OC12: Creating and Developing Motivated Volunteers

in General on April 26, 2012by Ben_Read

What do we do with volunteers once we have them?  A lot of stuff is simple and basic, but it’s not simple and basic to accomplish.
Daniel Pink’s book DRIVE is the source for a lot of this information.
You can tell the health of a church based on the health of the volunteer culture of the church.  What is the culture of the volunteers in your ministry?  Vibrant? solemn?  Excited?
We need to know that everything we do matters.  Volunteering has to be more than parking cars and greeting kids.  Everything we do matters, and we have to believe that if we expect our volunteers to believe it.
The antithesis of motivating through purpose is motivating through need.  “We need 5 parents to check people in, here’s a verse to guilt you, you have to be here x amount of times.”  It’s the easiest way to motivate, but there’s always a tinge of guilt with it.  Need cannot be our first connecting point.  Need based motivation won’t last over the long haul.  
Is that what we really even want for our volunteers?  To fill a need?  If need based motivation really worked, we’d have all the volunteers we needed.  They’re not, though, we’re always in more need, so it obviously doesn’t work.  We have to connect them through purpose.  If your volunteers aren’t seeing the bigger picture and they’re not “getting it,” that’s our fault.  They have to connect what they do with why they do it.
Don’t allow yourself to describe your volunteers by saying, “They just don’t get it.  They don’t tithe, they don’t hang out with students, they don’t etc…”  Allow yourself to say, “I haven’t led them to this yet.”  What is everything we say about our volunteers behind closed doors?  They won’t do something?  Don’t blame them, lead them in it.
The best ways to connect them to the mission through stories.  Stories engage the heart, emotions, and capture our attention.  When you see a compelling story that’s engaging and motivating, it spurs you to action.  Any time people asked Jesus a question, he responded with stories.  You have to find the stories to share.  Dig for it, find them, investigate and discover them.
Find creative ways to tell stories.  It’s easy to share it from the platform, but there’s more than that.  Blog about them, email them, have the people tell their stories, have volunteers tell the stories, make videos about them.  It doesn’t just have to be stories in your ministry.  Hear a story from another ministry, show it to anyone you can to leverage that story.  Tell the stories when it’s unexpected.  Use every opportunity.  Maybe you’re sitting down at lunch or coffee with a volunteer, connect them and what they’re doing to the bigger picture.  For example, on a Sunday, take a minute and go, “How can I leverage Sunday morning to tell a story?”
If you see a kid walk in who’s going through a really hard time, and someone greets them, tell the volunteer, “You have no idea how big a deal that was for that kid.”  Use discretion in disclosure, but motivate through stories.
Is purpose enough?  “Jesus died on a cross for you, go park cars for him.”  Purpose isn’t enough.  You can’t just say do it for the kingdom, now carry it forever.  We have to MOTIVATE THROUGH DEVELOPMENT.  Paul in 1 Thessalonians carries an assumption of care.  Care for them as they go along.  Volunteers have to know we aren’t just using them to accomplish a task.
How do we motivate them and develop them?
It must be INTENTIONAL.  Do you have a plan for developing them every week?  How much time do you devote weekly to developing them?  How much of your budget is reflected in that?  Spend time with them.  They have to know that you care.

  • Implement area specific training.  When a volunteer comes into your ministry, give them the tools necessary to do the job.  Equip them to do well, don’t set them up for failure.
  • Celebrate them in front of others.
  • Ongoing trainings.  Don’t do too many, but when they do come make sure it’s valuable.  Make sure they can tell you put a lot of thought into it before they show up.
  • Offer personal growth opportunities.  Whenever you hear of something out there beneficial for volunteers.  Books, messages, blog posts, classes, conferences, let them know!  Keep them short.  Last thing a leader wants is a 9 page blog post to wade through.
  • Give out tangible and non-tangible awards and rewards.  Tangible (t shirts, gift cards, mugs, etc) cost money, and they don’t necessarily work.  They’re fun, like a bump or booster shot in morale.  They don’t have to be super expensive.   Non-tangible rewards, like hand-written notes and public acknowledgment, is where it’s really at.

DEVA CALENDAR.  Development // Encouragement //  Vision casting // Appreciation.
This pertains to how you communicate and why you communicate with your volunteers.  For the first two weeks of January, developing their volunteers.  Next 2 weeks, encourage them, next to weeks, refresh vision, etc.
SOMEONE ON YOUR STAFF HAS TO OWN THE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS!!!  It may be you, maybe not, someone does.
If there’s no money going to it, it probably isn’t a high priority.
We motivate through purpose, development, and OWNERSHIP.  Ownership is the autonomy and control you give your volunteers to inject their own personality, gifts, and abilities into their role.  We all have those volunteers who come in thinking how great their idea is with total disregard to the time we’ve invested into their role.  It’s easy to dismiss it and say, “do what you’re told.”  We all want an element of freedom in our life.  They need some as well.  Control leads to compliance, autonomy to engagement.
How do we give them that without them running over all that’s there.  It’s a tension to live with.  Discover ways to introduce ownership within already established systems.  It’s okay for new volunteers to have limited freedom until they’ve developed, grown, and grasped the “fundamentals.”  This is easy with small group volunteers, but more difficult with guest services for instance.  The best way to do this is when there is already absolute clarity.  What is the goal?  What is the win?  What are the non-negotiables and the areas of freedom?  
Ownership leads to less burnout, higher productivity, and greater retention.

TWO BIG QUESTIONS.  Given what you are currently doing for your volunteers, would you volunteer for you?  Do you expect to work on this system, or are you simply expecting the system to work?  Are you willing to create environments and design systems to give your church the best chance to lead motivated volunteers?  What do you need to start doing, stop doing, or continue doing to motivate through purpose, development, and ownership?”


AUSTIN’S ACTION POINT:  I need to do a better job with the motivation through development.  I can show them the purpose (though I don’t enough.  Vision leaks), I can give them freedom, but I do a poor job continuing to develop them.  I’ve got to improve that.

Categories: General

Ben Read at 7:46 pm

Dude, I love that font. Nothing to do with post but just love it haha

Ben Read at 3:46 pm

Dude, I love that font. Nothing to do with post but just love it haha

Hugh Brechtel at 8:19 am

I wish I had read this a long time ago. It makes so much sense. I really appreciate the thought that went into it.


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