Keys for Identifying, Developing and Retaining Volunteer Leaders

By Brent Dolfo

I was recently with a church staff in an affluent, well-educated East Coast suburb. They were trying to shift their church model from “hired staff” with volunteers to a model where the staff’s primary role would be developing members to lead in ministries inside and outside the church. As we worked together on this shift, we discovered the staff had been basically operating by asking congregants “to help them (the staff)” do the ministry. Eventually the volunteers got tired of being “helpers” and the staff would need to find someone else to replace them. The staff were also growing tired and felt that they were employees at Nordstrom serving consumers, struggling to get some of their “customers” to help get their jobs done.

As we met together, the church leadership, who desperately wanted things to change, asked what things they needed to do to help shift their model. Here’s the top 5 things we worked on to help shift to a leadership development culture.

1) Re-imagining the staff roles. While it may be a small thing, we added “leadership development” as the first item on all their job descriptions and the first thing that would be on their performance reviews. We had to get staff’s attention that this was going to be a shift- from primarily doing to “developing”. They were no going to be evaluated on how “they” did in shifting the culture that they had created and allowed to foster.

2) Re-equip the staff for a new approach to recruiting. Staff had to shift from recruiting doers to recruiting leaders. What we have discovered is that doers respond to tasks, but leaders respond to vision. If you wanted to recruit a leader, you had to approach them with a particular vision and ask them if they wanted to step up to own and give leadership to that vision. The staff role would shift to coaching and equipping them to lead rather than do. We asked staff to work on a 1-minute pitch that would help them frame the vision of what their ministry was all about. They had to “pitch” the kingdom impact someone could have through their ministry, asking them to take ownership for that vision.

3) Frame what good potential leaders looks like. The staff needed to know, “What does a good potential leader look like in our context? What are the raw materials you look for when fishing for leaders?”  What I encountered as I asked that question were blank faces followed by 5 different ideas from 5 different people. Churches that do a great job in recruiting, developing and retaining volunteers have effectively determined together what they’re looking for.  Once you do that, staff have a better chance at identifying good potential leaders.

4) Outline the development process. This church didn’t have a clear process for developing and nurturing leaders. They had to through some questions:

  • Do we want to have an apprenticing/coaching model?
  • Do we want a class model?
  • Do we want quarterly leader development meetings?
  • What’s our content? Why that content?

Until the staff had track on the “how” they struggled putting legs to a plan.

5) Start Tracking Results. Most churches don’t measure leadership development. Churches that have anchored leadership development in their culture have figured out how to count to know if they’re making progress. Some churches set goals on the number of leaders needed in each staff area. Some churches track the percentage of their staff that have at least one volunteer leader they’re developing. Once this church started measuring staff, departments and themselves as a whole, they began to see significant progress.

Do you see your church in this story?  As a leader are you challenged to identify, develop, and retain the quality of volunteers necessary to accomplish the vision of your church?  Is your staff growing tired of “doing” rather than leading the ministry of the church?

Here’s what we’re going to do to help.

jon-ferguson-sizedWe recently invited Jon Ferguson to join us for a FREE webinar titled “Keys for Identifying, Developing and Retaining Volunteer Leaders.” Jon Ferguson is one of the founding pastor of Community Christian Church in Chicago. Community has grown from a handful of people to a church with 13 locations and hundreds of volunteer leaders throughout Chicagoland.  Jon provides leadership for our Staff Champions, helping them and their teams develop teaches throughout all that they do.

In our webinar, Jon Ferguson shares how they identify, develop and retain leaders at Community Christian.

Simply fill out the form below to view the video!