A Three-Step Guide to Communicating Change

Drawing sketchIf you’re a leader, chances are you like to create change. Casting vision—dreaming of a better future—is simply a part of leading a team, organization, or local church.

The thing is, a lot of people don’t like change.

Or at least, they think they don’t like change.

To most people, change is scary. And if you’re leading an organization, there have likely been times when you’ve been frustrated by people who seem to cling to the past instead of dreaming of a better future. When we experience push back when we try to incite change, we often blame people for not wanting change.

Maybe that’s the wrong approach. Because in reality, it’s often our fault as leaders that people resist change, not those who seem to be opposing our ideas. Sure, there will always be people who are diametrically opposed to any change, just because that’s what they do. But that’s not how most people are. In fact, most people are actually open to change.

So why do you seem to get so much resistance when you suggest change?

To put it bluntly: you might be doing it wrong.

Chances are, when you’ve tried to enact change in an organization or a team, it was a good idea. You likely thought it out, sought input, spent time in prayer.

Then you announced the change. And you didn’t get the response you hoped for.

When a leader receives a lot of pushback about a proposed change (assuming it’s a good idea and a change for the better), here’s the reason that’s usually in play: The leader announced the what before the why.
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How to Recruit and Keep the Best Volunteers

Young man consulting his business partner at meeting in office

Every ministry leader has felt it: The panic of not having enough volunteers for an event or program.

Or maybe you’ve got the volunteers, but they aren’t engaged and don’t show up on a regular basis.

No one told me when I started out in ministry that leading volunteers would be such a big chunk of my job. In my current position, the team I lead includes one part-time staff member and almost 150 volunteers. Since I lead our church’s small groups, we literally could not do what we do in small groups without great volunteers.

Yet I remember hearing very, very little — if anything – about leading volunteers in any seminary classes or leadership books I read when I first started out in ministry. And to be honest: most of what I’ve learned about leading volunteers I’ve learned the hard way.

Whether you need a handful of volunteers on your team or you lead hundreds of volunteers, your life would probably be a lot less stressful if you had more volunteers who were committed to being consistent and helpful in their role, right? Here are a few ways you can recruit and keep more of the best volunteers:

Don’t recruit people to complete a task; recruit people to realize a vision.

The best volunteers want to make a difference. When you recruit people just to do one task, you’ll get people to do that task. But when you recruit volunteers to accomplish a huge goal, you’ll get people who love using their gifts to create something incredible. Show people a compelling vision, you’ll get people who will do everything they can to help it become a reality.Continue Reading

Telling Stories that Cast Vision

seamless-49-texture_zynMXnSOA few weeks ago, I sent an email to our staff about a fantastic fall kickoff of one of our small group settings for moms. This particular small group environment happens around tables at our church on Fridays in one of our main spaces, which puts a pinch on our teams getting ready for Sunday. In addition, almost 100 little kids attend the childcare portion of the event, which infringes a bit on our children’s ministry space and routine.

The purpose of the email was to thank my fellow staff members for their flexibility, and to let them know it was worth it: many, many unchurched moms attended and were connected into loving, Christ-centered community. I shared some of the “wins” of the kickoff, plus the story of an unchurched mom who was really impacted by the connections she made.

We usually do a pretty good job as a team of celebrating when God does big things, so I wasn’t surprised at the emails I received that essentially said, “Awesome! Glad to help.” But one response caught my eye: “Thanks for telling the stories! That makes it all worthwhile!”
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Setting High Expectations for Volunteers

Man pushing a boulder on a mountainOne of the realities of leading in a ministry setting is that getting things done means recruiting and leading a lot of volunteers. For me, leading volunteers is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. I get to do ministry as a job, but there are hundreds of volunteers at our church who give some of their free time each week to take part in furthering our mission and vision: to help people meet and follow Jesus.

One of the tensions ministry leaders live in is how to set the bar high for our volunteers while acknowledging the reality that they are unpaid workers giving their time—meaning we can’t really limit their vacation time each year. Volunteers are amazing for what they give, but every pastor knows the feeling of holding the bag because a few volunteers forgot to tell you they’d be out of town or someone volunteered to lead a program but didn’t follow through. How do you lead exceptional teams of volunteers without being a dictator that volunteers eventually don’t want to work with?

Lead with vision

If you’ve been burned by low commitment in the past, it’s tempting to lead volunteers with a heavy hand. A volunteer is late two weeks in a row? They can’t serve if they’re not committed. Someone calls in at the last minute? Your response is…firm. Volunteers are just like anyone else: They want to be a part of something that matters. Inspiring a volunteer is far more effective than being a dictator. Sure, it takes some extra effort, but in the long run, it’s worth it.Continue Reading

Five Ways to Move People from Consumer to Investor

6016776991_5c897b16db_bA major complaint I hear from church leaders is that many people in their churches are consumers—that is, people often are at church more for what they can get than what they can give. This certainly isn’t a new complaint, and most assume that it’s simply a product of our culture. The trouble is many leaders complain about the issue as though being a consumer is a permanent state of being. We’d all like to have more people in our churches who are investors in your church rather than consumers of it, so how do we stop complaining and start making it happen?

1) Recognize that we are all in need

The reason people consume anything is because they don’t have everything. People make their way to your church usually because they know that there is something there that they need. Of course, much of our consuming is misguided, but that doesn’t change the fact that we are in need—specifically, in need of what only Jesus can provide. Most who come to your church for the first time—especially those who don’t yet know Jesus—is there because they hope they’ll get something out of it. Everyone is a consumer, and everyone needs Jesus. That includes church leaders, which means we can’t hold it against anyone when they approach a church based on what they need instead of what they can offer.

2) Serve people well—even if they are consumers

Most people who lead lives characterized by generosity and service do so because they saw it modeled somewhere. You won’t help people stop being consumers if you’re stingy in serving them. Lead a first-class children’s ministry, even when parents won’t serve there or anywhere else. Have a generous home repair or financial assistance ministry without making past giving or service a consideration in who gets helped. If you build a generous culture within your church, chances are people will eventually catch on.

3) Cast the vision that we give because God gave first

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Any church that hopes for people to move from consumers to investors should begin with the fact that we should serve in give because God did so first. For us. Desperate pleas in the bulletin and from the platform that we need more people in the nursery don’t work—at least in the long run—because such pleas try to guilt people rather than painting a picture of a God who loved us first. When people understand that their Savior came to serve, they’re more likely to step up and serve.

4) Tell people you want them to serve and give

Church leaders often feel guilty about asking for people to serve and give from the platform. But in reality, if followers of Jesus are expected in Scripture to serve and give, why would we not make that ask? Many people in our churches don’t give or serve because they have no idea that they’re supposed to invest in their local church.

5) Celebrate and thank people who serve and give

Every church has people who give sacrificially of their time and resources in order to help their local church accomplish its mission. Thank your volunteers publicly. Throw them a party each year. Send people who give a lot of their time a nice gift card. Thanking people who give is important as well, so find a way to do so in a way that makes sense in your context.

Photo Credit: haemengine via Compfight cc

Building Trust with Volunteers

HandsIf you’re a church or ministry leader, chances are that “volunteer coordinator” is a part of your job description. Churches don’t (or shouldn’t) run without volunteers. If something’s going really well in your church, it’s probably because you have great volunteers in that area.

An important part of leading volunteers is gaining and building trust. If volunteers don’t feel like they can trust you, your decisions, or your intentions, your team will either dwindle in numbers or become very unhealthy. Trust is more than just believing you; when volunteers trust their leader, they are willing to follow that leader and do just about anything he or she asks them to. So how do you build trust with your volunteers?

1) Stay organized.
I’ve learned (the hard way) that one of the easiest way to frustrate volunteers is to be disorganized as a leader. Volunteers who don’t know until the last minute when or where you’d like them to serve will quickly turn on their leader. On the other hand, volunteers who know what’s going on in the ministry they serve in appreciate the fact that their leaders go the extra mile to keep them informed. When you help out your volunteers by getting them schedules and needed materials ahead of time, send reminder emails, and show up for meetings and events prepared, you are letting them know that you value their time and effort enough not to waste them.

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4 Ways to Keep Volunteers Happy

VolunteersIt doesn’t matter what size church you lead, 100 people on a Sunday or 10,000: your church runs on volunteers. Without volunteers, your Sunday mornings would grind to a standstill, and much less ministry would get done during the week. When our volunteer teams are working well, ministry is fun and it feels like your church is really making a difference. When volunteers aren’t happy, however, working with your teams can feel like a drain. It doesn’t take long in pastoral ministry to realize that taking care of our volunteers is a make-or-break part of being a leader. Here are four ways to keep your volunteers happy:

1) Tell them what their job is (and how they know they’re doing it right). There’s not much more frustrating for a volunteer than not knowing what they are expected to do. When volunteers aren’t quite sure why they show up each week they’ll quickly get frustrated. And when they have no idea how they know whether they’re doing a good job, they’ll get even more frustrated. Even if you think a volunteer’s role should be clear, give them a quick two-sentence job description that let’s them know what they’re supposed to do and they “why” behind their role.
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10 Ideas For Developing Leaders on Your Youth Ministry Team

Developing-LeadersStarting in January, we’re going to try an experiment that will give a few people on our youth ministry team an opportunity to gain some additional training and experience in speaking “up front” to teenagers. The books our teaching team will read together arrived in the mail this week, and it got me thinking about what other small things we could do in our youth ministry that could have a big impact on developing the adult volunteers on our team. Here are ten ideas for developing leaders on your youth ministry team:

Ask others to speak/teach once a month. Whether you put together a teaching team like we’re doing or you simply make sure someone besides you is “up front” once a month, handing over the teaching time to others will give them the opportunity to grow in the area of speaking.

Have a volunteer lead a game. You might be the youth pastor, but you don’t have the corner on games. Ask a volunteer to lead a game or activity at your next event or youth group.

Take a leader to school. If you visit a high school campus or go to an athletic event at a school, take a leader with you.

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Getting Ready for a Great School Year of Small Groups

It’s July, but my mind has been on September for quite some time. One of my favorite parts of our youth ministry is our small groups, and it’s been a lot of fun to see how God has used our high school small groups to grow students in their relationship with Jesus. I’ve learned the hard way that small groups don’t just happen–they require a good amount of prayer and planning. If you’d like to launch an incredible small group ministry this fall, here are some of the things you need to be thinking about TODAY:

Ask God to provide great leaders. Being a small group leader is a shepherding role, and it requires God’s gifting and calling for someone to fill that role effectively. You cannot depend only on your connections and charm to find great leaders. As you build your team of small group leaders, understand that you’re not just looking for warm bodies to fill a space. Pray for each group that needs leaders, and ask God to send you people who will minister to teenagers, care for them, and continually point them toward Jesus.

Personally ask people to be leaders. Since being a small group leader of teenagers is such a unique opportunity, you need to make the pitch to potential leaders personally–over the phone or in person over coffee. As a serial introvert, this does not come naturally to me. However, I’ve found that it’s been well worth my time to take the time necessary to explain what a small group leader does, and why I think that person would do a great job leading a group.

Set up your leaders with solid curriculum for the whole year. In the past, I’ve hesitated to schedule the curriculum for our leaders, because I was worried I would box them in and stifle their creativity and leadership. However, I’ve found that leaders appreciate having their curriculum planned for them, because finding great curriculum can take a lot of time. In addition, I make it clear that leaders have the freedom to go in a different direction if they think it’s best for their group, which many of them do.

Have a leader kick-off/training dinner. I’m a big fan of steering away from unnecessary meetings, but this is one that is needed every year. We provide good food and make it clear what leaders’ roles, responsibilities, and resources are. Even though our small group leaders lead in teams of two or three, it can sometimes feel to leaders like they are on their own if we don’t help them see they are part of a team. This dinner helps them see they are on a team, even if they don’t lead in the same groups.

Plan a big “push” to get teenagers into groups. Not every teenager understands what a small group is or why they would really love being in one. Find a way to explain what small groups are that makes sense in your context, and make it easy for students to get into groups. There are many ways to do this, such as having a youth group where everyone spends the whole time in the group they would be a part of if they join a group, or having a group present what a “day in the life” of a small group is like.

What would you add to this list?