Here's a blog from Breeze Church Management Systems. Their slogan is "We're sharing everything we're learning as we help churches simplify." This is a topic we don't always hear about, but is one of vast importance in our churches. How important are your volunteers to you?
Recently, my team embarked on a project. We asked ourselves:
“What’s the one thing?”
In other words, what’s the one thing that if we focused on it, it could impact everything else in our ministry in a positive way? We wanted to focus. Our desire was greater effectiveness in our ministry.
After some research and a series of team debates, we landed on volunteers. In our ministry, our success rises and falls on the effectiveness and longevity of our volunteers. My suspicion is that your ministry is the same. Whether you lead a children’s ministry, student ministry, hospitality ministry or care ministry, the number and quality of your volunteers is a determining factor in your success. So, here’s a question: How do you inspire volunteers towards greater effectiveness?
This is a question that we’ve been wrestling with and although we’re not completely where we want to be, I think we’re headed in the right direction. Here are a few ideas.
Stories that Need to be Told
Over time we’ve come to recognize that nothing inspires like a good story. We’re built to resonate with a good story. This is why we love a good movie or book so much. Because of this we include a segment in each of our staff meetings called, “Stories that need to be told.” During this time, we share stories of impact in our ministry. These stories remind of why we do what we do and they energize us toward our goals. In short, a good story inspires.
Recently, we decided to expand this tradition by also starting each of our volunteer meetings with “Stories that need to be told.” The truth is nothing inspires volunteers like a good story — a good story that reminds them of three things:
If you want to inspire volunteers, you, as a leader have to become a story collector. Everywhere you go in your ministry and everyone you talk you, your job is to collect stories and then retell them in ways that inspire the team.
Most volunteers battle with a nagging question: “Am I doing a good job?” Everyone hates to fail. It’s part of human nature. We want to win. We want to succeed.
The trouble with volunteering is often that the win isn’t clear. In my experience, when the win isn’t clear, human nature often leads us to believe we are failing. Volunteers who believe they are failing won’t last long.
The remedy for this is clear wins. When your volunteers know exactly what it looks like to win, they are very likely to hit the mark.
So, in your ministry, what’s the win? Can you clearly and succinctly state the win for each volunteer role? If not, it’s time to gather your team and create one sentence job descriptions for each volunteer role. The clarity will inspire your volunteers.
Something I’ve learned in ministry that is incredibly frustrating and yet liberating is that people only want to know what they need to know only when they need to know it. It’s the principle of “right now.” What I mean by “right now” is “what is immediately next?” It’s perceived as “right now.”
In other words, your volunteers aren’t going to catch most of the information that you share concerning what they need to know next month or next semester but they will listen attentively to what they need to know next week, or even better, what they need to know today.
For years, I bucked this phenomenon saying things like “people need to plan!” and “people need to care about what is coming!”… and finally, “people are just the worst!”.
And then I found myself ignoring most of the communications from my kids’ teachers that didn’t pertain to right now. Sigh. I am those people.
Here’s what I’ve learned: The way to maximize your communication impact and keep your sanity is to focus on what matters right now. Why? Because that is when people are actually listening and you are serving them well by helping them prepare for and understand what is coming up next.
If you want to inspire your volunteers, adjust your communication and training plan to focus on what is immediately next. Focus on the right now.
Two recent conversations led me to a breakthrough in understanding encouragement. The first conversation was between myself and a co-worker. My co-worker told me that when people write him a letter of encouragement it’s basically a waste of time. He doesn’t even really read them. I was like: “Wow. You’re a horrible person!”
That was conversation number one. Conversation number two involved my entire team as one of our team leaders led us through a conversation about the book “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace”.
You probably know Gary Chapman from “The Five Love Languages”. The book follows the same ideas but in the work-place. In the course of our team conversation, we all discovered that everyone on our team has one or two languages of appreciation that really speak volumes and one that really speaks nothing.
What I learned from this exercise is that while I may believe I’m appreciating the heck out of one of my teammates, they may not be receiving it at all. Hence, my teammate who could care less about an encouraging note.
One of the best ways to inspire your volunteers is to appreciate them really well. It may be worth your while to explore this book and learn more about speaking the appreciation languages of your volunteers.
The last strategy for inspiring volunteers is the easiest and quite possibly the most effective. Food. That’s right. People love food and when you show up for a meeting and there are great snacks, you know it changes your mindset completely!
If morale is low among your volunteers, you probably have a lot of work to do to get moving in the right direction but quality snacks can provide a quick boost.
Let’s wrap this up. For us, everything rises and falls on the effectiveness of our volunteers. I’m guessing, you are much the same. So, how do we inspire our volunteers towards greatness? Tell stories, provide clarity around the wins, focus on the right now, target encouragement and for crying out loud feed them!
I would encourage you not to become overwhelmed with this list but rather to focus on whatever one thing you believe would create the most immediate impact. Let’s inspire our volunteers!
This post was written by Aaron Buer on June 14, 2017 for www.breezechms.com.
But, those who have not been so fortunate, may still be seeking approval from authority figures even as adults, never quite feeling they measure up to others around them.
Words kill, words give life; they are either poison or fruit . . . you choose (Proverbs 18:21, MSG).
If we are honest, even the best parents can give a mixture of blessing and cursing, healing and hurt within moments. Florence Littauer, author of Silver Boxes, inspires us to weigh our words knowing the value of encouragement and the pain caused by criticism. She shares an illustration of how many building blocks it takes for a child to construct a castle, yet all it takes is one kick to knock them all down. I was challenged that even when giving so many compliments and words of support, all it took was one sharp word of correction and my children would experience pain. I am not saying we should not give instruction or discipline, but we can ask God to show us how to encourage positive behavior rather than focusing on the negative.
Watch the way you talk. Say only what helps, each word a gift (Ephesians 4:29, MSG).
...In the Old Testament, God tells Abraham that his offspring will be instruments of blessing to the whole world both in their deeds as well as with their words (see Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:16-18). From these early examples, the power of blessing began to develop, and we see it became a practice for generations. Their very names were often used as a form of blessing and prophetic promise based on the meaning of each name. This was evidenced by the names Zelophehad gave to his five daughters, declaring their individual gifts and abilities which he prophetically spoke over them (Numbers 27:1; Joshua 17:3-6). A patriarch’s final blessing was important in biblical times as a matter of inheritance rights. In addition, some final blessings included prophetic statements that revealed God’s supernatural power at work in and through those that received the blessing.
...The principle is clear: God has given parents and grandparents the privilege and authority to speak blessing over their children and, with that blessing, to advance life, health, growth, joy and self-confidence! We need to learn to incorporate this privilege as a dynamic aspect of raising our children and blessing them in every way we possibly can.
In the same way we are admonished to speak blessing over the next generation, we also feel that God is pronouncing His blessing over each one of us in a powerful and prophetic way, blessing our lives and our future. As a spiritual leader to the women placed under my care, I speak God’s blessing over your lives and His favor for you to be used mightily in these last days...read more
Have you heard the old joke that ministry would be great if it weren’t for all the people? Be honest, have you ever thought this was true?
You don’t have to be in ministry for long to realize just how personal this life is. We work with people—sinful, fallen, imperfect people. We work with people who will sometimes hurt our feelings.
And we, in turn, will hurt theirs.
We live, work and play with the people in our churches. We pour into their lives, and they pour into ours. We are with them during their most vulnerable seasons, ones of birth, illness, victory and death.
People will hurt your feelings. When that happens, you have a choice. You can either take it personally and seek to inflict hurt in return, or you can choose to respond as God commands us in Ephesians. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).
Let's take a closer look at the three biblical responses found in Ephesians.
1. Be humble and gentle. Being humble means taking ourselves out of the spotlight. I love how the dictionary defines humility as “freedom from pride or arrogance.” Pride and arrogance only exist to enslave us to ourselves. Through pride and arrogance, we see all the ways we are overlooked and the ways our husbands or children have been hurt. Being humble is being free from self. In commanding us to approach others with humility and gentleness, God is freeing us to love them regardless of what they have done to us.
2. Be patient. We work with real people—people who are flawed and sinful but who are hopefully on their own journey to holiness. As we lead them, they will mess up; so will we. We need to be patient with one another, remembering that we are all tempted, that we all sin and that none of us will reach perfection until we see Jesus. We need to give ourselves patience and extend it to the people with whom we minister.
3. Bear with one another in love. Why did you feel called to ministry? I hope your answer includes a love for people and a desire to lead them to know and love Jesus. When ministry becomes difficult, we need to remind ourselves of why we began in the first place. We are commanded to “bear” with one another. The Lord knows it is going to be a struggle for us to love one another, but He will give us the grace to do so.
A few years ago, we transitioned from one ministry position to another. I had served in several areas in the church we were leaving, and I felt like God must be growing me for something similar (and if I am honest, bigger) in the new ministry. But those were not the plans God had for me. I felt overlooked and unwanted. No one seemed to see how I could contribute in our new ministry position, and I felt like I was wasting the abilities God had grown in me. My feelings were hurt, and there were times I took it out on those God had chosen to use in the areas I wanted (in my selfishness) to work.
As I looked back on that season of ministry, I saw God was taking away my plans and desires so He could give me His desires and grow me in new ways. Whatever hurt you are facing in your current ministry position, I want to encourage you that God is not going to waste this pain. He is going to grow you into a better servant and minister for the gospel, if you will yield to His teaching.
How we respond to those who hurt us matters. We are sharing the gospel through our actions by forgiving our offenders in humility and gentleness and by showing patience and love with those we serve. We don’t take things personally because we are super-Christians, but we do so through the enabling of the Holy Spirit because we desire to grow in godliness.
This blog post was written by Beth Holmes for Flourish - Ministry Wives on February 17, 2017. She is a minister's wife and mom living in Owensboro, Kentucky, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2014. After spending a year learning to be brave through cancer treatments, God is teaching her again how to celebrate in 2016. Join her journey at bethholmes.wordpress.comMore from this author.
1. How do you respond when you are hurt by someone in the church?
2. How is your response different if the hurt comes from someone outside the church, i.e. a family member, a friend?
3. What is your response when you are the one who causes the hurt?
4. What are some positive actions you can take when you are hurt?
For the first eight years of our ministry, I didn’t have a friend to my name. In those same years, I birthed and stayed home with three children, and I remember willing myself not to get sick because I didn’t know who I would call for help if I did. Community was something I created for other people, not something I enjoyed myself. At least, that’s how I felt.
When we prepared to plant out of that church, my husband gathered prospective core team members in our living room and asked, “When you dream of what church could be, what is it that you think of?” For me, the answer was simple, and I timidly spoke out loud what I’d held inside for so long.
“I don’t want to feel as if I’m standing outside of community, helping it happen but not enjoying it myself. I want our church to be the kind where I get to enjoy the inside. I want to have friends.”
What I didn’t yet realize is that community isn’t something that comes to us; it’s something that we go toward. We make choices that either invites community or hinders the very thing we long for. The reasons I’d struggled in friendship were many—my lack of initiation, the very specific parameters I’d placed around what type of friend I wanted and how they would relate to me, time constraints that I used as an excuse, but, primary among them, is that I chose not to take the risk of vulnerability with other women.
God gave me a do-over with church planting because the difficult nature of the work made it nearly impossible to hide behind carefully maintained facades or self-sufficiency. My spiritual, physical and emotional neediness pointed like arrows toward asking wise and faithful women for help. And so, I did.
Vulnerability is the spark for us to enjoy and help cultivate true community. Only through vulnerability can we fulfill...read more
One of the best things we can do for our friendships, whether fledging or lifelong, is to become cheerleaders for other women.
Don't we all crave a cheerleader friend? Absolutely! We don't want cotton-candy flattery or even the niceties about our appearance or choice of couch pillows, nor do we want silent cheerleaders who think but don't speak words of encouragement. We want a friend of the super athletic cheerleader variety, who exerts enthusiasm and energy in exhorting us on, even as they do their own faith-thing at our side. These kind of friends are rare, and we can't guarantee we'll have a friend like that. But we certainly can be that kind of friend to others.
I tell you what: being a cheerleader for other women can be awkward. I know because I am the queen of awkwardness and, frankly, I don't care. I see too many women standing on the sidelines of life feeling like a failure when, in fact, they are walking by faith and adorning themselves with the glorious beauty of good works. They need to know that God's fingerprints are all over them! ...read more