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By Dan Entwistle, Adam Hamilton
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2007 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
Addressing the Pinch Point
Whether you attend a church of ten people or ten thousand, God has provided you with a valuable resource that is untapped. She sits in the pew next to you every week. He joined the church last year. They just entered into their retirement years. She was just confirmed and is eager to apply what she learned. They each yearn, whether they know it or not, to become involved, to give back, to make their lives count. God created them for this—to spend their time, to give their lives—for something bigger than themselves, something that will make an eternal difference.
While your church already has volunteers (you may even be one of them), you picked up this ministry guide because you are ready to see your church become more effective.
Whether you are a staff member, lay leader, or a faithful volunteer, you have a mandate to equip the people of the church for ministry (Eph. 4:11-13). Not because the church must fill volunteer positions, but because on its best day the church is a movement of people following God into an adventure of ministry. And, enrolling Christians in the mission of the church is imperative.
A Pass-Fail Challenge
A few years back, I was in a meeting to discuss volunteerism in my church. We were struggling and we knew it. We lamented about a lack of volunteers across several of our church's key ministries. As a church with thousands in attendance every weekend, and well over half our members volunteering, we still couldn't seem to adequately resource our ministry dreams. So, as leaders in the church, we knew this was a pass-fail challenge—one that we had to address. I stepped to the whiteboard and drew a picture resembling an hourglass turned on its side. On the left side of the hourglass I wrote "The potential." On the right, "The resources."
A closer look
The potential: God desires to do something through your church that is far from mundane. You are engaged in the mission of God—full of surprises and wonderment.
In children's ministry, you aren't babysitting. You have an opportunity to shape the lives of children, teaching them to pray for the first time, providing safety and trust in an unsure world, shaping their lives with hope and grace, and helping young ones discover God's mission for their lives.
In evangelism, you aren't making members. You are introducing lost people to the One in whom they will be found, offering hope to hurting folks, and introducing them to a life that really matters.
In music ministry, you aren't performing for the audience. You are leading God's people in heartfelt worship, helping them experience the gospel in ways words alone cannot, and providing a foretaste of heaven.
God has bigger dreams for our ministry than we can see; our mission isn't completely fulfilled yet. The church isn't too big to accept your friend's sister who is a spiritual seeker. Your missions ministry hasn't entirely undone the ills of poverty in your community. Your ministry with teenagers hasn't yet shaped the life of every high school student in your community who is eager to discover what God has prepared for his or her life. What will it take for us to press into this future?
* The resources: On the right-hand side of the hourglass are the resources. Ministry dreams will be realized with God's greatest ministry resource, people. This is how it has always worked. Consider Abraham, Moses, Mary, Peter, and Paul. Scripture is chock-full of seemingly ordinary people empowered to do extraordinary things—world changers each with their own mixture of self-doubt and confidence. People who, perhaps, could have done a hundred other things but instead were found worthy of participating in God's work. They were inspired by a vision and empowered by the Spirit. Your congregation has people too. They, too, can make the difference. Sure, the potential is vast and the resources are within reach. But there is a pinch point in your church, just like mine.
* The pinch point: There are limits. In the narrow section of the hourglass we find ourselves restricted, just like a garden hose turned on high with a kink in the middle. This is the pinch we aim to address in this guidebook. We desire to unleash the potential of our churches: a ministry with healthy volunteer practices holds greater potential for success. We are called to stretch wide the narrow part of the hourglass, to unkink the hose. And if we succeed, ministry has the potential to flourish like never before. What is called for are people who are invitedinto ministry, connected to a significant role, equipped for service, and sustained in their efforts. So, in the following chapters, let's take a look at each of the four key components of volunteer management: invite, connect, equip, and sustain.CHAPTER 2
Time is precious. Our fellow church members know this. Time management experts advise us to be careful about the commitments we make with our time. We should budget our time in order to fulfill our highest priorities. Basic Time Management 101, right? So we divide our time judiciously between family, work, sleep, solitude, and recreation. Is it any wonder we have little time to take on additional commitments? Unlike other resources, we simply cannot create more time; it is a limited resource. Potential volunteers have 31,557,600 seconds to divide between all of their priorities this year. How will they decide to spend them?
Have you ever attended a wedding when you weren't invited or celebrated at a birthday party for a child you didn't know? I surely hope not! Truth is, we respond to invitations.
My family shared a spaghetti dinner with friends last week. We showed up at their house in response to a warm personal invitation. After hours of great conversation, we returned to our home. We had a great time of fellowship because we were invited. It wouldn't have been enough for them to clean their house and prepare dinner. The invitation had to be extended. "Build it and they will come" is a great line in a movie, but it makes for a flimsy model of volunteer ministry.
Strategy of Invitation
A well-developed strategy of invitation has three key aspects: (1) assessing volunteer opportunities, (2) creating entry points, and (3) spreading the word.
1. Assessing volunteer opportunities
Job one is to become an expert at "employee" acquisition, training, and development—just as with any business. While the success of a business hinges on the ability to hire and keep a great staff, the stakes are even higher in the church because our goal is far beyond profitability. We are aiming to see lives and communities transformed by the gospel. No matter what area of ministry you are leading, your success will depend on the team of volunteers you bring along. Begin developing your staffing plan by completing a Staffing Needs Analysis.
Staffing needs analysis
Before inviting others, you need a clearheaded idea of the ministry opportunities available. How many volunteers do you need? How many would you like to have? How many volunteers would it take to make the ministry soar? The majority of churches have two or fewer staff members, and in thousands of churches even the preacher is a volunteer. No matter how many staff members serve at your church, God's plan includes volunteers. Effectiveness for the ministry as a whole will rise and fall on the ministry of your church's volunteers.
* List the roles. To assess the number of potential volunteer roles in your ministry, conduct a Staffing Needs Analysis. At a planning meeting, tape chart paper to the wall and create a chart like the one found on page 16. On the chart, break your program area into all the possible roles where volunteers can serve.
IDEA TO TRY
Note: If you don't already have a list of volunteer roles, you may want to begin by creating sticky notes. Each note should list a distinct activity that must occur in order for the ministry to be fully supported. These notes can be sorted and categorized into volunteer positions until you have developed a list of various roles in your area. If your ministry area has a staff member, include key elements of that work. Chances are, there are pieces of the job that could be capably handled by a volunteer. In some circumstances, volunteers may bring more time, greater energy, or perhaps a certain expertise to the task. Offloading or delegating responsibilities from a staff member is good stewardship and a great way to expand your ministry without increasing your budget.
* Quantify the opportunities. Carefully consider how many volunteers it would take for the ministry to Survive, Maintain, and Thrive.
Survive. This is the number of people required for you to open the doors and safely meet the needs of the current participants in your program. At this number there is no cushion, no room for growth. You're vulnerable. If you stay in survival mode for very long, you can expect your program to suffer and decline.
Maintain. This would allow the volunteers to have a reasonable workload. At this level, participation in your program might remain steady or perhaps increase or decrease incrementally. Volunteers are fully engaged, but they're only able to cover the basics.
Thrive. This is your program's sweet spot. Here, you're able to be innovative, taking on new ideas and challenges. Volunteers still feel the challenge of ministry, but they are refreshed and confident. They know they are part of a growing ministry that is humming along on all cylinders.
* Create a Variance Chart. (See page 17.) Here's where you'll begin to gain a clearer picture of volunteer needs. Start by listing each of the positions. Then fill in the first column with the number of volunteers you currently have serving for each position. Finally, fill out the remainder of the chart with the variances by subtracting the number of volunteers needed (from the Needs Analysis Chart) from the current number of volunteers. You may want to list the negative numbers in red.
* Reflect. With your team, take a look at the chart and ask the following questions:
Where are we healthiest?
Where are we poised to thrive?
Where is our program currently vulnerable?
Are there areas with a critical volunteer shortage?
Do we have any surpluses? If so, should we consider reallocating volunteers to other areas of greater need?
For our program to become more effective, how many new volunteers might we need to add?
Now that you are aware of the volunteer opportunities, be prepared to share this information with anyone who will listen. Let's say someone compliments your program. This is a golden opportunity. This person is catching your vision for ministry. Be prepared to take the conversation to the next level. You might want to say something simple, like this: "Thank you for your encouraging words—I absolutely love doing this. And you know, we're always growing and changing. I'd love to tell you more. In fact, is there any chance we can catch coffee together this week to talk?"
Big, audacious ideas
MAKE TIME FOR THIS
In addition to current openings, you may want to keep a separate list of new ministry ideas —ambitious, extraordinary ideas for which you sense God's "yes" for your church. Take care to make sure the ideas are true to your church's purpose and vision, but allow God to stretch your thinking into new, innovative areas. Keep the list at your desk or inside your Bible. Armed with this list, begin to pray for the leadership to emerge. You may even discover that someone in your church (maybe even a current volunteer) has been waiting in the wings ready for just such a challenge. So, keep your eyes wide open to see if God brings someone across your path.
Is your church short on paid staff? Is the budget so tight that even basic positions remain understaffed? You're not alone. This is true of churches of all sizes. It doesn't seem to matter whether the church is growing or shrinking. (In growing churches the ministry demands outpace available staffing dollars and in shrinking churches funds tend to be directed toward keeping the building open and operational.) At The Church of the Resurrection, our ministry leaders will tell you we are chronically understaffed. There just never seems to be enough money in the budget to stay ahead of the staffing needs.
But I have good news. The secret is, there are relatively few tasks that actually require a paid staff member. Furthermore, one of the worst mistakes a church can make is to hire professionals to do the work of the people of the church. Of course, when the ministry takes on a certain size, staff members become essential. But the primary responsibility of staff, both lay and clergy, is to equip the people of the church for ministry. The church belongs first to God and secondly to the people. Professional staff members should wake up in the morning looking for a more effective way to facilitate the ministry of the congregation. They'll lead the way, but they do so primarily by inviting, connecting, equipping, and sustaining volunteers.
At The Church of the Resurrection, we take this issue seriously. In fact, staff members are formally evaluated during their annual reviews with respect to how well they contributed to the ministry of volunteers. Highperforming go-it-alone professionals find that a sololeadership style is out of place in the church.
Years ago I was challenged by a veteran leader in my field of ministry. He asked, "If you were to receive a list today containing the names of twenty additional people eager to serve in your ministry, where would you most need them?" Fact is, most of us aren't prepared to answer that question. Too often, we construct our ministries around surviving. I find that we often scale back our dreams to match our current situation. As ministry leaders, we should dream big, pray hard, and always stand prepared to deploy people into Christian service.
2. Creating entry points
Many of us grew up in the church, but an increasing number of spiritual seekers without church experience are showing up with high hopes of important, world-changing work to be done in the church. They need an entry point, a safe place to get started. They bring questions along with them: "Will I find joy in the service?" "Will I be appropriately challenged?" "Do I care about the ministry vision enough to give it more of my time?"
An idea from one church is to provide visitors and new members with a list of "Good Start" options. The list allows new people to know they can find a great place to get started. And ministry leaders know they are expected to offer entrylevel ministry experiences that are tailored to the newcomer. This "tiering" of volunteer roles is one of the best ways your church can contribute to the development of a new volunteer.
Benefits of creating entry points
Ministry leaders have contact with a larger pool of potential volunteers.
Experienced volunteers are able to rub shoulders with and serve as mentors for new folks.
Volunteers have a safe, low-stakes entry point.
New volunteers know they will receive extra support from the ministry leaders.
The ministry is shared among a larger pool of volunteers, taking pressure off the most committed volunteers.
Training is kept to a minimum, allowing new volunteers to get a quick start.
The church has an opportunity to observe volunteers in the area before placing them in roles of greater leadership.
New volunteers have an opportunity to experience a low-stakes role before saying "yes" to higher-expectation roles.
It doesn't take someone who fishes to know that catching fish requires you to go to the water. The same could be said for recruiting volunteers. We have to meet them right where they live by creating "fishing ponds" where they can get started in service. Fishing ponds are an example of an entrypoint program. They are designed from the ground up to give people a chance to dip their toes into your ministry area. We walk before we run. Development happens in degrees.
Example: A "fishing pond" for missions
IDEA TO TRY
FaithWork at The Church of the Resurrection provides a simple, ease-of-entry place to get started in missions. Twice a month, at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, anyone from the church or community can show up in the narthex of the church. No reservations, no application, no requirements of spiritual maturity. Once they arrive, they are greeted at the door and presented with a list of service projects for the day, each lasting between two and five hours. Each project has a team leader who is standing under a sign with the project's name. After grabbing coffee and donuts, they visit with each project's team leader to find out more information about the day's activities. There are always a couple of projects advertised as being particularly appropriate for families with children. Some are onsite and some require travel to a local agency or another church. After a brief devotion and prayer, the teams are sent off for a morning of missions work.
Excerpted from Recruiting Volunteers by Dan Entwistle, Adam Hamilton. Copyright © 2007 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
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