Leading Volunteers_Keep It External

Posted by on Feb 6, 2015 in Volunteers

I’ve led volunteer teams for a long time. If you lead volunteer teams, you understand the juggle.

Keeping track of where each volunteer is, what they need, when they serve and where they serve can be mind-boggling. Like a multi-layered game of Chutes & Ladders, one takes 3 steps forward, another seems stuck in place, and I just lost one down a chute!

How do I keep track of this highly valued team and help them as they strive to serve?

There are some amazingly gifted leaders in the ministry world from whom I’ve gleaned a few tips and tricks to make sense of the crazy and bring some structure to the tilt-a-whirl called volunteer management.


Here are 3 things I have or do that have helped me through the years.

Volunteer Org Chart

I put my team on paper.

I mean… get it out of my head.

Sam Luce calls this “Externalize your Team”. And it’s just, plain smart.

I’m not talking about your volunteer schedule on an excel spreadsheet (although a schedule is important). It isn’t your volunteer contact list (although that’s important, too!)

It’s a chart that reflects who your volunteers lead (i.e. where they serve) and who leads your volunteers. Like the organizational reporting structure for a business. It’s the visual representation of how your volunteer team is led.

You will always struggle to shepherd your volunteer team well unless you lay out a structure that defines how that shepherding will happen.

An organizational chart helps you define this. Stay tuned for more on how build a Volunteer Organizational Chart.

I use Microsoft Word to create my Org Charts… b/c I’m not a “Mac” chick… yet. Don’t judge.

Make It Prominent

I’m not a big fan of paper. Though you wouldn’t know that if you looked at my desk.

But if I can keep it in Google docs or Evernote… that’s my preference. I try to avoid paper because I never have it when I need it!

Yet I’ve found greater success leading my volunteer teams when I have an actual paper copy displayed on the wall of my office.

I’ve found greater success leading my volunteer teams when I have an actual paper copy displayed on the wall of my office.

Here’s why…

Quick View
I’ve got easy access to see my volunteers, where they serve and who leads them. I can see the roles I’m still trying to fill with a long-term leader. I can see my layers of leadership at a glance and gauge where I am.

I’ve found that I’m quicker to pray specifically for a volunteer or a need within my team when that team is prominently displayed in front of me. I find it uncanny but true. Call me less than spiritual, but the physical presence on my wall is a visual reminder of my calling to shepherd this team well. If I pastor them well, they are equipped to pastor the kids God brings to our church.

I use paper. Like… that stuff made from trees. That everyone complains about. Call me old-school.

Make It Flow

This is a new one for me. I’ve never used flow charts before. But I’ve found them remarkably helpful.

There are multiple steps we take a volunteer through before they are ‘official’. From their initial steps of observation, to their background check & application, to orientation, on-the-job training… the list goes on. And keeping track of every step is a challenge. Especially when you share this process with volunteer coaches.

So recently I’ve introduced flow charts. A visual representation of the process a volunteer completes in order to vet, prepare & equip. A checklist might accomplish the same thing, but I like the visual ‘journey’ the flow chart depicts. May be a personal preference… but I like it.

I use Draw.io for flow charts.

The objective to each of these three things is to help me meet the needs of volunteers. If I can effectively meet their needs by ensuring they are cared for and equipped then I create a volunteer experience people want to be a part of.

It’s the most effective way to foster a multiplication effect in your ministry.

Learn More


Posted by on Dec 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

God has a way of stopping me in my tracks. 

Thankfully I’m a little better at listening. 

A little.

It’s been a rough few months in ministry.  And it’s beginning to wear on me.  Much of the stress is surfacing and my ability to fend it off is diminished. 

It’s a road I’ve traveled before and thankfully I recognize the signs.  But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s wearing on me.

Today God stopped me in my tracks.  I had my plans.  My schedule… and it was full.  Full of all the ministry ‘things’ that must be accomplished so that I shine as a ministry leader.  That’s my problem.

Leaving my first appointment of the day, I walk to my car only to find a flat tire. 

“I can do this”, trying to convince myself.

I don’t freak out.  I know how to change a tire.  My dad showed me when I was 16.  (I’m almost 36… it’s been a while) 

But I don’t think the point of the excercise is to freshen up my tire changing skillz.  I think the point is God is asking me to stop and define a few things. Stuff like…

  • ministry work vs. ‘busy’ work
  • tasks He’s handed me vs. tasks I’ve contrived for myself
  • the Holy Spirit prompting me vs. my own concieted, people-pleasing, self-gratifying heart leading me

He has a way of stopping me in my tracks… literally.  Because He knows I won’t hear Him any other way. 

So, I’m listening now, Lord.


Originally posted 2008-06-11 21:32:58. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Learn More

The Sabbath Skipper

Posted by on Dec 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

Kenny Conley is the Next Generation Pastor of Gateway Community Church in Austin, Tx.  True to Texas, Kenny thinks BIG.  I’ve yet to hear anything out of Kenny’s mouth that isn’t bigger than all of us put together.  He’s joining Jabberfrog today to share glimpse of what God has done inside of him lately.  Enjoy, comment, then skip over to his blog, Children’s Ministry Online, for more.

Hello. My name is Kenny and I’m a Sabbath Skipper.

I’ve known better for years, but I habitually work on the Sabbath. It wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that I realized how out of control I was and began to put guidelines back into my life concerning the Sabbath. Actually I jumped into a small group of other men on staff and we’re on a Bible reading plan. While we were in the books of the Law, the thing that convicted us the most was the importance of the Sabbath and how pitiful we all were at celebrating it. Being in ministry, we’re all busy with really good things. Unfortunately our family was taking a back seat to unrealistic and out of control schedules.

For us, we first had to recognize what our Sabbath was. Sunday is a workday, so it wouldn’t be fair to our families if that was our Sabbath. We chose to go OT style and do the sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. It was a schedule that allowed us to have a full 24 hours with our families without school or work getting in the way. It also gave us flexibility to start ramping up for work again on Saturday night. We then surrounded each other with accountability, making sure we’re all celebrating the Sabbath.

I’m five weeks into my new practice and I’ve only blown it one weekend. Here is what I’ve learned:

  • I’m just as productive as I was before. I’ve got the same about of work, but I seem to be getting it done in one less day of work. Who knew. I think it’s like the tithe. For many people it is a step of faith to first begin giving that 10% and they have to trust God with the tithe. When choosing to celebrate the sabbath, you have to trust that God will multiply your ability to get everything done with one less day to work.
  • Celebrating the Sabbath changes the way I work during the week. Every day I’m thinking about that Sabbath and and prioritizing my week so that when Thursday comes, I’m able to wrap up what needs to be done for that week. I’ve found that it has helped me become more efficient.
  • I’m happier. Seriously, I’m less stressed, I feel more confident about the direction we’re going and I’m having such a blast with my family on my days off. My relationship with my wife is better and I’m making great memories with my family.

It’s funny how as pastors, we’re sure to tithe and stress how important it is for others to follow this suggestion, yet so many of us totally neglect taking a Sabbath rest. The irony of it all is that taking the Sabbath rest is one of the ten commandments, which is pretty important.

So, schedule your next Sabbath rest day. Enjoy it and be sure to honor God this way!

Originally posted 2009-04-01 06:48:06. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Learn More

I laughed til I cried…

Posted by on Dec 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

We took the kids to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum yesterday.  We passed through a section full of Indian artifacts (i.e. moccasins, blankets, tools, etc) then entered a section tributed to western actors.  Josie saw a few vinyl records on display.  “Look, mom!  Those were the Indian’s CD’s!”

Originally posted 2007-06-10 21:32:23. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Learn More
5 Things to Help our Volunteers Lead Better 1

5 Things to Help our Volunteers Lead Better

Posted by on Dec 16, 2014 in Leadership, Ministry


© 36clicks | Dreamstime.comLane Five Photo

As a ministry leader, one of my prime objectives is to lead a group of volunteers to successfully implement the functions of ministry on a weekly basis.

That’s a flowery way of saying, “I lead a team of volunteers to invest in kids”.

But that “Sunday-to-Sunday” race means I focus a lot time on preparing for church every week. Whether you do Sunday School, Children’s Church, or some variation of the two, kidmin leaders spend copious amounts of time ensuring we have enough volunteers to take care of the kids that will show up this weekend.

But we also know there are greater objectives to achieve beyond staffing our rooms. In fact, I contend that all of us in ministry have one simple objective every week.

To increase our capacity to lead.


Help those around us increase their capacity to lead.

Sounds so simple and yet filled with a multitude of challenges. The primary question being… How?

How do we help those around us increase their own capacity to lead?

In fact, how do we create a system that equips volunteers to improve the quality of their leadership? This is the ‘Rubiks Cube’ of many churches today. And though I don’t have the comprehensive solution, I’ve discovered a great step that has helped me provide clarity and consistency within my volunteer leaders. It’s improving our outcomes and making our volunteer experience better.

And nothing works better to multiply your volunteer team than great volunteer experiences!

Recently I’ve elevated some volunteers into Team Lead roles. These roles are relationally driven and the primary objective is to know how their volunteer team is doing and what they need. Success for this leader is when they have a thumb on the pulse of the volunteers they serve alongside and help set them up to win every week.

This is not a new role in our ministry. It’s existed for several years. But we’ve experienced varying levels of success. Some volunteers seem to hit the ground running. Their leadership is ‘felt’ among their team and these teams are healthy. Other volunteers never seem to get off the ground and at the end of the day, they’re really just a name filling a slot. They aren’t functioning well in the role.

The central question became… how do we fix this?

How do we increase consistency among our Team Leads and therefore increase consistency in how our volunteers are led and loved?

We have a standard Role Description that describes the function of the role. It lays out expectations, time commitments, and the central focus of  this volunteer position. But the Role Description didn’t seem to do enough to equip these leaders to do what we asked them to do.

So, we introduced a new element… 5 Behaviors of a Successful Team Lead.

Here is what we shared.  A successful Team Lead is…

Engaged with Volunteers outside of Sunday
This means you have contact with them via text, email, phone or face-to-face. Contact that lets them know you are available and ready to help. In fact, two questions we want you to ask on a regular basis are: What’s going well in your group? What needs do you have today?

Communicates with Staff
You’re the eyes and ears for your area. Proactively communicate with staff to ensure needs of kids and volunteers are addressed in a timely manner.

Leads Room & Delegates Tasks
You know what needs to happen in your room/area throughout the hour and you ensure these areas are covered by the best person on your team.

Prepares for Sunday
You lead the way. You arrive prepared and ready to serve. You set the tone for the rest of your team.

Recruits Well
You consistently invite others to take part in what God is doing at Faith Promise. No matter the ministry, you are working to ensure every person that calls FPC their home is plugged in and serving.

We shared these behaviors with our newest Team Leads and what we discovered was a game-changer.

The newest Team Leads equipped with these behaviors have performed better than Team Leads without this information. By standardizing the behaviors of our Team Leads we set ourselves up to experience better outcomes with our volunteers.

And that feels good.

Keeping the momentum…

Learn More

Your Ask is bigger than mine

Posted by on Dec 10, 2014 in Ministry, Volunteers

It’s true.

If you volunteer in kids ministry… your ask is bigger than mine.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got a big ask.

But yours is bigger.

How do I know?

I can prove it.

You see, I lead a ministry with a lot of kids. And I need a lot of volunteers to love those kids.

I recruit volunteers from several avenues. To name a few, I might find a new volunteer from…

…our new member class where someone wants to become an active part of our church.
(40% success rate)

…a push from the stage when my pastor mentions our kids ministry.
(15% success rate)

…people I ‘shoulder tap’ in the lobby and invite them to serve in kids ministry.
(50% success rate)

But my greatest yield has always come from volunteers recruiting volunteers.

For some reason, a volunteer’s invitation carries more weight.

When a volunteer invites a friend to serve, I have nearly 100% success placing that volunteer and retaining them.

So, when I say your ask is bigger than mine… I’m serious.

You’ve got a big ask.

Just sayin’.

Learn More