volunteerWe Resist Leading Well

As we coach church leaders in process changes, a common theme is Setting and Managing Expectations for Performance….one of my favorite phrases. When we hear Expectations, or more so, Performance…we tend to get riled up. No area gets people more anxious than setting expectations for volunteers in the church.

I could never ask our volunteers to do that.

They are volunteers, we just hope for the best.

If we manage them too hard, they will quit…and we really need them.

…and the list goes on. This resistance has caused me to reflect on my beliefs about leading people, and volunteers specifically. I have learned a few things in the process:

What Actually Works

People like clear direction. When jumping in to help a ministry, people appreciate having some idea what they are supposed to do. Without clear direction (boundaries, expectations, process steps, etc.) people feel lost. Church is a place to feel secure, not lost. In fact, expectations should be set and communicated ahead of time to ensure volunteers know what they are getting into.

People like to learn. I define learning as the process of detecting and correcting error. When we play sports, there are boundaries. When you swing the racket and the tennis ball goes out of bounds, that is an error. In that context it is easy to detect that error, giving us a chance to correct it. With clear expectations for volunteers, they know the boundaries of the court. The way you help people detect and correct is important. This is your opportunity to show grace and mercy and guide them to a better behavior, rather than get angry and punish them for failing. To learn more, go read about the Power of Being Direct from Rob Cizek.

People like to feel special. When I have been most excited about a role, it is when I am in the inner circle of something. By definition, that means there is an outer circle. I often work in the tech booth supporting the worship ministry. That inner circle is created by the camaraderie of the people who have learned a set of skills and who consistently meet the expectations put on them. The joy that comes after a “successful” worship service is much greater than when success was never defined.

Volunteers are people. Those last three points were about people in general, but they don’t really apply to volunteers in the church, right? Wrong. Volunteers are people. Plain and simple, the things that motivate and fulfill people out in the “real world” are the same things our volunteers are seeking. Treat them like real, thinking and feeling people.

Your Next Move

Invest in your volunteers and help them to learn, feel special, and feel secure. This week, find one volunteer role and write and communicate your expectations for that role