Planning

Effectively Leading Volunteers

Organizing a project can be exciting. Blazing a new trail of ministry can be exhilarating. But that energy may dissipate when struggling to manage teams of volunteers. Frustration mounts when those who have committed their time drift away to other priorities or fail to follow through on their commitments. What if there were practices and skills to be learned that would avoid some of the tough barriers to effectively leading volunteers? If that sounds appealing, then read on!

In his book 8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders, author Dr. Dave Earley describes several habits for a vibrant ministry. These practices transfer easily to the role of an effective leader of volunteers. Developing habits for effective leadership is important and God provides us with many examples in the Bible.

Cast the vision

In Matthew 5:3-10, Jesus casts his vision for the Kingdom of Heaven. The effective leader dreams about and sets goals for the health of the ministry, the number of people who will be impacted, the number of volunteers, and the multiplication of volunteers. Then the leader casts that vision – again and again – to maintain the momentum towards achieving the dream.

Pray for them

Effective leaders spend time each day praying for the spiritual health of their volunteers. They pray for the new volunteers that their current volunteers are recruiting; they pray for the multiplication of volunteers. In John 17:6-23, Jesus’ prayer shows us the world is a battleground when you are attempting to carry out God’s plan and purposes.

Invite others

In Mark 1:14-20, we observe Jesus inviting others to join him in ministry. Effective leaders don’t just focus on their current volunteers. They have a heart for those who are not yet volunteering. Effective leaders must set the pace by inviting new people into the ministry. They help the leaders under their authority discover potential volunteers and recruit them into the ministry. They help the leaders under them develop their apprentices into effective volunteers and leaders who apply the leadership habits to their lives.

Love them

No leader can be effective without loving the volunteers that God has placed under their care. In I Corinthians 13:1-8, God shows us what real, relational love looks like. Effective leaders make sure that their volunteers are contacted frequently, consistently, and effectively. They put in the time necessary to build strong relationships. The key to any effective ministry is the ongoing care of the people in the system. When volunteers do not feel cared for they lose interest. It does not matter how leaders are contacted. What matters is that they are contacted. This can be via phone, email, texting or having touch-base conversations over coffee.

Be prepared

Hebrews 6:7-12 describes diligence and faithfulness to the task that we are given. Effective leaders prepare for their meetings with volunteers. They must invest time preparing to share with those under them. Volunteers’ time is precious and so is yours. Don’t waste it by being unprepared. Make these times as Christ-centered and encouraging as possible. By modeling preparedness and timely completion of commitments, leaders demonstrate expected behaviors to their volunteers.

Mentor future leaders

An effective leader needs to be mentoring future leaders in order to multiply the ministry. Successful leaders are constantly multiplying themselves by developing successors. Mentoring prepares the ministry for greater harvest. If a ministry has a strong mentoring process, trouble will be avoided if God sends a growth boom. It will be able to capture and go with the growth that God sends. Exodus 18:14-23 and Matthew 28:19-20 give a sense of how God uses mentoring to expand His kingdom.

Personal growth

Growing leaders will lead growing volunteers. Personal growth is very important for the leader of leaders. They need to continually learn, grow, and improve. Having intentional growth plans will set the pace and guide their volunteers to do likewise. Effective leaders set the example for those under them by following challenging growth plans and sharing them with those under them. Set a growth climate and a leadership atmosphere. Pass on helpful articles, books, websites and podcasts to the leaders under you. In Hebrews 5:7-6:3, we learn of God’s desire for us to grow and mature.

Enjoy fellowship

Finally, effective leaders use the power of fellowship to build up those they oversee. They especially need times where they don’t have to be the “workers.” They need times when they get cared for. They need time to blow off steam and relax. Effective leaders will create times and opportunities for those under them to enjoy fellowship with one another. The concept of “doing life together” is described by Paul in I Thessalonians 2:7-9. The relationships of Christians go beyond just completing tasks together.

Learning and practicing these habits can help you to become an effective leader of volunteers. But more importantly, you will serve God with excellence and love like He loves.

Linda Arnold, RN, MS, has led teams of volunteers as director of community impact, foreign and domestic missions, and through her work as a volunteer leader with Lutheran Women’s Missionary League and Women’s Leadership Institute. She currently teaches future nurses at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois.

Resource: Earley, D. (2006). 8 Habits of Effective Small Group Leaders. Houston, Texas: Cell Group Resources.

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.

Christian Leadership: Start and End with Service

By Nancy Stoehr, Pharm.D.

“Come, O living Christ, renew us

As of old in wind and flame;

With the Spirit’s power endue us,

Servants of Your saving name:

Christ the Savior,

Christ the Servant,

Christ whose kingdom we proclaim.”

~ Lutheran Service Book, Christ, Our Human Likeness Sharing Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House

As Christians, we are privileged to be followers of the greatest Leader the world has ever known.  We are blessed with scripture to teach, guide and remind us how to lead like our Teacher.  But what was it that made Christ such an effective leader?  How can we use His model to become better leaders ourselves?

In this article I hope to pass along some of what I’ve learned about Christian leadership through my spiritual journey and walk with Christ.

Mark 10: 42-45 gives us a clear picture into how Jesus viewed leadership.

“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be a slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'”  (NIV)

True leadership stems from service to others.  To become great, to be a leader, you must first take on a life and attitude of service.

GIVING THOSE WE SERVE WHAT THEY NEED

The world has a bad habit of associating service with being meek, mild mannered, a person who can be walked over.  According to worldly views of leadership, these are not characteristics of greatness.  Though, service to others is not simply giving others what they want.  It is giving others what they need.  Sometimes, what people believe they need is really a want.  It is our job as the leader to make these distinctions and convey what is best for those we serve.  I see this exemplified while parenting my five-year-old.  She wants to eat candy with every meal and snack in-between. However, this is clearly not what she needs.  She thinks my withholding of her peanut butter cup is authoritarian, a demonstration of power.  Often I hear, “I can’t wait to be a grown up so I can do whatever I want”.  What she currently lacks is not the age she desires, it’s the perspective I have on nutrition and making good life choices.  We as leaders have perspective on what is needed to move our children, family, group, organization, or church forward.  We have the perspective to help them make good life choices, good Christian choices.  We as Christian leaders have the servant attitude to successfully and sustainably give those we serve what they need to succeed.

LOVING THOSE WE SERVE

James C. Hunter (1998) wrote the book titled, The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership New York: Random House, Inc.  In this book he links the qualities of a good leader, or characteristics of a true servant, to love.  Hunter (1998) goes on to discuss that the “love” he is referring to was originally written as the Greek word “agape”.  This isn’t the “feeling” kind of love one might have for a spouse or family member, this is a sacrificial love, a love exemplified by commitment.

Paul tells us in Galatians 5: 13 “You, my brothers, were called be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” (NIV).

He goes on to give us a definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7:

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (NIV)

I personally never liked the verses given to us in Corinthians.  The ideal they were embracing was so far away from my reach I could never read them without feeling completely hopeless in my attempt to walk the faith.  Patience?  Don’t have it.  Self-Seeking?  That, I can do.  Slow to anger?  Forget it.  So, I ignored these verses.  I ignored them to the point of omitting this very traditional wedding verse from my wedding ceremony!

It’s true. We will never achieve the ideal of self-sacrificing love while we are here on earth. We will never master all of Paul’s definitions of love.  But God understands our faults and our sinful nature.  He simply wants us to be committed to practice these actions and attitudes throughout our journey with Him.

In talking to a student group about this verse, one of the students shared that his church suggests substituting the word love with Jesus.  When done, what a great model for leadership!  When we espouse to be like Jesus and follow these characteristics of love in our leadership style, we become true servants to those we lead.  When we put our frame of mind into one of patience, kindness, trust and perseverance we can see that those we touch will be built up.  They become more confident, more willing to take on responsibilities, more willing to follow our strategies.  The organization or group we are leading will prosper because we are leading as Christian leaders; dedicated to service and love for those we serve.

MAINTAINING OUR DEDICATION TO THOSE WE SERVE

1 Peter 4: 11 tells us how we are provided with the strength to serve.

“If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.  If anyone serves, he should do it with strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (NIV)

We must remember that we can’t serve on our own. We need the strength that God provides.  God provides us with this strength through the Holy Spirit.  First and foremost we must ask God to give us strength, discernment and wisdom through the Holy Spirit to allow us to successfully and completely model our Teacher.  This needs to be done not once, not twice, but continually along our journey to be great Christian leaders.

I’m a pharmacist, and in the pharmacy world we talk about the “half-life” of drugs.  The half-life is how long it takes for the drug to divide in half, be half as strong as it should be or be half as effective as it should be.  Drugs that have a short half-life don’t stick around very long.  We need to take these drugs often throughout the day to keep them at the levels they need to be to work in our bodies like they should.  On our own, commitment to serve has a short “half-life.” We continually need to ask the Holy Spirit for His assistance to maintain the strength, the perseverance, the servant attitude we need to succeed in our leadership roles.

As we move forward with our dedication to being servant leaders in whatever area of Christ’s church we serve, I encourage you to pray.  Sit quietly with the Lord and give Him your concerns.  Listen to His responses and follow His calls.  Below is a prayer that may get you started on this journey to become a great servant leader.

Dear Father in heaven,

Thank You for the opportunity to be Your servant and for the guidance You give us through Your Word.  Thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus Christ, to model true servant leadership.  Help us to use Your teachings as we lead those around us.  Please send the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts and minds with Your grace and love so we can glorify Your name through our encounters with those we serve.  Bring discernment to our decisions, humbleness in our approach, and kindness in our words.  Help us to be slow to anger, patient with those around us and practice forgiveness to those who may do us harm.  Help us to maintain our commitment of love for all people.  Forgive us when we fail.  Be with us as we serve and use us to bring all into your Holy Kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

About the author: Dr. Nancy Stoehr earned her Pharm.D. from the University of Wisconsin Madison School of Pharmacy in 2006 and is currently enrolled in the Master of Education – Teaching and Learning program at Concordia University Wisconsin. Dr. Stoehr is carrying out her vocation as an Assistant Professor at Concordia University Wisconsin School of Pharmacy where she primarily teaches in the pharmacy compounding laboratories. She is the chair of the WLI education committee.

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.

Four Keys to Leading a Life-Changing Bible Study

By Sharla Fritz

“I know you’ll do a great job! I have every confidence in you!” the pastor says with a smile as he turns toward his office. As you watch him walk away, you wonder how he was able to talk you into this. Me? Lead a Bible study? I’ve never done anything like that before!

Before you panic, I’d like to share some simple principles that will help you fulfill your role as Bible study leader without stressing out. Guiding a Bible study group can be a very rewarding experience as you delve into God’s Word and develop relationships with your brothers and sisters in Christ. You will be helping others discover life-changing truths in God’s Word.

To enable you to serve God and fellow Christians, let’s look at four basic principles spelled out by the word LEAD: Look to God, Examine the Study, Ask Excellent Study Questions, and Direct the Discussion.

LOOK TO GOD

The most important thing you can do as a Bible study leader is to begin with prayer. Ask God for guidance and wisdom as you prepare. Pray over every detail of the study experience: Pray for:

  • wisdom in choosing the right study
  • the participants who will be in the group
  • guidance for your role as leader
  • time to adequately prepare for leading the study
  • God’s peace and love to be evident

EXAMINE THE STUDY

When you accepted the role of leader, the Bible study materials may have already been chosen. Of course, we can study the Bible with no other book but the Bible, but you might want to choose some published material to guide you. If you are responsible for choosing the study, consider the following elements:

  • Topical study or book of the Bible study.  What would best meet the needs of your group—a study that tackles a subject or issue of particular interest to the members? Or a detailed study of a book of the Bible? You might want to alternate between these two types of studies so that members can gain a deeper knowledge of Scripture and understand particular challenges to the Christian life.
  • Book only or video driven. Does your group enjoy the added element of a video lesson? Or would they rather have more time for discussion?
  • Doctrinal agreement. Examine the study for issues that might not agree with your church’s teaching. Minor disagreements might not disallow a study if it brings an opportunity for discussion on the subject. But you probably would not want to choose a study that contained basic doctrinal differences from your beliefs.
  • Length of study. If your study is to be completed in a prescribed amount of time, pay attention to the number of lessons.
  • Amount of homework. Some groups love to delve into the Bible between sessions and enjoy having extra questions and readings. Other groups are made up of members who don’t have time for extra homework.

After you have chosen the study, remember that as the leader you need to come to each session prepared. Do each lesson thoroughly and prayerfully. Most of all, study to see what God wants to teach you for your life. God’s Word is most importantly a tool for heart-change. Plus, when the others in the group see the leader applying Scripture to her life, they will be inspired to follow.

Next, study to present the material to your group. Find key lessons. Underline important points. Highlight probing questions.

ASK EXCELLENT QUESTIONS

Studying Scripture with a group of people allows you to gain their insights and life experience. We do this through discussion.

Examples of questions that encourage discussion:

  • Questions that ask How? or Why?
  • Questions that ask for personal reaction: What do you think about…” What stuck out to you in this passage? Why do you feel that way?
  • Questions that ask members to apply Scripture to their lives: What challenges you most in this passage?
  • Questions that link the reader’s experiences with the Bible story: When have you experienced this Scriptural principle?

Examples of questions that discourage discussion:

  • Questions with a yes or no answer: Is Genesis the first book of the Bible?
  • Questions that have only one right answer: What was the name of Adam’s wife?
  • Questions with an obvious answer: What was the name of the place where Adam and Eve lived?

DIRECT THE DISCUSSION

Even if you have a supply of excellent questions, you may run into some discussion potholes. One member of the group talks too much, someone else barely says one word. The discussion swings way off topic or you feel unqualified to answer a member’s honest question. Here are some tips for leading a lively discussion:

  • Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” if someone asks a question you are unsure about. Promise to research the answer for the next meeting. Ask your pastor or consult some reference books in the meantime.
  • Try to get everyone involved in the discussion. Encourage quieter members by sometimes calling on them personally, “Amy, what do you think about question 3?” If someone, seems to be dominating a conversation, gently cut them off by saying something like, “Thanks for sharing Patty. Does anyone else have something to add?”
  • Allow time for personal sharing. A Bible study group is not just about improving our knowledge of Scripture. We also want to build relationships. You might include time for small talk and relationship building at the beginning of each meeting.
  • On the other hand, if the conversation veers totally away from Scripture gently bring the discussion back on topic. After all, the participants signed up for a Bible study.
  • Make allowances for life emergencies. If a member has suffered a tragedy or devastating experience do not feel you have to ignore their needs just to finish a lesson.

Enjoy the privilege of being a Bible study leader. The experience will help you grow in your knowledge of God’s Word as you prepare for each lesson. You will expand your people skills as you lead discussions and help members connect with each other. You will grow in faith as you pray for guidance. You will increase your capacity for love and compassion as you and your groups members share life’s ups and downs.

Learn and love as you lead.

Sharla Fritz is the author of three Bible studies: Soul Spa: 40 Days of Spiritual Renewal, Divine Design: 40 Days of Spiritual Makeover, Bless These Lips: 40 Days of Spiritual Transformation, and a study for teens: Divine Makeover: God Makes You Beautiful.

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.