Church leadership is all about team leadership. And in a volunteer-rich environment the need to truly build, encourage, and motivate teams is at a premium.
In the crush of things to get done and in the challenge of working around the schedules of people who have job and family obligations outside of their ministry responsibilities it’s easy to forget the routine ‘care and maintenance’ of volunteers.
Here are three best practices for caring for your volunteer leaders.
- Be lavish when it comes to giving credit. Constantly deflect attention and kudos away from yourself. Talk up your teams. Share their wins with the whole congregation. And affirm them individually, always communicating two things: I see how hard you have worked and I appreciate it; and Here’s how your work has contributed to our mission.
- Befriend the elephants in the room. Fair or not, most people think of pastors as conflict-avoidant. In fact, we should be pros at healthy conflict. One of the ways to demonstrate a willingness to lead and to gain credibility is to be the first to bring up the tough stuff. Always do this in the spirit of ‘let’s mobilize to figure out how to tackle this challenge together’. Avoid scapegoating or blame-shifting at all costs. Handled correctly, those noisy smelly elephants can become your best friends because they will build the leadership capacity of your team.
- Be clear about your expectations. You have a huge ministry event Saturday night. It seems obvious to you that your core leaders will be present. Sunday morning you radiate frustration in light of the fact that about a quarter of them didn’t show up. But you never asked them to. Remember this – “I can’t hold people accountable for something I never told them about”. Keep your expectations to a minimum – but when you have them, make them crystal clear. Your busy volunteers will be thankful that you let them know so they can establish their own boundaries and make their own plans to be involved.
How about you? What are some of the best practices you have discovered for leading volunteer teams?