The Five Characteristics of a Great Volunteer

Being able to find a handful of great volunteers is often the difference between a small town church that grows and one that declines. Great volunteers are just as valuable as great staff members. In fact, they may be even more valuable because they’re willing to do the work for free. Before you start thinking about planting a church or transforming a church, it would be wise to find a group of great volunteers to help.

You know as well as I do that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find people who are wiling to give up their time to serve the church. So, I’m not going to pretend that finding great volunteers is going to be easy. It’s not.

The fact is many of you are going to read this list and decide that you have no one in your church who qualifies as a great volunteer. Unfortunately, that may be true, which means you have to work with what you’ve got.

Hopefully, over time you’ll be able to develop someone with these characteristics, or God will bless the church by sending some to you. The church I serve has gained great volunteers in both of those ways.

In fact, I wouldn’t have labeled myself as a great volunteer in the beginning. Thankfully, I had a pastor who saw potential in me and was willing to develop the characteristics I needed to be a great volunteer and eventually a great staff member.

So, what exactly are the characteristics of a great volunteer? These are the five characteristics I would look for.

  1. They own the vision.

I’m looking for someone who is personally engaged in the mission and vision of the church. I want them pulling for me, and not against me. Are they supporting the ministry with their time and money? Are they inviting people to church? Are they positive about the direction the church is going? Normally, if someone has this characteristic, the rest come a lot easier.

  1. They work to make it better.

I want people to be frustrated when things aren’t done well, as long as they’re willing to help to fix it. When they see a piece of trash in the floor, I want to see if they pick it up or not. I pay attention to those who show up to church early and those who leave late. I want volunteers who are constantly thinking, “How can we improve this?”

  1. They help each other.

If you’re going to be a great volunteer, you have to be willing to work with others. I want people who are willing to step out of the media booth when there’s a shortage of volunteers in the kids’ ministry. I want people who are willing to serve in areas outside of “their” team. The only way church works is if we’re willing to work together.

  1. They replace themselves.

If you’re a volunteer who is able to replace yourself, then you become irreplaceable to me. I’m looking for people who aren’t afraid to hand over their position to someone else. I’m looking for those volunteers who encourage and empower others around them because as the church grows, more leaders have to emerge.

  1. They’re always willing to change.

The biggest reason why many rural and small town churches aren’t growing is because of their unwillingness to change. We know the Gospel never changes, but everything else around it does. So, I need volunteers who are willing to change. I know we’ve never had people greeting in the parking lot before, but we’re going to start. I know we’ve never allowed coffee in the sanctuary, but we’re going to start this week. Are they able to embrace change?

This is my list. I’d love to see yours. Share it in the comments below. If you’re small town church pastor who is struggling right now, and you need someone to talk to, visit my contact page. Let’s set up a call. I’d love to help.

A Simple Way to Grow Yourself and Others

I don’t think you would be reading this blog if you didn’t have some interest in growing yourself as a pastor and leader. In this post, I’m going to share with you a simple way you can do just that, as well as grow others along with you. Often I think we try to overcomplicate leadership development, when all that is really needed is a willingness to learn.

As long as you have a willingness to learn, the rest is simple. Start with these four steps.

  1. Pick out a book, blog, or podcast.
  1. Read or listen to it.
  1. Ask two questions:
  • What did I learn?
  • How can I apply it?
  1. Invite others to join you. (Form a group.)

The hard part of leadership development is finding those who have a desire to learn. Once you’ve found them, the developing should come easy.

What are some of the best books, blogs, or podcasts you’ve taken your team through? Share them in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on leadership, church growth, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

3 Questions Every Small Town Pastor Needs To Be Asking

Do you remember the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken?” The premise is in life we have choices, and sometimes choosing to take the road less traveled can make all the difference. Today, I was looking through some old notebooks of mine and came across some thoughts I had written down in 2009. The church I serve was in the beginning stages of its transformation, and I was lucky enough to be in the middle of it. The church detoured from a road many other churches were already going down in our community to a road less traveled, and it truly has made all the difference.

I would like to encourage you to make that same choice. The opportunity to win people to Jesus has never been greater than it is right now, especially for pastors serving in rural and small towns. Yet, the opportunity for your church to decline and die is just as great.

Where you end up will be determined by the road you choose.

Before you make that choice, I would ask you to sit down with your leadership or board and honestly answer these three questions. Your honest answers will determine the road you ultimately end up on.

  1. Do we really care about reaching the world? Almost every pastor would say yes, yet their vision, their values, and their budget would tell you something very different. If you’re serious about reaching the world, you have to quit being inward focused. It’s impossible to please everyone in your church and reach those outside of it. You have to be ok with that, and you have to be willing to fight for those who look nothing like Jesus.
  2. Are we willing to work hard? It takes more than prayer and sound biblical doctrine to grow a church. Sometimes you’re going to have to hurt someone’s feelings. I’m not saying be mean about it. I’m just saying be honest. If someone can’t sing, don’t let him or her. If someone has constant bad breath, don’t allow him or her to be a door greeter. If there are paintings, or quilts, or décor that would freak people out, then get rid of it. You’ve been called to lead, not to be liked. God will do his part. You have to be willing to do yours.
  3. Are we willing to give up our preferences and embrace change? Denominations have been on the decline in America for the past 40 years. You want to guess why? Because they’re not willing or are too slow to change. Don’t let that be you. There are grandparents in your congregation that would be willing to give their lives to see their grandchildren in church, but they’re not willing to give up their hymns.

The only way that changes is if you cast a vision to reach the world, work hard, and convince them to embrace change. Take the road less traveled.

What road is your church on? Are you growing or declining? Let us know by leaving a comment below. If I can ever be of help send me an email through my contact page and we’ll set up a phone call.