4 Traits of Leaders Who Thrive In Developing Volunteers  

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Why do some leaders seem to be more natural at developing volunteers while others struggle? The good news is that this is not a mystery, and the principles and skills can be learned.

Leading volunteers isn’t as simple as “Do you want to be an usher?” It’s part of a spiritual process, a transforming process that moves a person from a predominantly natural worldview to a Kingdom mindset.

If we treat volunteers like a mere transaction, (we need you to fill this role,) rather than part of transforming a community, the end results will always be less than desired.

I’m not suggesting that any leader would treat volunteers poorly, isn’t appreciative or has the wrong motives. But issues of pace and pressure, (demands of ministry,) can cause us move more quickly than we are able to communicate our heart while building teams.

The following are three fundamental principles that help establish a strong foundation for leading volunteers.

  • Our passion for building great people must be greater than our passion for building a great church.
  • People are not the means to an end in church ministry, they are the focus of our attention, and the purpose for which we serve.
  • Leaders and volunteers alike are human, the process is messy not perfect. Therefore, a measure of grace in both directions is essential.

Our passion for building great people must be greater than our passion for building a great church.Click & Tweet!

4 Traits of Leaders Who Thrive in Developing Volunteers

1) They demonstrate an awareness and understanding of human nature in contrast to redeemed nature.

Even the apostle Paul said about himself, “What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. (The message) See Romans 7:14-23 NIV

This is true of all of us. And we’re aware of simple realities like the difference between those who sign up and those who show up. I’m obviously not suggesting that’s a sin, but it is human nature.

However, in order to avoid frustration and intentionally extend grace there are basic realities we need to understand.

Human nature does not naturally and consistently seek to serve others. Human nature tends to drift back to self and put self first.

I catch myself “drifting back” often, like in traffic or in line at a grocery store behind someone who is looking for their coupons. I can be far too impatient with others, and then I remember how patient God is with me.

There is good news.

Redeemed nature in Christ will overcome our old nature as we choose to follow Jesus’ example, listen to the prompts of the Holy Spirit, and therefore seek to put others first.

Putting God and others first is still a battle, but now the battle can be won. “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here.”

II Corinthians 5:17

As leaders we can champion the process of spiritual maturity in our volunteers by encouraging and inspiring each person, challenging them with something meaningful and making the connection to God’s purpose and plan clear.

2) They possess big picture thinking about people development.

It’s easy to fall prey to small thinking under the pressure to increase the size of your volunteer teams. We can even get stuck there. That kind of limited thinking sees and responds only to the immediate demands of the week or the current season.

Big picture thinking allows you to see with a longer view in mind.

Volunteer development is an invitation for someone to participate in something much larger than they could achieve on their own. It’s an invitation to join God’s purpose and plan. It’s eternal in nature.

This invitation to serve others is:

  • Redemptive – It values people on a spiritual level
  • Strategic – It advances the Kingdom of God
  • Empowering – It gives people the opportunity to discover their specific part in God’s purpose.

Now let’s be honest, those three bulleted thoughts are not the first things that come to mind when it’s Saturday night and we are short on volunteers in the nursery for Sunday. At that point, we just need to make sure its covered. We all understand that.

But the more we think this way and lead our volunteer culture to function with these three underpinnings, candidly, the less we’ll have Saturday night scrambles.Volunteer development is an invitation for someone to participate in something much larger than they could achieve on their own. It’s an invitation to join God’s purpose and plan. It’s eternal in nature.Click & Tweet!

3) They feed people more than need people.

If you need people more than you feed people, you will soon be leading from empty. And when you lead from empty, in time, your leadership lacks meaning and joy.

This may sound counterintuitive because “feeding” (shepherding and caring for) people can empty you.

But here’s the difference.

Feeding (shepherding) people fills you because it’s fulfilling. A full heart will always energize a tired body and helps sustain a weary soul. This gives you spiritual leadership stamina.

Here are several warning signs that your need for people is greater than how you feed people, as you lead volunteers.

  • Your joy level is low.
  • Your frustration level is high.
  • You focus is on quick fixes rather than values-driven long-term thinking.
  • People have become a bother to deal with rather than an honor to serve.
  • The pressure begins to cloud the purpose.
  • The demand for numbers overtakes the reward of stories of life-change.

A good leader:

  • Loves their volunteers
  • Serves their volunteers with their best interests in mind
  • Protects their volunteers spiritually by:
  • Teaching and affirming Biblical truth
  • Praying for God’s favor and blessing
  • Challenging and guiding toward spiritual maturity

If you need people more than you feed people, you will soon be leading from empty. And when you lead from empty, in time, your leadership lacks meaning and joy.Click & Tweet!

4) They are positive in nature and full of faith in outlook.

If you throw a party will people show up?

There are parties that are so packed with people you can hardly get in. There are others where there’s chips and guacamole leftover for a week.

Leadership isn’t about personality, but having a positive disposition and strong faith in God is a game changer. The good news is that both are a choice.

Whether or not a leader draws people in, depends in large part on their consistent attitude, overall disposition and general perspective in life.  …Is your glass half empty or half full?

I’m drawn toward people who have a smile, see the bright side and are forward thinking. Aren’t you? So are your volunteers. If you make life and ministry fun, they’ll have fun too, it’s contagious.

In that kind of environment it’s so much easier to encourage and guide people in their spiritual growth and understanding of the real reason they serve.

Serving is a blast but it’s about eternity.Leadership isn’t about personality, but having a positive disposition and strong faith in God is a game changer. The good news is that both are a choice.Click & Tweet!