Volunteers

Raising the Bar for Volunteers

In Leadership by Elle Campbell1 Comment

There is a lot riding on our volunteers, isn’t there? But chances are, right this very moment, you’re wishing at least one of your volunteers would give you just a little bit more. So how do you get it? How do you ask for it? How can you raise the bar for your volunteers, without scaring them away? Here are 4 things I’ve found to be important.

  1. EXPECT MORE, NOT LESS.

If we want more from our volunteers, we’ve got to ask for more. I used to struggle with this. I knew my volunteers were busy. They had families, jobs, and lives of their own, so I dreaded asking them for more of a commitment. Instead, I tried to make their jobs easy, simple, and low-commitment. But here’s the problem:

You need people on your team who want to make a difference.

And people who want to make a difference don’t want to do what’s easy or simple. They want to do something that matters. So let them. Ask for more and help them see how much it matters. You might be surprised who rises to the occasion.

  1. GIVE THEM SOMEONE.

If we want more from our volunteers, we’ve got to give more.

More time. More training. More care.

And the best way to do this is to give them someone – a dedicated staff member or volunteer whose primary responsibility is to lead volunteers well. And if you’re the Youth Pastor, with five million other responsibilities every week, that “someone” may not be you. Your volunteers need someone who not only feels responsible for them, but who has the margin to follow through with that responsibility. So switch up your staff structure or recruit a volunteer to serve as a volunteer coach or team leader. Give your volunteers someone who will care for them, lead them them, and spend time with them.

  1. HELP THEM SUCCEED.

If we want more from our volunteers, we’ve got to equip them well. Our volunteers will be much more likely to give more when they know they’re supported by their ministry leaders. One question I’ve often asked myself is this:

“How can I make their job easier?”

Not less of a commitment, or less important, just easier to pull off. Whatever volunteer role we’re overseeing, we’ve got to anticipate their needs well in advance so we can provide them with all the information, tools, resources, and help they could possibly need. So think ahead. Help your volunteers win. It’s much easier for them to say “Yes!” to something more when we’ve got their backs and given them every tool they could possibly need in order to succeed.

  1. CELEBRATE THEIR STORIES.

If we want more from our volunteers, we’ve got to celebrate their wins. Celebrating your volunteers shows that you value them, but it also reinforces the vision of your ministry. So when your volunteers blow your mind with how amazing they are, be intentional about celebrating them! What you celebrate will be repeated… and if you do it right, it might even spread to your other volunteers, too.

So when your volunteers do something amazing…

celebrate them privately

they need to know you noticed.

celebrate them publicly

others need to know you noticed.

celebrate them often

they need you to keep the vision visible.

There is so much more to explore with this topic. It’s one of my absolute favorites to talk about. To hear more, check out Episode 01 of the podcast Youth Ministry Answers: Raising the Bar for Your Volunteers. My husband Kenny and I spend 20 minutes unpacking this subject with lots of stories, tips, and practical examples from our ministry experiences.

Elle spent 7 years doing Middle School Ministry in Buffalo, NY before moving to Atlanta, GA to join the team at Orange, where she is developing resources for church leaders and small group leaders. Elle is the co-author of the book Creating a Lead Small Culture, Director of XP3 Middle School Curriculum, Lead Writer for Lead Small Weekly, and co-founder of StuffYouCanUse.org, a site for youth ministry resources. You can connect with Elle on Twitter, Facebook, or at ElleCampbell.org.