Posts by Gina

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 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
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
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


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.

Learn More
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.


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.

Learn More