I’ve been involved in volunteer ministry for almost all of my adult life. From playing a small role in youth groups, to leading entire teams of other volunteers. As with most things in life, it’s been a rollercoaster of the good, the bad, and some of the ugly parts of the week to week workings of the Church. Churches all across the world rely heavily on their volunteers, some even entirely ran by unpaid members. That’s why it’s so important to build healthy teams through good leaders
Choose Your Leaders Wisely
Those you choose to head up your teams will make or break that ministry. It’s so important to find the right fit. The number one priority is spiritual maturity, as that virtue will lend itself to how your leaders handle criticism and crisis situations. That’s not what I’m talking about here though. Plug the extroverts into high contact areas, put your introverts behind the scenes, and make sure they are passionate about the areas they lead. There are times when you need a leader who is capable but not passionate to build a team, but in time they will need to hand their role off to someone within their ranks who is on fire for that area of ministry. It wouldn’t make sense to put your most extroverted leaders in a corner, and your introverts up on stage. Guide your leaders to areas they are well suited to and they will shine.
Build a Strong Base
One of the biggest problems in volunteer teams is burn out. Even your most passionate leaders will burn out and step down if they are constantly filling in cancellations and serving too often. It’s absolutely critical to make sure that you have a good number of capable team members to work their areas. Not only is the number of volunteers important, but so is the fellowship between them and the flexibility to fill in. When your team members don’t take time to get to know each they tend to not feel as invested in their commitment. Creating a culture of community also creates a sense of responsibility, meaning that your team is less likely to cancel, and when they do cancel they are more likely to find someone to cover on their own. This will do wonders for the amount of time and energy you spend on interacting with your team instead of feeling like your plugging holes in a sinking ship.
Set Expectations and Boundaries
This is the area where I struggle the most as a leader. This is also just as important for your leaders as it is for their teams. Having a set of expectations lets everyone know exactly where they stand without the guesswork. It also allows for your teams to relax and build community with each other, which is really what healthy serving is about. For example, if practice is at 6 o’clock every week, then your team knows how to plan for their week, they don’t need to continually ask their leaders for information, reducing the stress of all involved. This plays hand in hand with boundaries. I’ve been involved in teams in the past where the minimum expectation didn’t realistically fit within the boundaries set by our team. Our team struggled to stick to their boundaries, often giving in, which lead to high tensions almost every week. When the tensions are high within your teams it becomes harder for people to connect, relax, and let the Spirit do its work.