.” Most of the time, it’s not true, but our inadequate means of communication will eventually alienate and drive some of our most committed people away.

Non-Personal Interaction

It doesn’t matter what size church you lead, people are still people and they are craving personal touch. In particular, they will feel valued and important when the people they respect in leadership take the time to connect with them. This can be a huge challenge for christian leaders. Even so, finding ways to give 1 on 1 attention to people through cards, email, social media, personal visits, etc. will help them know they are a valued part of your team.

Responsibility Without Authority

When people are asked to get involved, but aren’t empowered to do it themselves, they feel like wheels in a cog. Systems can add great value to local ministries, but they are meant to serve your volunteers, not the other way around. Whenever possible, programs should leave room for enough creative liberty to allow volunteers to make decisions on their own.

No Opportunity for Buy-In

Announcing change from the pulpit is dangerous. People need time to process what’s going on and how it will impact them personally. If you want to value your volunteers, communicate way in advance and give them a lot of lead time so they can process change before it happens. 

False or Wrong Expectations

One of the easiest ways to hurt feelings and sow discord is to keep expectations vague or confusing. If YOU expect more from your volunteers than they realize, you will be disappointed. If THEY expect more from you as a leader, they will be confused or disappointed. Either way, it’s a recipe that can lead to broken relationship.

Square Peg, Round Hole

I get real frustrated when leaders delegate tasks to people and then get mad at them because they don’t do a good job. If you ask me to serve as the maintenance man in your church, you’ll be disappointed. I’m not good at fixing things. Instead of pushing me harder to do better, realize I’m a square peg, not a round one, and find a better fit for me.

Assume The Worst

Is it possible there are men & women in your church who could relate to the woman Jesus noticed in the above story? Do they think their leaders assume they have little or nothing to offer because of their skill set, circumstances or personality? After all, how much do 2 pennies really matter, right?

Jesus was the Master at accomplishing great things with almost nothing. Think fish & bread.

Invite people to be part of something great, find a good fit for them, and let them serve with the skills, talent & commitment they have to give. Value who they are and what they give just as much as those who seem to give so much more than them.

photo credit: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery via photopin cc

3 Signs of a Miserable Volunteer

I once spoke to a “been there done that” volunteer from a local church. Put another way, he was no longer a volunteer; he’d “been there, done that” and it didn’t go very well. In fact, he ended up silently leaving the church and was leading worship and a small group at another church. I didn’t have to ask about his volunteer experience at his former church, he told me all about it. The backstory is, I knew this man and also knew he had been faithful and committed to that church for many years prior. He wasn’t a grumpy, church-hopping kind of guy. 

I was glad to see how engaged and excited he was to serve at the new church. I was saddened to realize that he was a miserable volunteer at his former church, which probably meant other volunteers were as well.

Patrick Lencioni wrote a book designed to help organizations identify the key factors that lead to miserable employees in the workplace. As you might expect, those same factors apply to the volunteers in our church and ministries as well.

The Three Signs of a Miserable Volunteer
Adapted from “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job” by Patrick Lencioni

1. People Feel Anonymous

“People cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known. All human beings need to be understood and appreciated for their unique qualities by someone in a position of authority…. People who see themselves as invisible, generic, or anonymous cannot love their jobs, no matter what they are doing.” page 221

Volunteers need to believe you know and care about them. This means you’re not just interested in what they can do to make your ministry a success. It means you’re interested in them as individuals. Great leaders will take the time to learn about their lives, their families and the things that are important to them right now. They will check in on them when they are experiencing life-challenges. 

You can make a lot of mistakes as a leader, but if your volunteers believe they are important to you, they are much more likely to be loyal to the ministry you lead, despite it’s weaknesses and faults.

Leadership Test: Do you know the names of each of the volunteers you lead? Do you know what personal challenges they are facing right now?

2. People Feel Irrelevant

“Everyone needs to know that their job matters, to someone. Anyone. Without seeing a connection between the work and the satisfaction of another person or group of people, an employee simply will not find lasting fulfillment. Even the most cynical employees need to know that their work matters to someone, even if it’s just the boss.” pages 221-222

Volunteers want to make a difference. It’s the reason they chose to give up some of their freedoms (to do other things) in order to serve in ministry with you. Irrelevance is a sickness that is so easy to cure, yet is often left untreated. Leaders must regularly keep the vision/purpose for ministry alive in volunteers. Explain why their role is so critical and how it connects to changed lives in the church. Tell them about people who have experienced God in a special way, and how they played a role in that transformation. And make a concerted effort to regularly express gratitude and appreciation for the investment they are making in people’s lives.

You will keep your volunteers motivated by reminding and showing them how they are making a difference.

Leadership Test: When was the last time you sent a special ‘thank you’ note to your volunteers? Do your volunteers know why their position in ministry is important to you and God?

3. People Feel Immeasurable

Employees need to be able to gauge their progress and level of contribution for themselves. They cannot be fulfilled in their work if their success depends on the opinions or whims of another person, no matter how benevolent that person may be. Without a tangible means for assessing success or failure, motivation eventually deteriorates as people see themselves as unable to control their own fate. page 222

Volunteers thrive on consistent, positive feedback from leaders. Often, volunteers are thrust into responsibilities with little experience or training. Consequently, they can feel insecure or inadequate for the job, eventually leading to them quitting. Unfortunately, the kind of feedback volunteers often receive is grossly inadequate and sometimes not even real. They don’t need to hear, “You’re doing just fine.” They want to know how they can do better, without feeling like a failure.

To truly “lead” others, we must be committed to modeling the kind of ministry we’re looking for, training people to be a success, and resourcing them with the tools they need to do it with excellence. 

Leadership Test: Do you know how well your volunteers fulfill their respective responsibilities? When was the last time you gave them constructive feedback or training so they might improve?
 


 
Are you struggling recruiting or keeping volunteers in the church?

If so, I recommend you contact me today to setup a free 30 minute conversation about how I might be able to provide the help you need. I look forward to hearing from you!

The Five Steps of Leadership Development

If you haven’t had a chance to read Dave & Jon Ferguson’s book, Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement, I recommend you do so this summer. 

In today’s post, I thought I’d share their very simple formula for leadership development. That is, how to train staff and volunteers (or anyone, for that matter) to do whatever it is they need to learn to do in both life and ministry. Don’t let the simplicity of these five steps deceive you. It’s a powerful and effective tool that you want to keep in your back pocket at all times. In fact, the authors of the book even wrote, “If there is one section of this book that I want you to photocopy and send to somebody else, it is this section.”

The Five Steps of Leadership Development

1. I do. You watch. We talk.

As an experienced leader leads a team, an apprentice takes the time to observe him or her. Within a few days the two should meet to discuss what the apprentice has observed. This debriefing time should include three simple questions: (1) “What worked?” (2) “What didn’t work?” and (3) “How can we improve?” This time of debriefing needs to continue throughout the process.

2. I do. You help. We talk.

In this phase of development, the leader gives the apprentice an opportunity to help lead in a particular area. For example, if someone is being developed to lead a student ministry small group, the leader might ask that person to lead the prayer time while the experienced leader leads the remainder of the time together. Again, this experience should be followed up with a one-on-one to talk.

3. You do. I help. We talk.

Now the apprentice transitions from supporting or helping the leader to taking on most of the leadership responsibilities of the team or group. If a person is being apprenticed to lead a team of sound technicians, he or she will operate the sound system and provide leadership for the other sound technicians. The more experienced leader now begins releasing responsibilities to the new, developing leader. As in the previous steps, the leader and apprentice leader should meet regularly to debrief the ministry experience.

4. You do. I watch. We talk.

The apprentice process is almost complete as the new leader grows increasingly more confident in his or her role. Consider how this step might look in a children’s ministry. A children’s group leader, at this point, would give his or her apprentice the opportunity to fulfill all the functions of leadership, with the more experienced leader now looking on and watching the new leader in action.

5. You do. Someone else watches.

This is where the process of reproducing comes full circle. The former apprentice is now leading and begins developing a new apprentice. Ideally, the leader who has developed and released several apprentices will continue to work with those leaders in a coaching capacity.

 
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

How To Offer Amazing Ministry With Not So Amazing People

I recently visited a local gym who was offering a week membership for free. I was truly impressed. They had a wide range of workout rooms and exercise equipment and a beautiful facility. When I arrived for the first time, they gave me a tour of the facility and made themselves available to help me get acclimated to any of the equipment I didn’t understand. The offer to help wasn’t really necessary since there were instructional signs and videos available explaining how to use each machine.

They converted an inexperienced and mildly overwhelmed guy (that’d be me) into a confident individual who had the right tools he needed to get great results. At the very minimum, it would be hard to NOT have at least an average workout, though I’d definitely rate my experience above average, if not exceptional. 

Great systems turned the wrong person into the right person and quickly converted average results into maximized results.

The Systems/People Matrix

Let me introduce a revolutionary matrix that, if properly applied, just might change your perspective on how to offer amazing ministry with not so amazing people.

 

I call this diagram the Systems/People Matrix. It has been adapted from a similar graph I found in Nelson Searcy’s e-book, “Healthy Systems, Healthy Church“). 

The point of this matrix is simple. When you have great systems, you can often recruit people who aren’t necessarily the ‘right ones’ and eventually develop them into the right people over time. Amazing ministry happens not just because we have the best people in place, but because we have great systems that give people time to become the best people.

Let’s look at each quadrant a little closer:

Down and to the Right

When you have poor systems, but great people, your end result is frustration. That is, the people serving are frustrated, and the longer they serve in that role the more frustrated they become. This often eventually leads to volunteer or staff turnover. They love doing what they are doing and are passionate about it, but they don’t feel valued or cared for and don’t feel like they are equipped or empowered to do the job right.

RESULT: Not so amazing ministry.

EXAMPLE 1: A Sunday School teacher shows up to teach the class and discovers that the toys are dirty and put away in the wrong boxes from last week. She spends the first ten minutes putting them in order and getting all the toy pieces back where they belong. Those ten minutes were supposed to be spent preparing the craft and quieting herself before everyone arrives. The next time she arrives to teach, she discovers all the crayons are broken and the cereal box was left open so the cereal is stale.

EXAMPLE 2: The drummer shows up for worship team rehearsal 10 minutes early to prepare and make sure the drums are setup the way he likes and so he can warm up. When the worship rehearsal time arrives he discovers only two people have arrived. He waits 15 minutes before everyone else gets there and takes the stage. It then takes another 15 minutes to do the sound check and get the monitors mixed properly. He wonders if he should just show up 30 minutes late from now on and forget about warming up.

Down and to the Left

If you don’t have good people in the designated role, and you don’t have any systems to serve them, you’ll end up with failure. There’s really no way meaningful ministry can happen consistently in that environment.

RESULT: No Ministry.

EXAMPLE 1: A Sunday School teacher doesn’t really care about doing anything other than making sure the kids don’t hurt themselves. She doesn’t particularly enjoy kids either, but she serves because she knows it’s important. Since there are no systems in place to provide great toys, craft supplies and a lesson plan to the teachers, she literally just comes every week and spends her time trying to keep the kids occupied and prevent them from hurting themselves. Afterwards, kids leave the room crying or bored and the teacher leaves exhausted and ready to quit. As a result, the parents are frustrated that their kids aren’t getting any valuable teaching and don’t want to attend class and it becomes increasingly difficult to find reliable volunteers to run the class.

EXAMPLE 2: A volunteer is recruited to build a website for the church because he has some web experience. Since nobody gave him any instruction, images or content, he just creates a basic and simple site that ends up missing a lot of crucial data. And since all he was recruited to do was build the site, and not manage it, three months after it’s completed most of the information on the site is dated and some of the pages are broken. Guests who visit the site often choose to visit somewhere else simply because the website is so outdated and unprofessional looking.

Up and to the Left

The top left quadrant is the one that fascinates me the most. In this quadrant you have great systems in place, but not the greatest people serving in those roles. Perhaps the people are new, immature, unskilled, or simply not passionate about what they are doing. Despite this, the results will very often be average and sometimes above average. A great example of this in the business world would be your local fast food joint, like McDonalds, Arby’s, or Taco Bell. I’m fairly certain most of those employees don’t dream about making fast food service a career path or have a lot of previous training flipping burgers and taking orders. And yet, it’s highly likely you will receive similar service and products no matter where you make your order in the entire world. Why? Amazing Systems. 

RESULT: Nearly Amazing Ministry.

EXAMPLE 1: A hesitant single adult has agreed to do a ‘3 month test drive’ as a Sunday School teacher. At first, she is nervous she made a bad decision because she has never worked with kids much. But after attending two sessions as an apprentice, receiving great follow-up training and walking into the classroom each week with everything in it’s place and simple, easy to follow, instructions on the inside door, she has decided it’s not that hard and a lot of fun. At the end of the 3 months, she’s committed to serve another year and has already proven to be the ‘right person for the job.’

EXAMPLE 2: A volunteer that normally comes in on Saturdays to fold and stuff the bulletins calls in sick the last minute. The secretary has a substitute list of potential backups, but they have never actually done the job. She makes the call and as the backup arrives she spends 5 minutes walking her through a checklist and showing her the machinery, which is also well labelled with instructions. As a result, the job gets done as expected and the volunteer felt like she was able to help the church ‘on the fly’.

Up and to the Right

This quadrant represents not average ministry or even above average, but maximized ministry. Staff and volunteers are serving where they believe they are called to serve and they have the training and gifts needed to do it. Since there are great systems in place, they spend a lot of their time and energy actually ministering to people and improving the overall ministry of the church. Often, they move on to become the influencers within that sphere of responsibility. 

Result: Amazing Ministry.

EXAMPLE 1: The sound tech loves to do sound ministry, and over time he has learned how to do it well and is good at it. On top of that, the expectations, systems, and tasks necessary to do the job are well defined. As a result, he helps recruit and train new sound techs and is currently working on learning some advanced tech that will eventually help the church know how to best place the speakers in the room to maximize their capacity and actually minimize loud hot-spots in the room.

EXAMPLE 2: A Sunday School teacher serves twice a month in the four year old class and absolutely loves it. He actually looks forward to those Sundays. Since he knows exactly what to expect each Sunday morning there is little stress associated in the job. In fact, the children’s director has created room in the timeline of ministry to kids to allow him to personally pray over each child every week. He recently started a blog for parents of preschoolers at the church and is personally ensuring that each preschool teacher writes on it once a month. His love for the ministry is so contagious that the adults in his small group are thinking about volunteering too. 

I have a challenge for you . . . write out each area of ministry or responsibility you have delegated to other staff or volunteers. Now ask yourself which quadrant that ministry falls in, and what you need to do to improve the systems to better serve those serving within them.

Five Questions Every Church Must Answer

The answer to these five questions will drive what you do as a local church. They will impact the activities and programs you host. Ultimately, they will determine your effectiveness in reaching both your community and your congregation for Jesus Christ. 

1. How do we attract people to our church?

Sadly, many church leaders fail to seriously address this question. They assume people will visit the church because they see the church building and a welcome sign on the front lawn or they assume regular attendees will regularly invite people to the Sunday Service. They scratch their heads and wonder what people’s problem is. One pastor once told me that first time guests were often heard making comments like, “Your church is the best kept secret in our town!”

In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Your community doesn’t need to see your building, they need to see “the light of the world” in you and your congregation. They need to see that your church is a place where transformation takes place. Where lives are changed. Where people meet the True and Living God. You need to find ways to shout from the mountain that God actually shows up at your church each week. People need to get the feeling they are missing out on something important.

What is your church’s strategy to attract people?

2. How do we assimilate guests into our church?

Of the five questions, this is what pastors ask me more than any other. It can be very frustrating to see 3-4 guests walk through the front doors every week and yet not experience growth as a church. Sometimes guests will even return for a second or third visit, but eventually they sort of just disappear and we never know what happened. What makes matters worse, they usually tell us they really enjoyed the service! We can’t help but secretly ask ourselves: Was it something I said? Did someone offend them? Are we weird and just don’t know it? Why won’t they come back?

More often than not, the problem is that church leaders and longstanding members have blinders on. They are unable to properly see the church environment through the eyes of a guest or newcomer. This is fairly normal and to be expected, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. Creating a ‘guest culture’ should be high on every church’s priority list and should include finding ways to ensure guests have a positive experience and are tactfully invited to come again.

Another reason why this question is hard to answer is because we fail to properly define ‘assimilate’ when we ask it. Is it when they have visited 3 times or 6 or 8? Is it when they join a small group or get involved? Is it when they become a member? It may be different for every church, but at some point, newcomers need to feel like they are one of the ‘insiders’ at your church. We need to make that as easy as possible!

In Acts 15, Paul said, “It is my judgement, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for Gentiles who are turning to God.” In other words, we need to pay special and close attention to our new attendees as they are “turning to God.” 

What is your church’s strategy to assimilate people?

3. How do we connect people with one another in our church?

I often tell church leaders, “You can make a lot of mistakes as a church and people will keep coming if they are connected.” Certainly, the answer to this question is an important part of ‘how do we assimilate people.’ But it’s more than about just getting newcomers to stay. It’s about having a church where people truly care about one another, and show it in practical ways. A church that successfully accomplishes this doesn’t have to rely on the pastor(s) to do all the ministry in the church, because people organically minister to one another all the time. 

In today’s culture, getting people to ‘connect’ with others in the church is a LOT easier said than done. But it is a necessity if we are to go beyond the ‘superficial’ in ministry to one another. And despite the indoctrination of social media in the world, nothing will ever truly beat face to face interactions. Getting people to actually do that is a challenge some pastors have literally given up addressing. No matter how discouraging or hard it may be, we should ‘not grow weary in doing good’ and continue forward until we have discovered ways to do it for our church community.

The author of Hebrews so aptly reminds us, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” That passage isn’t just talking about the Sunday morning experience. It’s talking about small groups, medium groups, even 1 on 1 connections – all so we may “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

What is your church’s strategy for connecting people?

4. How do we disciple people in our church?

Any church leader who doesn’t know what the “Great Commission” is has missed his calling. It’s Christ’s final mandate to His disciples, and to each one of us. Entire sermons, series, books and even volumes of books have been given to us to explore Jesus command to us to spread the Gospel around the globe, as well as in our own communities. It’s hard to miss the four primary commands found in this passage:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19

Go. Make Disciples. Baptize. Teach.

From what I’ve seen, local churches can be all over the place on answering this question. Some of the reason may be differences in opinion or even theology. But I think the biggest difference is in intentionality. Are we doing church the way we’ve always done it, because that’s what church’s do? Or are we intentionally choosing to do {put program/activity/service here} because we really believe it will disciple people? Only you (and God) can answer that question!

Either way, discipleship should be a critical part of your church’s service to the congregation. This is going to include helping people learn how to discover God for themselves through activities like Bible reading, prayer and missions trips; teaching them Godly principles regarding evangelism, parenting, relationships, stewardship, etc.; and equipping them to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil by living a victorious life.

What is your church’s strategy for discipling people?

5. How do we engage people in our church?

An indicator of a healthy church is found in the level of involvement of the attendees in the ministries within your church and to your community. When the congregation relies almost entirely on the pastor, something is broken. The “body” has turned into a malformed entity that will never effectively serve it’s mission in the community. Last week I spoke at a small rural church that is run entirely by volunteers. It’s an active church with several great programs and activities for it’s attendees. But there is nobody on staff. They are hopeful to eventually hire a part time pastor, but in the meantime, they have discovered something powerful – when the body works together, ministry can and will happen.

Getting people involved tends to be something many church leaders talk about a lot, but struggle actually doing. The barriers they face are often complicated to completely unravel. It often seems easier to just do things themselves and rely on a few key influencers in the church to handle the rest. But this cripples the body of Christ. Paul was quite clear in 1 Corinthians that we all make up different parts of the body of Christ:

“But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” 1 Cor. 12:18-19

Helping people find their place in the body is going to serve both the volunteer and the rest of the body. Even if people aren’t placed perfectly, the whole body will benefit and grow. That growth will bring change, which will force people to adjust what they are doing and where they serve. With good leadership and a lot of time, people will eventually drift towards their sweet spots of ministry. 

What is your church’s strategy for engaging people?

Seats on the Bus

In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins says, “We expected that good-to-great leaders would begin by setting a new vision and strategy. We found instead that they first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats – and then they figured out where to drive it. The old adage, ‘People are your most important asset’ turns out to be wrong. People are not your most important asset. The right people are.”

He hit the nail on the head. Ministry is not just all about having people around doing things; it’s also about paying attention to what they are doing as well. Unfortunately, I think this ideas sort of locks many of us up. We think, “How am I supposed to find the exact right seat for everyone?” Ugh. Some of us can hardly figure out where WE fit in, much less trying to figure out which seats on the bus everyone else is supposed to fit.

MY RECOMMENDATION: START WITH SECTIONS.

What if we just started by getting people in the right section of the bus instead? Generally, we have three kinds of people in our church: Creatives, Doers & Leaders. Yes, I know. Sometimes people can be a mixture of one or more of those. But generally speaking, if we know what kind of people we’re dealing with, we can seat them where they fit best and worry about finding their exact seat as time goes on.

The back of the bus – Creatives

Everyone knows that the troublemakers like to sit in the back. If you’re sitting back there, you probably want to be far away from what’s really going on. You aren’t interested in where the bus is going right now. You just want to utilize your creativity to dream, talk, and get into just enough trouble that the bus driver doesn’t notice. 

This is where strategic thinkers and creatives sit. They are big-picture people. They like to try new things. They are sometimes critical thinkers (I didn’t say critical people!) They are the ones you want in the room when you’re dreaming about the future, evaluating how things are going and discussing creative, new things to do or ways to do them. 

These people don’t need a lot of authority to make choices, they just need a platform for their thoughts and ideas to be heard. Great leaders will gather them together to hear them out and learn from them. They also tend to be early adopters, ready to jump in with both feet when it’s time for change.

The front of the bus – Leaders

If you’re sitting at the front of the bus it’s likely because you want to be close to the action. You want to see who’s coming in and out the door. You want to talk to the bus driver. You want to see where the bus is going next and you want to play a part in how you will get there.

This is where the the leaders sit; the ones who make decisions. These are the people in your organization who will actually decide the future and direction of the church. Sometimes the Creatives & the Leaders are the same people. However, often it’s wise to have them sit in a separate section of the bus. Of course, if you’re driving a small bus (a small church/ministry) you don’t always have that luxury. 

In a perfect world, the Creatives come up with some great ideas, feedback and insights and the Leaders can then determine which one’s will work best for the bus based on it’s mission and where it’s going.

The middle of the bus – Doers

If you’re sitting in the middle of the bus you are likely in your own world. You’ve got your iPod in or your just hanging with everyone else in that section. Sometimes you like to listen in on the talk in the back of the bus and sometimes you like to sit near the front to get a feel for the action, without having to be involved. You aren’t cut out for the intensity of the back of the bus and you aren’t really super interested in where the bus is going. You just like being IN the bus.

This is where the doers sit. These are the people who will do whatever is necessary to keep the bus moving and support the vision of the leaders. They are the ones who will dig their heels in and grind out the plans you have made. Your doers don’t make a lot of decisions, and they don’t want to. They do the work based on the decisions that have already been made, and they do it well.

About Your Bus

Here are a few closing observations about how these sections work (or don’t work) in different ‘buses’ or ministries.

  • In my experience, the middle of the bus (Doers) is where the vast majority of people sit, like 90%. There are usually only a few seats in the front and a few seats in the back dedicated to Creatives and Leaders.
  • If a bus has too FEW Doers, it end up coming up with a lot of ideas/plans that never get done. Innovative ideas & new paths don’t get built. The bus doesn’t stop when it should to take on new passengers. It sometimes doesn’t get cleaned properly and needs a fresh coat of paint. You get the idea.
  • If a bus has too FEW Leaders, the bus tends to take loopy circles and gets distracted going places it doesn’t need to go. It also runs inefficiently and needs to spend a lot of time in the shop with repairs. Often, the bus looks great but is going nowhere important.
  • If a bus has too FEW Creatives it takes the path it’s always known, even when there are better paths to take. The bus stays old and eventually becomes uninteresting to prospective new passengers. 
  • The smaller the church, the more Creatives and Leaders have to double up and also be Doers. There is less of a clear demarcation between the different seats.

9 Reasons Why People Don’t Delegate

People chuckle when I say, “I like to delegate.” I guess it must be true. To me, delegation is part of the Ephesians 4 process of ‘preparing God’s people for works of service.’ When I can successfully release, equip & empower others to serve it seems as if I am propelling them towards their God-given purposes and calling. It helps that I can do more of what God’s called me to as well!

But I also have a very personal understanding of why we tend to procrastinate when it comes to delegating tasks, projects and leadership to others. Here are 9 reasons I can think of why we don’t delegate.

  • Not Enough Time
    It’s ironic, but true. The very thing we don’t have time to do is what will eventually give us more time. Getting started is often the hardest part. When will we find the time to recruit, train & keep track of what others are doing? Honestly, I wonder if it’s not really that we don’t have the time. Perhaps it’s simply that we haven’t made delegation a priority? Just a thought.
  • Losing Control
    When we invest a lot of time, energy & passion into a project or ministry, it can simply be real hard to let it go. Delegation requires some calculated risk-taking. It means we won’t be holding the steering wheel anymore. Which also means we won’t be able to control how things are done. Of course, when we give into this fear, what we’re really saying is that nobody can do it better than us – which probably isn’t really true. Giving up control is a basic ingredient of leadership. If you can’t do it, you’re not leading.
  • Not Getting Credit
    I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy some praise every once in a while. For some of us, this is more important than others. But ultimately, this motivation is simply self-centered. If I’m not releasing others to lead, manage or ‘do’ because I’m addicted to back patting, then what I’m really saying is that I’m more important than the potential team I have sitting around me. 
  • Losing Tasks You Love
    This is a more complicated excuse for not delegating. On the one hand, I could argue that it’s self-centered to keep the tasks we love for ourselves. However, it could be that the reason you love to do them is because it’s what God has for you. I know people who have intentionally refused promotions in the workplace simply because they don’t believe the next rung in the ladder is what God has called them to do. That said, when this is the challenge we face, I believe hitting the floor and submitting the issue to God is the best solution you can find.
  • You Can Do It Better
    At the beginning, this is almost always true. It’s also probably the number one reason why we don’t delegate. Years ago, a mentor told me this. If someone else can do it 80% as well as you, it’s probably worth releasing it to them. Here’s the key: as long as I’m committed to equipping and training them, this can work. Over the years I’ve watched a lot of great people rise far above their leaders. But they rarely began that way. It didn’t happen until those leaders took the risk and let them struggle and fail at times.
  • Delegated Out of a Job
    Every once in a while our reasons might be purely due to the worry that, if I give away my responsibilities, maybe I might find myself out of a job. I have two thoughts about this. First, maybe that’s true. If so, then I can only assume that it’s for the best. If others can do what you’re doing better, then it may be time to trust the Lord’s leading for both you and where you are working. This releases you to find the place where you can shine. Second, and this is more likely to be true, if you can successfully delegate leadership to others, you will very likely prove your value to your leaders. True leaders rarely get rid of others who know how to lead. 
  • You Don’t Trust Others
    It’s a fact of life. Other people are sometimes not trustworthy. It’s very important that, when we delegate, we do so to the RIGHT people. That said, often our mistrust of others can end up crippling our leadership. We can end up ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ if we’re not careful. Leaders take calculated risks. So calculate and take some risks.
  • Saying ‘No’ For Them
    In my 20+ years of ministry I’ve heard more reasons why people CAN’T do things than I have ever heard why they can. What’s ironic is that it’s not the actual person who had those reasons. It was the leadership team that was considering calling and asking them to get involved! We sit around and tell ourselves, “They’re too busy.” or “They’ve been going through a hard time.” or “They are already involved somewhere else.” When we do that, we are stripping those people from the very opportunities they may unknowingly be waiting for. Don’t say no for others, let them do it instead, if they want to.
  • You Don’t Know How
    It’s hard to recruit and delegate others. In ministry, we tend to assume that if I’m the leader or director of the ministry then I should know how to recruit others to join the team. That’s presumptuous. Businesses spend millions of dollars every year training and paying for professional communicators to promote and recruit people to their causes. I recommend you stop assuming everyone knows how to recruit & delegate and begin getting books, articles and speakers in to train your team instead. A great little book you might consider starting with is Andy Stanley’s, “Making Vision Stick“.

What other reasons can you think of why we don’t delegate?

This article was originally published on this blog in December of 2013. photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

where there are no oxen . . .

This article was originally posted on Transforming Leader the winter of 2010. Enjoy!


there-is-no-oxen

I remember talking to a pastor once at a conference about the challenges he was facing at his church. He jokingly said, “Church work would be a lot easier if it weren’t for the people.” I understood that he was just dumping on me and that he really did love the ministry and his people; but I remember the remark because I’ve heard it many times over the years (and probably have said it a couple times too).

We all know that people are often difficult to be with, work with, and lead. They can be self-centered, egotistical, critical, needy, stupid, hurtful and so much more (just like you and me). Sometimes it can be so discouraging watching them stumble through life choices despite godly input and advice.

It’s no wonder that we pastors and leaders are often reticent or even scared to get others involved in leadership with us. The potential for conflict, discord, and crisis just doesn’t seem worth it. The idea of inviting other people with all of their internal garbage to join in building the kingdom dream God has given us seems really risky.

Is it possible that it just might BE too risky for you? Jesus cautions us to carefully count the cost before we commit to a cause for Him in Luke 14:28-30.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”

People Risk Taking
Perhaps you don’t really need to hear it, but I am feeling prompted to press the point. If you want to see your ministry grow you must be willing to make some people risks. That means ministry will get more challenging; but it also means your ministry has room for God inspired momentum.

We’ve all heard the verse in proverbs, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests.” Proverbs 14:4.

Clean and empty sounds good, orderly, and predictable; but clean won’t plow the fields. Clean won’t sow the seeds. And clean won’t bring in the harvest. The oxen were critical to the success of the local farmers. Without the oxen and the mess that came with them there would be no farm.

The same is true for your ministry. Without a team of people and growing leaders around you the work of the Lord will not grow and prosper.

You know what those farmers spent a lot of time doing? Cleaning up after the oxen. They didn’t go home and complain to their wives, “Those stupid beasts! Why don’t they just quit crapping all over the place? What’s the deal with them anyway? Farming would be a lot easier without them!”

Hey, if you’ve actually got messes to clean up, thank the Lord, roll up your sleeves, grab a shovel, and dig in. You are pointing in a direction that may well lead towards an abundant harvest.

photo credit: caese via photopin cc

zombies, athletes and superheros

This article was originally posted on Transforming Leader the winter of 2010. Enjoy!


  

In a past post I attempted to convince you that you shouldn’t be strategizing, planning, and goal-setting alone. God never intended or planned for you to be the ‘Jack of all Trades’ pastor. Not convinced? Read 1 Corinthians 12 again – you probably preached on that passage or referred to it sometime this year. It applies to you too! I don’t know which part of the body you represent in your local church – but I do know that you need the other parts for the work of God to be a success through you.

One of my favorite people is my spiritual and ministry mentor, Pastor Mike Cavanaugh. He serves as President of Elim Bible Institute and Vice President of the ministerial association I serve with, Elim Fellowship. He has been a great example of someone who is not afraid to find his niche and then let others serve with and around him in theirs. I’ll never forget one instance many years ago when he was serving as the Lead Pastor of Elim Gospel Church.  He asked me to lead all of our church strategic meetings, with him sitting as one of the team members! He wasn’t afraid to relinquish control in order to see the church grow. He didn’t feel the need to do everything himself. He was open to allowing others to try, fail, and eventually grow to become all or more than he could become himself in various areas.

There are three kinds of leadership teams:

  • Solo leaders drive a bus-load of zombies. Everyone just goes where they say and nobody thinks to get much involved.
  • Good leaders drive a bus-load of athletes. They carry committed people who will go out of their way to serve, help, and grow under their leaders tutelage and coaching.
  • Great leaders drive a bus-load of superhero’s. These leaders have the self confidence to allow other leaders to serve alongside them; they love to release the team around them to excel beyond them.


One Question Survey

Where do you stand when it comes to gathering, equipping, and releasing others to serve with you in the calling God has for the ministry you lead?

On a scale of 1 – 5…

1 = “I don’t have a team of people around me. I pretty much do everything myself. I either don’t trust others to get involved or I don’t believe there are others around me capable of doing what needs done in this church/ministry.”

2 = somewhere between 1 and 3.

3 = “I have a team of people around me. They are committed to the ministry and to me. They are expanding what I am capable of doing because my time, effort, energy, and ideas are amplified with their presence. However, none of them are offering something to the team that I couldn’t offer myself. Some have leadership gifts, but most don’t have much of an opportunity to be totally released in them.

4 = somewhere between 3 and 5.

5 = “I have a team of committed leaders surrounding me. They are my dream team. Many if not all of them provide leadership and strengths to this ministry that I could not provide myself if I were in their shoes. They have surpassed me in many areas or are well on their way to surpassing me.”

 

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