Tag Archive: vision

The Mistakes of Coaxing Volunteers (and Fixes)

When’s the last time you volunteered your (unpaid) time to something or someone? Did you do it reluctantly? Or excitedly?

I speculate if you volunteered your time with any level of excitement it was because the person asking compelled you to serve. They presented it as a calling and did it in a compelling way.

Recruiting church volunteers is difficult work. But I think recruitment can be eased with a little work on the front end by the recruiters.

Cajoling vs Compelling (the already called)

Often we resort to cajoling or arm twisting. And from time to time, for one-time or short-term volunteer needs, the coaxing methodology suffices. But their volunteering doesn’t typically last.

Others of us tend to fill our volunteer slots through convicting messages. We play the prophet role and convict them into volunteering. We proof text scripture to help our convicting message or we just plain convict them with guilt. This method often leads to ministry volunteers who serve reluctantly, guilt-ridden and without joy.

But what if we could match their calling with a compelling need?

How can we be a part of them discovering their calling from God? A volunteer opportunity matches their hard wiring, their calling from Jesus, and a compelling need.

A compelling opportunity doesn’t have to be sexy or a fun assignment, per se. But it should show how their service can make a difference. People want to know their role will play a part in a bigger Kingdom initiative.

If you can compel them, how do you keep them?

Once you compel them, then you need to consider how to keep them. How do we ensure they stay connected? Retention takes ongoing work.

If you’ve already compelled them with a clear and compelling vision, the retention will take coaching and celebration.

We church leaders have a bad habit of getting volunteers in place, and basically leaving them there. We background check them, give them a name badge and implicitly, if not explicitly, say “good luck.”

Coaching and Celebrating

People are willing to take on challenges in volunteer roles if they believe the persons who lead them will coach and resource them. Volunteering time is a sacrifice, but volunteering when you feel unequipped and alone on the proverbial island is punishment and people won’t take it for long.

Coaching is not a onetime thing. It can’t be limited to our cleverly themed annual volunteer meetings. It will require ongoing training and development (a pipeline of leadership training).

And as they serve with you, celebrate. Celebrate them and their work. But also celebrate the fruit of their work. Pause and make sure they know how God is using them and your church.

Retention of volunteers means we continue to compel them to service. It means ongoing coaching and it means celebrating what God’s doing. And that leads straight back to them seeing themselves as a part of that compelling vision you gave them.

So, next time you make the “volunteer ask” of someone, in advance ask yourself, “Will I be compelling them or cajoling them? Will I try to match their calling with a role, or force them to fill my biggest volunteer need?”

Calling and competencies left in our churches parking lots

I’m pretty convinced every Sunday people drive into our church parking lots who have been called by Jesus, been made capable by Jesus, but not yet been compelled to being on mission with Jesus. Other days of the week, they function as high caliber, caring, and committed people in their work and homes, but at church, they pull into their parking spot and basically leave all they have to offer in their car as they walk into our churches.

Part of that is on them and between God and them. Yet, part of that is on us. My guess is if we were helping them to discover their calling and compelling them toward a vision that includes their service, well, they’d bring all of who God called them to be into our churches.

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Working with Visionaries Effectively

Visionary leaders are awesome.

They’re even awesome-er if they’ve surrounded themselves with others who can help ensure that their visions get realized – or pushed back if they don’t add up.

Some of you are equipped to work alongside visionary leaders – but sometimes, it can be difficult. Whether the visionary leader is awesome or not-so-awesome, working with them does require a “very particular set of skills” (said best in a Liam Neeson voice).

The person who has this set of skills can 1) work alongside a visionary, 2) bring their vision to fruition, and 3) speak up when the vision has no real fruit.

This person who is doing this is likely a leader themselves, but not a visionary one. Is that you? If so, you must be able to do two things:

  1. Know when to align with and put action to their vision
  2. Know how much horsepower to put toward a vision before realizing it’s not best for your church. (We typically avoid ditching visions, because we avoid sunk costs, but I’ve blogged before about the embracing of sunk costs within the church).

Ways to embrace and leverage the vision of the visionary, without it hurting your church, them, or you —

  1. Don’t rain on their parade

Don’t be “that guy” who kills every idea – and for sure don’t make it personal. Listen well to the full idea before weighing in on its viability. After you’ve listened, if you do have push-back, they’ll receive it better if you’ve taken the time to carefully consider their visionary idea.

  1. At the right moment, provide a reality-check to the vision

If you’re drowning in debt and the vision not only doesn’t eliminate debt, but furthers your indebtedness, that needs to be pointed out. You need to establish unbiased realities – and when possible, offer solutions how the vision could be managed around current and future realities.

  1. Make progress on fulfilling their vision, but do it incrementally (sometimes you’ll be a speed governor)

A gifted visionary may be frustrated when they deliver a vision, get the needed buy-in, and then see little to no progress on it. Assuming it’s a viable vision, begin work, but recognize it may not be at the pace they’d like. If you’ve done step #2 correctly, they’ll know that the vision will take time to be realized. Many times their vision may have come to them over night or on a prayer retreat, but it takes time to bring to fruition.

  1. Embrace their ability for visioneering and sometimes, just align on faith

A lot of the best visions are audacious. They don’t always align with predetermined plans. Some don’t make sense in our natural economy, but might in God’s economy. While I don’t think you should further visions that aren’t healthy or are even detrimental to your church, there will be times visions don’t add up but they’re still right. When those times happen, they’ll be times to step out in faith. Don’t limit visions to things you can figure out and seek God’s sense of calling to the vision.

  1. When you can’t make all of it happen, give them options

Let them prioritize which of their visionary ideas is most important. Sometimes visionary leaders have multiple visions, and your hesitancy is simply a capacity issue. Get their input about which one is most important or time-sensitive. In other cases, maybe you can’t fulfill the entire vision, but you can fulfill part of it. Don’t throw away the whole vision just because one portion isn’t viable. If there are parts of the vision that would stand alone, pursue those.

  1. Bring focus to any part lacking clarity

A visionary I worked would often say, “I can see A, and I can see Z. What I can’t see is what’s in-between.” He’s not focused on B through Y. Therefore, those parts are unclear. They lack focus. That’s where you come in. You can determine the importance of B through Y. Most great visions will lack clarity at some level, and that’s okay. It allows others to speak into the vision.

Some visions never come to fruition because they were simply not good. Or they were more about the visionary than the vision. But I wonder how many visions from God were given to gifted leaders, but never happened because the visionary didn’t have capable people to come alongside them?

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