Having served as a children’s pastor for 10 years I have realized one thing. I always need more volunteers. Even if every role is filled, the church will eventually grow and will need more people to care for the kids. The recruitment never stops. As my team grew I recognized a need for Middle Level Leadership. I did not just need people to work with kids, I needed people who could lead other volunteers. Where do you find these types of people? Probably the best place to start is with the people who are already on your team.
This past week one of my coordinators (we will call him Mitch) was talking to one of his volunteers. (We will call him John.) Mitch asked John to begin to serve as his apprentice. Basically what this means is that John would be the backup coordinator if Mitch ever got sick, and John would be trainings to possibly take over if Mitch ever stepped down or moved to a different role.
John is in his first year of our program and he is serving as an assistant leader, but showed great commitment and did a great job with the kids. Mitch approached him and told him that he saw his faithfulness and attention to detail and that he should consider serving as an apprentice coordinator. When Mitch asked him to be the apprentice coordinator, he was surprised that someone believed in him enough to give him that responsibility. John came up to me later in the week and said “I didn’t know I had the credentials to be a coordinator.” He was half joking and half serious.
What was the process of getting John to be a coordinator?
- John began to serve in an assistant role with limited responsibility.
- John proved to be skilled and faithful for several months.
- Mitch recognized Johns ability and commitment.
- Mitch asked John to take on the new role.
It is really a simple process and many times people are flattered when someone believes in them enough to take on a larger role. Think about how you feel when someone believes in you.
Questions for the week:
- Who are the most faithful volunteers in your ministry that you could promote?
- Who is someone on your team that you can encourage this week by pointing out some specific things that they do well.
After serving as a children’s pastor for about 9 years I felt like I had developed a pretty good volunteer team. There were seasons of the year where I would have about 150 volunteers serving every week. I began to feel overwhelmed with the amount of work that went into leading a team this size. Many times I felt that my job was more that one person could handle. I often got frustrated when I was asked to do something that I had not planned on doing. I internal response was “Don’t you realize how much I am already doing!”
My flow chart looked something like this.
The truth was that my job was more than one person could handle. I had build an amazing team of volunteers, but in reality I had over 100 people who were reporting to me during busy seasons. I had done a great job at recruiting volunteers, but I had failed to develop a healthy leadership structure. All of the responsibility was on me when something went wrong, when someone did not show up, or when there was a problem that a volunteer could not handle. I needed a team of people to take ownership of different areas of the children’s ministry.
I had a good number of people on my team who were high level leaders, but I was putting them in the same role as people who were still developing basic leadership skills. The piece that I was missing was Middle Leadership. I did not need more volunteers, I needed more people who would lead teams of volunteers (AKA coordinators).
Over the last couple years here are a couple rules that I try to live by when building my leadership structure.
- Nobody should be overseeing more than 5-6 volunteers. This is a healthy level of oversight.
- I need weekly communication with each of the 5-6 people who I directly oversee and I encourage each of my coordinators to do the same thing. If every coordinator is having weekly communication with their 5-6 people, every person on the team is getting the appropriate leadership.
- I always re-direct people to the person who oversees them when they have questions, even when I know the answer. This sounds strange, but this sets up a coordinator as the person in charge. If I answer everybody’s questions, they will always bypass their coordinator and do directly to me, then I am back where I started with too many people reporting to me.
- Promote from within. If you have a good volunteer team, the first place you should look is your existing volunteers to become coordinators. Your existing team knows your systems and your leadership style. Bringing in an outsider is a much slower process. I am always looking to promote someone. I want people to live up to the calling that God has on their lives. When I see a person who has more potential, I always want to promote them to a new role with more responsibility and help them develop.
I am about one year into this process, and I still have a lot of work to do. The structure is there, but there are roles that still need to be filled. Once I get all the roles filled, there will be people who drop out and I will need to find replacements. Leading a team can be like maintaining a car. There are always little things that go wrong. You have a choice to fix them right away or let them go. Fixing them right away prevent future problems, but avoiding them will cause things to break down.
I try to make it a priority to spend time every week recruiting and getting more people involved in ministry. This is the one part of my job that will always need attention. If I ignore it, my whole leadership structure will break down.
THIS WEEKS QUESTIONS
Who is on your team who you could promote?
What have you done this week to get someone new involved with your ministry?