Flexibility

Servant Leadership: Motivating Volunteers

“He called the crowd to him along with His disciples and said, “If anyone would follow after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)

Leading volunteers often comes with a cost. You are asking busy people to add another commitment to their lives and possibly make big sacrifices in the process. You know these people: the Children’s Ministry Leader, the Head Elder, the Worship Design Leader, the Music Team member, etc. As a servant leader, you must not only recruit volunteers, you need to keep them engaged and remind them of their value.

According to Janet Thompson in The Team That Jesus Built, “As Christian leaders, our responsibility is to educate team members in how to prioritize life so there’s always time to serve the Lord. That means we need to know how to do this ourselves.” It’s important to demonstrate a life that is Gospel-led. Volunteers and leaders alike need to set their minds on God’s plan!

INVEST IN TRAINING

A primary responsibility of a volunteer leader is that she provides ongoing training for those who serve on a regular basis. Training helps a natural talent to accelerate. There is always room for improvement. Remind people that when God gives us a task, He also promises to give the ability and strength to complete the task.

Volunteers stay committed when they know you care about their opinions and ideas. Volunteer leaders stay humble by being open to change. Everyone’s goal is to make a positive impression by serving others in the best way possible!

APPRECIATION IS ESSENTIAL

One of my favorite people is Lynn Wrightson, the Director of Volunteers for Mission Opportunities Short-Term (MOST) in Ann Arbor, MI.  MOST is a mission organization that depends on volunteers to collect, sort, and wash eyeglasses for use in the mission field. Specially trained volunteers are also needed to read prescriptions and grind lenses to fit donated frames. According to Lynn, volunteers are “the bread and butter of any organization. The volunteers here at MOST are all so wonderful and unique. They need to be appreciated…told how much the tasks they are doing are making a difference in the lives of people all over the world.”

Lynn stays in touch with her volunteers throughout the week and checks in on those who are sick, sad, or have a prayer request. She truly loves their servant hearts and dedication. As a leader, she expresses that love through acts of affirmation and appreciation. Every year Lynn celebrates volunteers by treating them to lunch and providing special gifts and treats that say “thank you.”

Fellowship is essential to healthy relationships among volunteers and can include a Bible or book study along with food, games, and entertainment. According to Lynn, “People need to know that you care about them for more than just what they can accomplish.”

EXPECT MISTAKES WILL HAPPEN

Volunteers are going to make mistakes and miss opportunities. They’re only human! As leaders we don’t expect 100% perfection, but we can equip volunteers with tools to make their job easier for them. We can help them see value in changing their approach to a task before they get discouraged and give up or quit. Jesus was patient with the disciples and sent them out time and time again. Above all, cover the ministry in prayer, especially if you’re rebuilding or refurbishing. The role of a leader is to encourage and not become discouraged. Resist the temptation to do a task yourself rather than empower someone else to learn from the experience.

Is there a place or time for leaders to express dissatisfaction with volunteers or confront them about a problem that threatens ministry? The answer is “Yes,” particularly if conflict resolution is called for between brothers and sisters in Christ. Whenever possible, begin the process of conflict resolution in private. And to avoid potential problems, include the biblical (Matthew 18:15-17) approach to conflict resolution in your training events. This is a valuable tool that emphasizes the power of forgiveness.

ORGANIZATION IS A MUST

Jesus provided many other excellent examples of leadership among volunteers. He was organized and knew how to delegate. Teams benefit by seeing organizational charts, so individuals know who to ask for help and who holds them accountable. Volunteers want to be held responsible because it places value on their role in the organization. In turn, leaders want to make sure that volunteers are serving for the good of others, not to benefit themselves or draw attention to their own accomplishments.

PARTNER WITH PEOPLE

Volunteers are special people. Leaders are special people too. Each one has a heart for ministry, but views it from a different perspective. Learning to appreciate one another’s position is essential and leads to cooperation and moves the church or organization forward. This positive bond among staff, lay leaders, and lay volunteers is priceless and easily spotted from afar. Guests and visitors can tell when there is harmony among those who provide the worship experience each Sunday and lead ministry throughout the week. 

Resources

Janet Thompson, The Team That Jesus Built; (Birmingham, AL: New Hope Publishers, 2011)

Jim Wildeman, “Recruiting Volunteers Like Jesus Did

Church Volunteers Recruiting: 7 KEYS to Helping Believers Discover their Spiritual Gift of Faith and Rewards of Service 

Related Resources

Click here to learn more about Spiritual Gifts Assessment.

Click here to learn more about Equipping Volunteers.

 About the Author: Linda Murdock is the Ministry Assistant at Living Water Church in Whitmore Lake, MI. Her job description includes Assimilation and Volunteer Recruitment along with responsibilities for administration, hospitality, publicity, and ministry planning. Linda is the Recording Secretary of the Women’s Leadership Institute and also serves on the Board of MOST Ministries (Mission Opportunities Short-Term). She and her husband Frank reside in Ann Arbor, MI where they have raised three children.

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Learn From the Experts: Leading a Bible Study: Part 1

A BIBLE STUDY can be enjoyable and exciting. But it can also be complicated and challenging. To help leaders, both new and experienced, we asked two seasoned experts on how they handle this leadership role.

Donna Streufert is the founder of Women’s Leadership Institute. She is the wife of Pastor Dan Streufert and a champion of women who seek to fulfill their God-given roles in the church. Doing the math, she discovered she has fifty years of experience in leading Bible Studies!

Deb Burma is also a pastor’s wife, serving with her husband Cory, in Columbus, Nebraska. Author of Stepping Out, A Chocolate Life, Treasured, and Beautiful Feet, she blogs at debburma.blogspot.com. Deb is also a ministry leader and frequent speaker to women’s groups.

WHAT CONCERNED YOU MOST AS YOU BEGAN TO LEAD BIBLE STUDIES? 

Donna Streufert: Thinking back to the very first group, mentally scanning all those that followed, I realized that what I wanted most of all was this: that participants would experience personally the excitement, joy, comfort and assurance that comes when connecting with God through His powerful Word.

I had been blessed this way. I wanted this blessing for others.

Deb Burma: Many Bible study leaders say their greatest concern is that they won’t be able to adequately answer difficult questions from the participants. Thankfully, I was blessed with the guidance of mentors who told me that it’s okay when a leader doesn’t have all the answers. It’s more important to listen to the questions with genuine interest and care, acknowledge when you don’t know an answer, and provide reassurance that you will try to find the answer. Then seek answers through research—asking the pastor or another trusted source for assistance in finding them. But on a related note, I DID find myself fearful that my attempts to explain a difficult text or answer questions of a complex or personal nature would be misunderstood and may even cause a woman to leave the session distraught or confused.

I’ve worked through these fears with prayer and preparation, and by beginning each Bible study series addressing the possibility that issues like this may arise, and opening the door for open and honest discussion that may include clarification during the study or one-on-one conversation afterward.

HOW HAS YOUR STYLE OR APPROACH AS A BIBLE STUDY LEADER CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?

Donna: Every group has a personality. It’s important to know your group, understand the individuals and see how they function as one. Love them. Flexibility required.

So, my style or approach flexes to meet the personality of the group. For example, some groups are no nonsense and detail oriented, some are full of questions and challenges, some are at ease with one another and laugh easily. (Yes, laughing in Bible class is allowed.)

Time and place and group size also affect my style and approach. A group of several hundred or more requires a more deductive style (teaching or lecturing.) Small groups, under ten members or so, do well with an inductive approach (participants read, think, search and arrive at their own conclusions.)

Deb: Over the years, I think I’ve become more relaxed in my teaching style in both large- and small-group settings, seeking to find a balance between completing a lesson in one session and allowing more time for discussion. (It all depends on size of group and time constraints.)

I’m learning that it’s okay to challenge women, especially as they’ve become invested in the group over time, and encourage them to complete between-sessions assignments, while also being careful to communicate that it’s okay to arrive without preparation. (I wouldn’t want a woman to stop attending because she struggles to keep up with the reading or homework.)

I’ve also learned more about the variety of people’s learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing). To engage different kinds of learners, I use video clips, handouts, object lessons, visual aids like maps or props, take-home projects, discussion starters, and so on, depending on the study topic and the group’s dynamics.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU EXPERIENCED AS A BIBLE STUDY LEADER?

Donna: Two challenges come to mind – numbers and materials. Sometimes these challenges arise. Other times these are not challenges at all.

For example, with numbers: Sometimes it is difficult to attract people to spend time together in God’s Word. Apathy and indifference and lifestyle choices appear to keep numbers low. The times when attendance in Bible classes soar are more encouraging and exciting. But either way, I try to remind myself that I’m not in control. Prayer, personal invitation, careful preparation are my responsibility and my privilege. The rest is God’s Word, God’s people, God’s work.

The second challenge is finding just the right material for the group I’m leading. If I know my group well, I will look for materials

  • with sound biblical content
  • that truly engage learners
  • that meet their needs
  • that are appropriate for the age group and life experiences of the group
  • and have a workable format.

Sometimes I find a perfect match for a group. Sometimes it’s more of a challenge. I may need to shorten or adjust or even replace one study with another. But, that’s OK. I’ve learned something helpful for the future.

Deb: My biggest challenges in leading Bible studies have been situations when a participant has boldly declared a statement that is clearly off-base or not Biblically accurate. How do I respond in such a situation? While I never want to embarrass a woman with a confrontational correction in front of everyone, I also need to very gently bring the group back to Scripture and make sure others are not confused or misled by her declaration. I prayerfully consider how to respond to this woman one-on-one. Similarly, when a participant attempts to dominate the discussion or take the group on an unrelated bunny trail, it’s essential (though a challenge, for sure!) to gently manage the discussion, giving others equal opportunity for input and quickly bringing the group back on track.

An equally big, but very different, challenge is the already-crowded schedules of all potential participants. While seeking to grow women’s ministry by inviting and involving a vast variety of ages of women in every stage of life, it’s increasingly difficult to find times for Bible studies that work. I’ve found that providing two time options for the same large-group study on the same day is very helpful! That way, a woman can choose a noon time study or an evening study, or to alternate. Also, offering varying lengths of series enables women to commit to a timeframe that they’re comfortable with. As an example, instead of agreeing to attend a Bible study every week for a year, a woman may sign up for an 8-week series and then decide if she can commit to the next one. I’ve seen so many women give Bible study a try for the first time when given this opportunity!

Click here to read Part 2 of this article!

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.