4 Time-tested Principles to Help Strengthen Your Volunteer Teams

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How many volunteers would you guess are in the U.S.?

According to Americorps there are 60.7 million people in the US who volunteer in a wide array of organizations, and TeamStage states that over 1 Billion people volunteer world wide.

Yet, even with this strong volunteer force, and potential for more, most church leaders find that developing and retaining volunteers is one of their most difficult ongoing responsibilities.

Recruiting and leading volunteer teams can be challenging, but we know that the passionate heart of one volunteer unleashed and empowered is more powerful than anything a paycheck can deliver.  

Gathering, training, and encouraging volunteers has new challenges in our current culture, but the concept isn’t a new one. Take a look at this quick review from the book of Acts and notice the similarities to today!

The Early Church:The leaders could not keep up with the needs of the people within the growing and changing church.In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.  Acts 6:1

  • The leaders gathered the disciples to bring principle-based clarity to the problem.So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Acts 6:2

  • The natural pressures of a growing church and clarifying of ministry priorities requires careful selection of others to help solve the problems and accomplish the ministry.Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them. Acts 6:3

  • The leaders re-focused their attention to specific ministries and the plan met with favor among the people.…and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word. This proposal pleased the whole group… Acts 6:4-5

  • The “volunteers” were accepted and empowered by the leaders, and the church continued to thrive and grow.  They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. Acts 6:6-7

4 Principles to Help Strengthen Your Volunteer Teams

1) Our passion for developing strong disciples must be greater than our passion to grow a large church.

Strong, mature and faithful disciples and a great church are obviously connected but it’s the order in which you place them that makes all the difference.

If your goal is to grow a large church, that can be done with great preaching and programs, but an enduring church with strength and resilience needs maturing disciples who become leaders.

Growing disciples and developing leaders may or may not produce a very large church, but it produces fruit, and the result is changed lives.

I’m all for larger churches, but I’m equally a fan of smaller churches. My passion is to see every church grow while God determines how large each one will become.

In a growing church of any size, a strong, vibrant and increasing number of volunteers thrive best with strong discipleship in a leadership culture.

What is your strategy to accomplish this? There is more than one way, so choose the best way for your church and remain intentional and consistent in your execution.

Our passion for developing strong disciples must be greater than our passion to grow a large church. Click & Tweet!

2) The people of the church are not the helpers for ministry, they are the heroes of ministry.

The Biblical model does not teach us that the people are merely helpers of the pastor’s ministry. The pastors (and staff) are responsible to equip and empower people do to the ministry God has called and gifted them to do.

Common misunderstanding # 1 – The church hires the pastor to do the ministry.

Common misunderstanding # 2 – The people help the pastor do his or her ministry.

Correct understanding of Ephesians 4:11-12 – The pastor equips and encourages the people to do their ministry.

Few things are more humbling than to come alongside faithful volunteers who give generously of their time and talent for the progress of the church and advancement of God’s Kingdom.

Help your congregation discover their spiritual gifts and find their ministry. Train them well and empower them to serve.

Few things are more humbling than to come alongside faithful volunteers who give generously of their time and talent for the progress of the church and advancement of God’s Kingdom. Click & Tweet!

3) Volunteer teams partner with the pastoral staff and God for eternal outcomes.

It’s important to see and communicate the grand and divine concept of partnering with God. Don’t let the pressure of recruiting dumb down the true meaning and experience of serving.

Volunteer development is an invitation to participate in something larger than anyone could achieve on their own. It’s an invitation to join God’s purpose and plan! It is deeply meaningful and eternal in nature.

When a person understands they are created on purpose with a purpose and literally partner with God and His plan, few things are more meaningful or motivating. And together we can accomplish far more than when we do ministry on our own.

Always recruit to a vision not a job description. The volunteers need to know they are part of something big that truly matters.

4) Volunteers need vision, organization and training, but it’s your care, appreciation and encouragement that keep them going.

Vision is critical and organizational clarity is essential for happy, healthy and productive volunteer teams.

Vision and clarity of expectations for your volunteer teams helps them endure any stress or difficulty they may encounter. Maintaining a clear sense of direction and what a win looks like matters.

Candidly, few things will frustrate your volunteers more than inconsistent or non-existent communication. It’s not necessary to bombard them with long emails or lengthy meetings, but keep them current and well informed. Remain available and respond quickly to their questions and needs.

With all that said and true, it’s the heart that matters. When your volunteer teams know you care about them, appreciate them, pray for them, and support them, that’s the emotional fuel that encourages them and keeps them going with joyful hearts.

Encouragement is the lifeline for your volunteers to enjoy a productive ministry!  

When your volunteer teams know you care about them, appreciate them, pray for them, and support them, that’s the emotional fuel that encourages them and keeps them going with joyful hearts. Click & Tweet!