Four Steps Needed to Create A Volunteer Pipeline


If I could transport myself back in time to the early years of my ministry, the first change I would have made in my thought process would be to develop leaders. Not developing leaders put a ceiling on our ministry potential. Asking people to wear multiple hats proved to be detrimental not only to the ministry but to my few, overworked and over-committed saints. Burnout was common. Ministry was inconsistent. New ministry opportunity was missed or not taken advantage of because we didn’t have the people or the energy to try new things. Have you been there? Are you there now as a church? If this is your story let me share with you how to change your volunteer culture.

  1. Develop an apprenticeship model of development.

You are thinking is that a business term. Here we go trying to turn the house of God into a corporation. No, but there is something to be learned from how others train and equip people for service. In an apprenticeship model, the essential foundation of the program includes structured on-the-job training. Your apprentices get hands-on training and equipping from an experienced mentor involved in the particular ministry. This hands-on training would last typically a minimum of one year. This training comprises providing the skills and knowledge the apprentice must learn over the program to be fully proficient at the job. Imagine how this would transform your leadership potential and open opportunities for further ministry possibilities.

  1. Create a safe environment for new leaders to experience leading.

Before you embark on this volunteer development culture shift you must be ready to allow these new apprentice-level volunteers to spread their wings and fly. Provide a safe environment up-front to put their gifts to use. In other words, give them the main stage. If they falter, encourage them, give them useful input to improve and send them out time and time again until they are ready to lead on the weight of their own ability. You will never develop the next generation of leaders if you never allow them to lead.

  1. Provide Feedback

As you are developing these new leaders, give them feedback. However, a word of caution.  If your organization has people of different backgrounds from different nationalities realize they process feedback differently.

Andy Molinsky uses this example “…in Germany in terms of tough, critical, to-the-point negative feedback was actually demotivating to Jens’s new Chinese employees, who were used to a far gentler feedback style. In Germany, you don’t single out specific accomplishments or offer praise unless the accomplishment is truly extraordinary. From a German point of view, these positive work behaviors are normal, rather than extraordinary. Employees are expected to do a particular job, and when they do that job, they do not need to be recognized. In China — at least at this particular plant — the culture was quite different. Employees expected more positive reinforcement than pure critique. These positive comments motivated them to increase productivity and put forth that extra, discretionary effort.”[1]

Take the time to learn what motivates your volunteers and which feedback style will produce the results you are seeking.

  1. Celebrate your volunteers

They often ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Many little kids respond, “A firefighter!” There is something attractive about being heroic… and driving a big red truck! But did you know of the over 1 million firefighters in the United States serving families and businesses as some of the most anxious times in a person’s life, that only 31% get paid? That’s right, 69% of firefighters are volunteers. 98.3% of fire departments in the state of Delaware are comprised of volunteers or mostly volunteers. So why do they do put their lives at risk? Because they love their neighbors.[2]

Faith calls every Christian to sacrifice to serve others. It is not just the role of the paid minister. How can we as a church serve our community at the time when it is most at risk?

You are raising up volunteers to take part in the most important mission ever conceived. It is difficult to work and in some places; it is dangerous work. While God calls us to do it, celebrating how God is using His people is crucial. Take time like Jesus did to encourage your faithful servants, lift before the congregation how God is using His people to carry out His mission. It will encourage the entire body of Christ and the ones called to serve.



3 Comments on “Four Steps Needed to Create A Volunteer Pipeline

  1. I do my best to see all the volunteers in the ministries I’ve served as “willing workers” who are also fellow workers in the Kingdom. I’m not the boss. I’m serving right along side of them all!


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