Invigorating Volunteers with Loving Leadership

Or... Dr. McClure's Four Repeated Attempts to Rightly Value Members of Our Local Church!

My three-decade old career centers on volunteers.  

I have enjoyed paying a total of seven people to work alongside me during all that time.  The VAST majority of my interactions with ‘people who get things done!’ is with volunteers in a local church.

Why should that matter to you?

Because if you are not motivating the HEARTS of your people, no amount of pay will yield the best they have to offer!

So… I submit for your perusal a list of four habits I seek to practice regularly.  They are built around the desire to rightly value and honor those who give of their time, talent, and finances to help our local church family be healthy and strong.  I hope they are helpful to your leadership wherever you lead.

thank you

Most of my career has been as an associate pastor or music director or youth pastor.  It is NOT a thankless job.  I have an entire file folder filled with thank you notes from students, parents, and church members.  The thanks that are given for ministry efforts are typically more rare than a corporate setting where quarterly reviews, etc. remind leaders and managers to thank those who work with them.  But…  As a leader, you MUST say ‘thank you’ if you want people’s heart engaged and longevity maintained.
Here’s a few qualities and methods I seek to keep in mind as I share ‘thank you’s with people.
  • Out loud – looking a person in the eye to thank them is powerful
  • Personal – let them know why their involvement matters to you
  • Notes – especially after big events and significant uses of people’s time
  • Tell why they mattered – what qualities and efforts did they bring?
  • Remind them of results – share a fact or statistic showing the importance of their work
  • Tell a story demonstrating the impact of the event and their part in it

messy momentum

I struggle against the urge of ‘working it all out’ OR… having a perfect plan BEFORE launching a project or initiative.  And while it is based on wanting to make things we do great, momentum matters to people.  They need to know ‘we’ are moving forward consistently.
As leaders, we must balance having a desire for excellence vs. desire for existence of a program/ministry/result.
We should be thoughtful, intentional, and prepared, BUT… get started!
A friend named Justin volunteered years ago to help with the install of a sound system for a youth room in a church we attended.  He came in and got to work after some basic instructions.  I went off to work on other programming for the coming Wednesday night.  After a couple of hours had gone by, I assumed he would be close to complete and we would need two people to check things from the stage and the tech booth.  However… when I walked in, the system was fully dissembled and thoroughly cleaned, but he had not even begun to reassemble it.  He explained his desire to have it in tip-top shape and super organized.  I thanked Justin.  Then… I reminded him we needed it available to use in just a few hours.  I was encouraging ‘messy momentum.’

I must remind myself of the value of messy momentum every week!

As leaders we should celebrate what is good!
We should also seek to learn lessons from our mistakes.
And to honor all who serve with us, we MUST… Grow on!

There is great value in naming it as ‘messy momentum’:

Saying it is ‘messy‘ communicates that so far it may be incomplete… and there is room to grow… perhaps even that we have an openness to collaboration.
Saying it is ‘momentum‘ communicates progress, action, involvement, and current commitment to the plan/ministry/goal!  And that is encouraging and motivating to people.

Servant leadership

Jesus spoke to his disciples about leaders ‘lording over’ their people with their power, resources, authority, etc.  And quick glances into corporate America display far too many despots and narcissists who leverage their power for their own reward and benefit.  Unfortunately, far too many churches experience those things as well from pastors of that ilk.
It is my heart to squelch my ego and lead by serving like Jesus did.
We find Jesus washing feet and saying that he did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many!
He is the perfect leader who teaches us to leverage our influence/skills/position to SERVE those who are serving!
Servant leadership involves a leader who humbles themselves to lift up those who are volunteering.
The goal is meeting the goal, not elevating the ‘leader.’
The hope is completing the task, regardless of who does the work specifically or who gets the ultimate credit.
Servant leadership keeps the goal superior to personalities or platforms, etc.

Value the key-holders

I literally mean the people who carry the keys and passwords and schedules and mops and brooms and tool boxes!!!
These are service people who carry keys, clean, schedule rooms and vehicles, etc.   They are the secretaries, administrators, custodial staff, security personnel, etc.

They matter a TON no matter what any organizational chart says!

They deserve the respect of the leaders.
When the leadership respects and cares for them, the payback is not just ‘good work’ completed but may also include…  help in those ‘crunch’ times and desperate moments… like when codes are forgotten, keys are lost, etc.
Jesus valued such people and we should too!
If you value ‘all’ people in your group/team, then ‘all’ your people will tend to do the same, thus creating a CULTURE of respect and partnership and value of people across the organization!

So… I hope these habits I seek to keep and use for our local church are helpful to you as you lead in your home, workplace, and community!

Thanks for reading and have a great day!


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