Tag: Volunteers

The Ugly Side of a Big Vision

Last week, I wrote about how a project with a big vision brings people out of the woodwork to help, and that is wonderful. However, there is a downside to having a big vision people want to rally around. Here is what to watch out for.

The Wrong People

When you declare to the world you are going to set off on an amazing adventure, lots of people will want to join, eventually. It often starts with derision and questioning, but eventually people want to join in. That can be very confirming and relieving to the leader, if they are the right people. Here are three people to send packing.

  • Hangers On. People who want to be involved so they can look cool and feel included. Those things are not bad in their own right, but can represent dead weight if that is the only reason they are there. If you have a mission to accomplish, you need people to carry their own weight.
  • Rabbit Holes. People who sign on to support your vision, then “suggest” we also include other things in the adventure. One church I worked with was really investing in the homeless in their town. People signed on to help those folks get food, clothing, bibles, and so on. Then, a late-comer to the project distracted the whole ministry down their rabbit hole of resources for orphans in another country. Here is the challenge: that ministry idea is great, and needed. However, it is not our vision, so it is a distraction. As a result, both ministries attempted to function in parallel for a while, but neither were very successful.
  • Credit Hounds. Everyone deserves credit and accolades for the work they do and the help they provide. For many those accolades are fuel to keep them fighting the good fight – so hand them out early and often. However, when you find people fighting for credit (arguing who “really” did that work, elbowing into the camera shot on TV, etc.) they have lost the desire for the mission and are now fighting for themselves. That is destructive to the group, and usually diminishes the actual work they are getting done.

The Media Hype

When big things happen in our world, the media often gets involved. That can be very helpful if it generates some awareness, excitement, and even funding for the adventure. However, a few things the media can bring that are less helpful…

  • Wrong Information. Media professionals used to fact-check anything reported. In these days of quick reporting, the accuracy of reporting has gone downhill. For example, in this homeless ministry. The church visited downtown and fed about 100 people each week, and had done it reliably for about three months. The reporter was excited on the news, “…they feed over 1000 each week”. Umm, not so much but thanks for trying. Help them out with a fact sheet they can read from on the news.
  • Shooting Star. Media attention is fun, but fleeting. Often times, the media is most interested right before or after a “big event”, not the long haul it takes to make a vision happen. For example, in that world record, the media was very excited around the launch, then pretty quiet for the flight, then had a huge amount of activity right after the landing. That is all great stuff. However, for the people doing the work, it is dangerous to get caught up in that media and forget there is still work to do. After the cameras left, it was still necessary to recovery the equipment, ship it home, file the paperwork for the record, get it approved, and so on. The media attention fades, your attention should not.

Your Next Move

If you are working on a big vision project, evaluate who you have on board. If you have any of the wrong people, clean house a little and your speed and accomplishment will likely improve. Feel free to let the media be involved, but don’t let them distract you from your vision.

By the Way – the balloon flight was a HUGE success. Two world records, safe landing, and a bunch of great memories for the whole team!

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

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