Warm Bodies or Warm Hearts?

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to catch a plane ride sitting next to Greg Stier, CEO and Founder of Dare 2 Share, from Washington, DC to Denver. He was returning home after a speaking engagement and I was heading to Colorado for a leadership camp/mission trip hybrid called Lead THE Cause.

Watching him lead from attending Dare 2 Share Conferences for several years, I had gained a lot of respect for him as a leader, I approached him while at the gate, introduced myself, and asked if I could pick his brain on some ministry questions I had. Much to my surprise, he invited me to sit next to him during the plane ride (YAY Southwest Airlines for not having assigned seats!).

I didn’t know it at the time but the conversation that followed would forever alter my view of recruiting, equipping, and keeping leaders in our ministry.

I expressed to Greg my struggle with some leaders in my youth ministry just not “getting it” when it came to really doing effective ministry. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve been so fortunate to have many AMAZING leaders to serve along side of me, but I knew that my lack of leadership also hindered what I knew the Lord could do. At the time, I felt like I was spinning my wheels trying to lead my volunteers well.

Among other things, Greg introduced me to the Skill/Will Matrix. As he explained each quadrant, it clicked for me on why I was spinning my wheels. Here’s a breakdown:

Let’s start with “Low Will, Low Skill.” These are people that don’t know what to do and they really don’t care. There’s little motivation for ministry and they don’t care to learn anything. Not only do they lack the necessary skills to be a great leader, but you also have to convince them to even show up. This type of leader would be jokingly called a “Warm Body.”

Moving to the right is “Low Will, High Skill.” These are people that may have experience in ministry or lots of biblical knowledge but their heart is still cold in motivation. This quadrant may complain a lot or have tons of ideas on how things should be done with little help in actually making it better. In scripture, we see the Pharisees as “Low Will, High Skill” folks. Jesus had some of the harshest words for these religious leaders than anyone else he came in contact with.

Moving up to the top left quadrant, we find “High Will, Low Skill.” Greg expressed to me that this is your target. These are the type of people that say things like “I’M ALL IN!…..Wait, what are we doing again?” The desire is there and they are just hungry for the skills to be effective. Most new believers can be in this category so be careful not to give them too much responsibility too early (1 Tim. 3:6).

Finally, we come to the “High Will, High Skill” quadrant. Hopefully, this is where you are, and trust me, you want your leaders to be living there as well. These are the types of folks that get it. They are burning with motivation to serve and also have the skills necessary to make an impact. They have warm hearts toward ministering to students and display the character qualities scripture outlines for leaders. Are they perfect? Of course, not but this is the quadrant goal to get your leaders into. These are ministry multipliers, disciple makers, and what we call “Chair 4 Christians” in Dann Spader’s book 4 Chair Discipling.

Let’s unpack this a bit more. Maybe you’re stuck and frustrated about the condition of your student and adult leaders. Maybe it’s time to write out a list and put them into the quadrants. How many of them are in the bottom two quadrants? Do you have any in the top two? As I evaluated my frustration within my leadership core, I realize it was the ones in the bottom quadrant that were draining me the most. I realized I was spending way too much time in the lower quadrants being frustrated with the “warm bodies” instead of cultivating the “warm hearts.”

How do you cultivate a stronger volunteer culture? Start by focusing on the most fertile soil of high will, low skill individuals with the aim of having a team of high will, high skill leaders! What are some of your best practices on investing in leadership? We’d love to hear them!