Rethinking Volunteer Engagement (Part 4)
There’s a tendency to believe that the more staff a church has, the more ministry they can get accomplished. However, our experience with hundreds of churches has shown that overstaffing tends to lead to under volunteering.
In this series on Rethinking Volunteer Engagement, we’re exploring new data insights and giving practical wisdom around building a healthy volunteer culture. In Part 1, Amy and I explained what we found in the data and explore the connections we identified between volunteer engagement, unity, and generosity in the church. In Part 2, we offered some practical strategies for moving more people and leaders from attending services to serving others. In Part 3, we unpacked why serving is so important to helping people become more like Jesus and explain how churches can better incorporate serving into their spiritual formation process.
HOW STAFFING IMPACTS SERVING
In this episode, Amy and I are concluding our series on volunteering with a conversation about how staffing decisions and strategies impact volunteer engagement, and how to appropriately staff your church in order to increase serving. Join in as we discuss:
- How overstaffing leads to under volunteering
- 3 ways to empower your staff to build volunteer teams
- Why we shouldn’t outsource ministry opportunities
- Why every church needs a volunteer champion
"How to Engage More Volunteers & Leaders This Fall"
As we approach Fall 2022, how can we attract and engage more volunteers and leaders to our ministry teams? And once we’ve engaged them, how do we approach onboarding and caring for our volunteer teams?
We invite you and your staff team to join The Unstuck Group for this free one-hour training event.
This Episode is Sponsored by ServeHQ:
Every church leader knows that having trained and engaged volunteers is essential to successfully accomplishing your mission. But if you’re like most leaders, you also know how tricky it can be to onboard and equip people for your team.
What if there were a resource that made it easier? ServeHQ is simple video training courses that help you equip volunteers and develop leaders. You can create your own training or use their video library. You can even automate next steps to onboard new people. Check it out at ServeHQ.church.
Every Jesus-follower has spiritual gifts they can use to engage with God’s mission. [episode 259] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet When everyone is responsible for the church’s volunteer engagement, no one is. [episode 259] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet Every staff member’s number one job responsibility, over everything else, is to equip God’s people to do the work of God. [episode 259] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet
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Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. There’s a tendency to believe that the more staff a church has, the more they can get accomplished. But overstaffing tends to lead to under volunteering. On this week’s podcast, Tony and Amy wrap up our series on volunteering with a conversation about how to appropriately staff your church in order to increase serving. Before we get into this week’s podcast, though, I want to invite you to join us on September 1st for a free training for your team on engaging more volunteers and leaders. We’re gonna dive deeper on this topic, as well as hear from some churches who are winning with volunteer engagement. You can join Tony and Amy and our Unstuck team for this free training by registering, using the link in your show notes. And if you don’t have the show notes yet, just visit theunstuckgroup.com/podcast to subscribe. Now, before we dive into the content, here’s a word from Tony.
On-boarding new people to volunteer is tough. A confusing or complicated process can lead to people slipping through the cracks, and you don’t want that. A clear and simple on-boarding process will make sure new people are prepared and motivated to serve to do that. You’ll need a good reliable system. Well, let me recommend ServeHQ. ServeHQ offers simple video training courses that help you equip volunteers and develop leaders. You can create your own training or use their video library. You can even automate next steps to onboard new people. Check it out at servehq.church.
Well, Tony, believe it or not. Today is our last episode in the series focused on volunteer engagement. And last week, Tony, if I remember, you highlighted a church that’s winning when it comes to volunteer engagement in this season. Are there any other churches that you wanna brag on this week?
Yeah, Amy, I actually do wanna brag on another church today and specifically this one, Christ Fellowship Miami, because, Pastor Carlos, who’s their executive pastor, he also serves on our advisory team for The Unstuck Group, but if you don’t know Christ Fellowship Miami, you might wanna check them out. They have six locations in and around Miami, and then they have additional locations in the Caribbean and throughout Latin America. And right now, even on this side of COVID, about 3,500 people attending, physically attending, one of their campuses, but they have close to 1600 adults and students serving at least on a monthly basis. That’s more than half of their adults and students. And what’s even more telling about the volunteer culture at Christ fellowship is of those 1600 adults and students, 400 of them are leading in volunteer leadership roles. And so it’s not just doing great ministry on serving teams, but there are 400 folks that are leading those teams. They’re leading groups. They’re pouring into other people. So a lot of great work being done at Christ Fellowship Miami. And you can learn more about Pastor Omar and their volunteer engagement strategy by checking out cfmiami.org.
Man, I love that. We may need to include a segment to brag on churches in all our podcast episodes, Tony.
It’s good to be encouraged. Well, as we wrap up our series on volunteer engagement today, we’re gonna focus on how staffing decisions and strategies impact volunteer engagement, and, Tony, in a way, this is a continuation of our conversation that we had last month, where we focused on staffing strategies. These two topics, staffing and volunteer engagement, at least in my world, they are very related. Don’t you agree?
Yeah. There’s no doubt about it, Amy. Over-staffing tends to lead to under volunteering, and Christ Fellowship actually is a good example of how they’re tackling volunteer engagement, but it has to be connected to how they’re approaching their staffing model as well. Christ Fellowship. I went back and I compared them to another multi-site church that was similar in size and had a similar number of locations in attendance. And this is just one example of how there appears to be this correlation between staffing and volunteering because Christ Fellowship has more than half of their students and adults serving at least monthly. And then this other church, similar size, similar number of locations, less than 20% of their folks are serving on a regular basis. The other church also happens to have about 40 more staff people than Christ Fellowship, even though they’re a slightly smaller church when it comes to attendance. So if you look at that staff to attendance ratio between the two churches, Christ Fellowship has half the number of paid staff, but their volunteer engagement is three times higher. So again, I’m not saying that the staffing model is causing that level of volunteer engagement, but there has to be some correlation there, right? Because we see that happen time and time again in the other churches that we’re serving. So, by the way, just a side note, we need to celebrate the staff team at Christ Fellowship because it’s very obvious they take seriously their responsibility to build volunteer teams and to engage volunteer leaders. And this is just a good example though. When paid staff are doing much of the ministry, they aren’t as motivated then to raise up other lay leaders and build volunteer teams. And frankly, I wonder if there’s a little job security stuff that’s going on in the employee’s brains, because they may sense that if they give ministry to volunteers, they may not have a job. There’s not gonna be anything to do. However, typically the opposite is true for churches. If they find a staff leader who demonstrates the ability to empower new lay leaders and build teams of volunteers to get ministry done through those volunteer teams, those staff leaders usually get more leadership responsibility, not less. So pastor, if you have one of these staff leaders on your team and they excel at volunteer engagement and finding other volunteer leaders, I hope you celebrate that leader on your team, promote them, expand their leadership responsibility, give them a raise for goodness sake. I mean, those are the leaders you want to keep around for a long, long time. Make heroes of those staff leaders. I mean, Amy does, does any of this surprise you when you see this correlation between size of the staff team and the number of people who are engaged in serving?
No, not at all. In fact, here’s how I see a play out in my world. People come to church, and they have this great experience, and staff are actively leading and engaging the ministry. They’re busy and it seems like honestly, others aren’t needed. And over time, this becomes the norm. Attenders give generously and come to expect staff to be the pastors, the doers, the leaders. And it doesn’t really look like anyone else is needed. And so when I see this, two things I encourage church leaders to do when they find themselves in that situation. First, challenge your staff, especially those, Tony, in family and discipleship ministries. Challenge them to draw out an org chart that includes leaders and volunteers, and what those positions and responsibilities would be. I think sometimes leaders just haven’t paused to think this through. In fact, maybe this exercise would be more fruitful to instruct them. Tell them, pretend you have a 12 week sabbatical coming up. The ministry needs to get done in your absence. So what type of roles need to be designed to keep the ministry running while you’re gone? By the way, no staff positions allowed. That help?
That’s good. That’s great. I love that exercise, Amy.
Yeah. When these leaders think about how they would get ministry done, if they weren’t there. I think it would help them design a team structure. So that’s the first: Design high-level leaders into your structure, and then lead pastors, you need to regularly cast vision around what it means to be in the body of Christ and the importance that every person needs to recognize that they are in this body of Christ and they have a role to play. And the sequence of those two exercises, Tony, is important because most pastors are pretty inspirational and give the holy spirit an opportunity to work in people’s hearts. So the staff leaders need to be ready prior to visioning around, you know, getting and finding your spot in this body of Christ. So when people raise their hand, we don’t have positions just for frontline doers, but we have positions that are gonna address both doers and leaders and beyond that. So, I don’t know. Do you have anything to add to that before I jump to my next question?
Yeah, I do have a related thought, and it has to do with defining the win for every staff person from day one that they’re a part of the team. In fact, I would even go back to recruitment and selection and then your on-boarding process. I strongly encourage you to clearly communicate this: your number one job responsibility over everything else that you do is to equip God’s people to do the work of God. So whatever role you’re hiring, maybe with the exception of some very specialized operations functions like accounting, you want your new staff to clearly understand their job is to equip lay leaders and build teams to engage the mission and make disciples of Jesus, or to put it another way your ministry is to get ministry done through other people. So, as an example, I may be a student pastor, but I’m primarily a team builder. I may be a small groups director, but I’m primarily a team builder. I may be a worship pastor, but my primary job responsibility is that I’m a team builder, and by team builder, that means, I always think about getting ministry done through lay leaders and through volunteers, rather than trying to hire additional staff to accomplish the ministry.
Tony, related to this topic of how staffing impacts volunteer engagements. You talked about avoiding outsourcing several months ago. Do you recall that thought you shared? Can you unpack that for us?
Yeah. Amy, I think I might have, it’s possible I was even on site with you working with a church. I can’t recall the specific context of the conversation. Do you happen to remember?
I do because it stood out to me so much. We were working with a staff team on staffing and structure, and the team was sharing their challenges with volunteer engagement, and they were talking about the new positions. And honestly, a lot of them were admin positions they needed to maintain their current strategies. In other words, they weren’t trying to launch something new and wanting new staff. They just wanted to get more staff, and they were already overstaffed. And that’s when you piped in.
Yeah. And I was recalling that we were talking about how staffing impacts volunteer engagement, and this was the thought that occurred to me in that moment. I was thinking this, we don’t outsource Bible engagement by hiring staff to read and study the Bible for people in our churches. We don’t outsource prayer by hiring staff to talk to and listen to God for people in our churches. We don’t outsource relational connection with other believers by hiring staff to participate in home groups for people in our churches, though, all the introverts are wondering maybe we could go to a church that does that. Well, and the point I made is we should not outsource serving opportunities by hiring more staff to do the ministry that God designed for every person who is part of the body of Christ. I mean, every Jesus follower has spiritual gifts to engage God’s mission. And we talked about this in last week’s episode. The crazy thing is that although we would never think of outsourcing other key components of someone’s spiritual journey, like engaging God’s word, praying or connecting with other believers in a Bible study or a home group, we routinely outsource serving opportunities by hiring staff to do the ministry. And in essence, we’re taking away something that God uses to grow someone’s faith. It’s something that provides purpose for people who follow Christ. I mentioned this in a recent article that I wrote, but I think we tend to forget how God used serving other people to shape our faith. I mean, when we serve, not only does that impact the life of the person being served, obviously, but I think you would agree there’s also something that happens in the life of the person doing the serving. I’m talking about you and I’m talking about me, and in case you haven’t considered the impact of this recently, let me just share my personal experience. I mean, there’s no doubt about it. God has used serving other people, both in the context of my volunteer engagement in the church and then outside the walls of the church, and this is what I have found in myself. When I’m serving other people, I’m worrying less about the challenges I’m facing in my life. When I’m serving other people, I feel more connected to the body of Christ and the mission that God has given the church. When I’m serving other people, I can’t help but experience a sense of fulfillment that I’m making a difference in someone’s life. When I’m serving other people, I pray more because I want people to experience God’s love through me, and when I’m serving other people, it stretches my faith as I trust God to do what only he can do in someone’s life. And that’s why I’m concerned that there’s more to serving than just the serving itself. We are actually helping people experience what it is to become like Jesus. We’re asking people to engage in the mission that God’s called us to. And because of that, we can’t outsource serving opportunities by hiring more staff to do ministry inside and outside the walls of our churches.
You know, Tony, I know you don’t consider yourself to be a preacher, but every once in a while, when you have just enough passion around a particular topic, you kind of morph into Pastor Tony. I think that was one of those.
All right. Well, there you go.
There’s just one more topic I’d like to talk about today. And it’s related to a key staff position that can help churches engage more volunteers. So will you talk about that role?
Yeah. In larger churches, I think this key position needs to be a staff leadership position, but in smaller churches, this needs to be a key lay leadership position. And in both cases, there also needs to be a team of volunteers around these leaders to fulfill the function I’m about ready to describe. But first here’s the principle. And I mentioned this a little bit earlier. Every staff person is primarily responsible for building volunteer teams. However, you need one person in your church to be the champion of volunteer engagement across every ministry in your church. Every church needs one leader who is thinking about how to engage more volunteers. Every church needs one person who’s thinking about strategies for recruiting, on-boarding, training, caring for volunteers. Every church needs one person who is working closely with every key ministry leader, both staff and volunteer leaders, to move as many people as possible into serving opportunities. And again, we see churches doing this all the time in other key ministry areas, like kids. If we want kids to grow in their faith, we identify a leader to shape kids’ ministry. We do the same thing with students, discipleship, small groups, worship, missions. If we want people to engage in missions and be transformed through those experiences, we hire or we find a key volunteer leader to lead that area of our ministry. And volunteer engagement is the same way. You need one person who wakes up everyday thinking, I need to help more people experience serving other people. I need to help our church accomplish its mission by helping more people engage in ministry, doing the work that God’s created us to do. This person doesn’t recruit all the volunteers. They don’t build all the volunteer teams. Every leader, they’re responsible for doing that in their ministry area. But this volunteer champion comes alongside all those ministry leaders and facilitates systems and strategies to make that happen. You also need this leader to constantly monitor your systems and strategies for engaging volunteers and asking this key question: Is what we’re doing actually working? Are we winning when it comes to volunteer engagement? And if not, you need this person to push the rest of the team to change course and engage an improved solution. So Amy it’s always struck me that churches primarily rely on volunteers to accomplish their mission, but rarely do I see churches hire a leader to shape their volunteer engagement strategy for their ministry. Have you seen this as well?
Yeah. I think churches just assume that since every staff person should be responsible for engaging volunteers, then it’s not necessary to hire a staff leader to champion volunteer engagement. Unfortunately, what we’ve seen too many times is that when everyone’s responsible for it, then nobody’s responsible for it. So instead you end up with very decentralized systems and strategies for volunteer engagement. And as you hinted before, the actual ministry, whether it’s worship or groups, missions, kids, students, that always takes priority over building teams. And that’s why every church needs a volunteer champion. Well, Tony, I have a feeling this is one of those topics we really need to circle back on, on a regular basis. But any final thoughts though, before we wrap up this series and today’s conversation?
Well, I just want to remind you, we’re continuing this conversation around volunteer engagement with a free training event. It’s on September 1st, and my team and I will be walking through some practical steps for how to attract more volunteers for your ministry areas and how to engage more high capacity leaders. And by the way, how to retain them too. And this is, I mean, I hope if you’re listening that you will be there, but this is really a great opportunity for your entire staff team. We want to help equip them to find more leaders for their ministry areas and to build a stronger volunteer team. So if you’re interested, you can register your staff team now by using the link in our show notes.
Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. At The Unstuck Group, our goal is to help pastors grow healthy churches by guiding them to align vision, strategy, team and action. In everything we do, our priority is to help churches help people meet and follow Jesus. If there’s any way that we can serve you in your church, reach out to us today at theunstuckgroup.com. Next week, we’re back with another brand new episode. Until then, have a great week.