5 Things to Help our Volunteers Lead Better 0

5 Things to Help our Volunteers Lead Better

Posted by on Dec 16, 2014 in Leadership, Ministry

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© 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.

and

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…

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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’.

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Preparing for what’s ahead – 3 things a Kidmin leader can do 0

Preparing for what’s ahead – 3 things a Kidmin leader can do

Posted by on Dec 8, 2014 in Leadership, Ministry

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It’s hard to believe 2015 is almost here. December is in full swing and as Christmas approaches we are preparing for special weekends and activities for kids focused on the joys of Christ’ birth.

But amidst all the holiday focus, there are 3 things I need to have ‘running in the background’ in order to be prepared for 2015.

In my ministry context, church attendance trends down through November and December. Holiday events and traveling draw families out of their normal routine and church attendance becomes sporadic.

However, we know we’ll see our families again within a few short weeks. We always see a surge in attendance after the new year. And this surge builds leading up to Easter weekend.

I’m the kind of person that just doesn’t like being caught off-guard by that surge. I want to know what lies ahead so I have a fighting chance at being prepared for it.

So here are 3 things I am currently doing to prepare for that surge:

Step #1: Examine my Numbers
I track numbers every weekend. Specific number. How many kids, adult volunteers, student volunteers. I track them…

…by room so I know where they are.

…by service so I know when they come.

…by averages so I know my trends.

…by peaks so I know where trouble spots might pop up.

I’m a fan of numbers. They help me prepare.

  1. I check Trends. What’s happened in the past can help me predict what will happen in the future. So I look at these same months from previous years to see how attendance progressed. Was there a jump in attendance? What weekend did that happen? What was my pastor teaching that weekend/month? There are certain events & sermon series that can ‘drive’ attendance and if you can identify those factors you can predict where and when you will grow. Where you predict, you can prepare.
  2. I check last year’s peaks. Because last year’s peaks are this year’s averages. I’ve noticed that when my ministry is on a steady growth trend, then last August’s peak numbers are this February’s average numbers. And that’s valuable information.

Step #2: Review my Org Chart
I know how many volunteers I have today. And the number of volunteers I have today are enough for the number of kids I see today (give or take some wiggle room). That won’t work when attendance rises in January. So I’ve got to prepare.

If my attendance increases by 20% in Jan/Feb, then how many additional volunteers do I need in order to sustain that growth? More specifically, where do I need them? Where do they fit in my volunteer org chart? Does my span of care absorb that addition? Or will this require an additional layer of leadership to accommodate?

If my goal is to keep the new volunteers that I recruit for growth, then I’ve got to have the relational structure that will support them, love them, encourage them, & equip them.

Sometimes this means I go back to the drawing board and make changes to my Org Chart so that I can see on paper (externally) how we care for our volunteers and (subsequently) how we care for our kids.

Step #3: Spread the Word
I can’t keep this info to myself. I’ve got to get it out. My volunteer team needs to know what lies ahead. My Small Group Leaders see fewer kids each week as the holidays approach. They need a reminder that it will not be like this for long. More are coming.

They need to know that in order to be ready for more, we need some additional leaders.

They need to know where we need those leaders.

If you don’t take the first two steps, then you default to ambiguous recruiting.

We need more volunteers!!

And recruiting ambiguously is rarely successful.

I did it for years. It’s exhausting.

Recruiting specifically yields higher results and longer lasting volunteers.

In January we’ll have an additional Kindergarten small group at our 11:15 worship service. I’m looking for a Kindergarten Small Group Leader to lead that group.

I get more traction when I can speak specifically to where my need exists.

Don’t get me wrong. My need is adequately described by the ambiguous statement. But I get more ‘pats on the head’ with that statement. People in my church hear that all the time from other ministry leaders. I want my voice to stick out. So I’m going to speak specifically to the needs of my ministry and increase my chances of recruiting more effectively.

I know these 3 steps do not auto-magically result in enough volunteers for the attendance growth we will see. But it equips me to lead those around me to take intentional steps toward increasing the ranks.

Because when I’m prepared, I can help my volunteers to prepare.

And we navigate growth more successfully.

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They Won’t Do It for Jesus… for long 0

They Won’t Do It for Jesus… for long

Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 in Leadership, Ministry

Leading volunteers is a craft. One that requires constant tweaking and learning.

Yet there are some principals you learn about leading volunteers that never change.

Volunteers want to know that what they do to matters.

Volunteers want to enjoy what they do.

Volunteers want to feel needed and known.

Now, I can convince a volunteer to do just about anything if I present a compelling need. People are pretty generous and willing to do something they may not enjoy in order to meet a need. For a season, they will ‘grin and bear it’.

But as ministry leaders, working with volunteers means we operate within the tension of matching the ‘wiring’ of volunteers with the needs of our ministry. And there are plenty of times the two don’t always align.

Have you ever…

…had a need for 1st grade leaders, yet all you seem to attract are people that want to hold babies?

…needed to redirect a volunteer from a full team at one service to a deficit at another?

There are many factors that influence where and when a volunteer serves. And our ability to nimbly navigate these factors can set us up for success or failure.

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You may have a great need that has yet to be filled. And you are welcome to brow-beat a volunteer into taking on that role even though you know it’s not a great fit. But that’s nothing more than a precariously placed band-aid.

Over time the band-aid will start to peel back. And every effort you make to press it back in place in the name of “serving Jesus” is futile.

Eventually that volunteer exits.
And you’re left with the same hole.

How do we avoid this?

How do we prevent ourselves from attempting to force someone into a volunteer ‘hole’ we know they’re not suited to fill? How do we ensure we don’t pressure people to remain in volunteer roles they no longer enjoy?

I have 3 postures I fight to maintain when leading volunteer teams. One keeps the volunteer team engaged for the right reason. The other two help me ensure that I see beyond the tip of my own nose:

Posture #1: Connect them to the “Why” as often as possible.
This is nothing earth-shattering. It’s widely known thanks to Simon Sinek. But it’s really true. In every interaction with volunteers I’m fighting make sure they know why they chose their Small Group over beating the traffic or lunch with friends.

The responsibility is mine to ensure that I can clearly communicate the “Why” behind the what. And “Doing it for Jesus!” isn’t enough. Call me unspiritual, but people will only “do it for Jesus” for so long before they decide there are other things they’d rather do for Him. Ministry leaders need to figure out how to succinctly communicate the “Why”.

It’s more than a mission statement. Your mission statement is your ‘jumping off point’. You need some key phrases that are simple and short but packed with purpose.

Why do we do Small Groups?

Because we believe faith is transferred in the context of a relationship. And relationships can’t be built in large settings of kids.

Why do you ask Small Group Leaders to serve weekly?

Because kids won’t believe they can trust your God until they know they can trust you. And when you show up predictably in their life, they start to believe God does too.

Why do we need one Small Group Leader for every 8 kids when a school teacher teaches an average of 25?

Because you can’t truly know 25 kids… but you can know 8. You can know their birthday, their favorite color, the name of their pet(s) and their favorite sport. And I want you to know all of those things about your 8.

Posture #2: Willing to move someone out, even when it hurts.
Recently I invited a Small Group Leader to shift to a support role on one of our teams. It wasn’t that we had an abundance of Small Group Leaders in that grade level. Actually, we need more. And her subtraction from that group creates a greater deficit.

But this volunteer was clearly not happy in this role. In my interactions, I watched her move back and forth from “love it” to “hate it” enough times to know… this is not a great fit. But she knew the need and didn’t want to leave the rest of the group “high and dry”.

Though I value her willingness to “take one for the team”, she is far too valuable to allow her to languish in a role she does not enjoy simply because I have a need. I’d much prefer to shift her to a place that she enjoys serving. Doing so ensures I get the best of what she has to offer rather than what she’s able to manufacture on her own strength.

Am I willing to move someone out for long-term gain, even when it creates short-term pain? Can I love them enough to give them the opportunity to find a new place to serve, even if it leaves me with a hole?

Posture #3: People won’t fill a hole they don’t see.
Sometimes the plate has to stop spinning and drop before someone walks along and says, “Hey, I can pick that up.” It’s never comfortable to allow a ‘hole’ to be exposed. But the truth is, that can get the attention of your next potential volunteer.

I’m not advocating that you step back and allow things to fall apart in the name of ‘exposing holes’. No one wants to jump on a sinking ship. Every week my role requires me to ensure that every role is filled so that kids have an experience that makes them want to return.

But allowing someone to see that a need exists helps them to see where they might fit. And every volunteer wants to find their fit.

Leading volunteers is a craft. You never completely put it down and as dynamics change, we have to figure out how to adjust. Maintaining these postures has helped me adjust as needed and successfully retain some amazingly gifted volunteers.

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The Value of a Response 2

The Value of a Response

Posted by on Dec 19, 2013 in Leadership

I have to admit.  One of my biggest leadership challenges is simply responding to people.

I have great intentions of doing so.  And if I’m totally honest, I DO respond… 100% of the time… in my head.

and that’s the problem.

People don’t receive the responses that never leave my head.

I’ve worked hard to improve this one thing this past year.  And one of my personal goals for 2014 is to make that even better. (ask me in 12 months how that’s gone :) )

The reason I’m focused on this is based upon my own consumer experience in communicating with two different online companies.  Both companies provide a service to which I have an annual subscription.  Both of which have developed tools and resources I find valuable and have become dependent upon.  In short, I’m not looking for a better product.  I’m satisfied with what they offer.

However, at different times this year I had a problem with my account with both entities.  In each situation I sent an email to the Help Desk requesting assistance.  In both situations, my need was met.  But in very different ways.

In one situation, my need was addressed and I received a return response letting me know how it was resolved and offering additional assistance, if needed.  There was no apology.  It wasn’t needed.  But there was kind, light-hearted response that let me know they were concerned about my need as a customer.

The other situation was different.  Although my issue was addressed and need met, I received no response.  To this day, I’m not sure how the issue was resolved.  I don’t even know if the error was on their end or mine.  I don’t know if I’ll encounter this again or how to avoid it in the future.  I don’t know.

And that’s the problem.

I’ve been left to fill in the blank.  And that can be dangerous.

Building loyalty begins with communication. When others communicate with me I find I trust them more.  Those that do not, I find my trust diminishes.  Because I’m left too much room to fill in the blank.

This is a convicting leadership lesson for me.  I don’t want people to perceive my lack of response as a lack of caring. This elevates my need to improve my communication even if it’s a simple acknowledgement.

A timely response goes a long way toward building trust.

 

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Safety Process: Communicating to Parents 0

Safety Process: Communicating to Parents

Posted by on Dec 18, 2013 in Volunteers

Hey #kidmin audience.  I need your feedback and ideas.

In fpKIDS, we have security standards in our kidmin areas to create a secure environment for our kids.  Each entrance to a designated kids area has a “Secure Checkpoint” where we post a security volunteer.

They’re role is to ensure that the only people to cross that point are people with:

  • a Security Receipt – alphanumeric code identifying their child
  • fpKIDS Volunteer Nametag

This is our effort to reduce the traffic in our kidmin spaces to only those individuals who need to be there.

Although the Secure Checkpoint is an addition to other security procedures we have in place to protect kids, it’s a front-line role and has a few challenges that I need help resolving.  Most of our parents learn the Security Process and readily comply.  They understand the reason why the Secure Checkpoint exists and (though inconvenienced at times) they are willing to do their part for the sake of safety.

Some parents, however, are not as willing to comply.  Most of time you can chalk it up to a ‘bad day’.  And the added inconvenience of finding that security receipt (or replacing the lost one) is simply too much. But we’ve encountered enough challenges that I think it’s important to bring a level of focus to this area and make the volunteer experience better for our Security Team.

I remember Patty Smith talking about this in a training session she led at the Kidmin Conference.  (If you’ve never participated in a training session led by Patty Smith, you’re totally missing out.)

One of the points she made was the value of training EVERYONE involved in the Safety/Security Processes that you establish for your church.  For example, if you have a safety policy that requires two adults with kids at all times, then make sure volunteers, kids and parents know that you require two adults with kids at all times.

If everyone knows the standard then you have a greater chance of successfully upholding the standard.

So, applying that truth… how do you communicate Safety Standards to your church?

Do you have a print piece?  A video to play periodically in adult services?  Is it provided on your website?

How do you ensure parents know the security standards you have in place?  

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