I’m a broken record when it comes to the number one thing you can do as a leader to grow your volunteer team – Pastor Your People First. You have to put the emotional and spiritual needs of your volunteers over the excellence of your experience. You must care more about who your people are becoming than what they do on your team. You must focus on their heart condition more than the button they push.
I know this sounds like a no-brainer in theory, but in Church Media world, we can sometimes be too quick to focus on what our volunteers do on Sunday and forget about sharing our lives with them during the week.
As leaders, we must go after the hearts of our volunteers first.
I’m a sucker for television shows and movies that pull at heartstrings. In fact, I can even look past some cheesy shows and movies if it has “heart”.
Let me give some examples of recent programming that has some “heart”:
“Undercover Boss” has a heart component: they end each show with gifting star employees with bonuses, vacations, promotions, and more. It’s always emotional and powerful.
“The Goldbergs” is a ABC sitcom that is about to go into its third season. The show is quirky and nostalgic – especially for an 80s kid like me. Each episode follows a classic sitcom formula of tying the show in a nice little bow in 22 minutes. There is always a family element where no matter how much the family members caused trouble for each other, they always make it clear by the end of the episode how much they love each other.
“Extreme Makeover Home Edition” has been off the air for a few years but this is another show that pulled strongly at emotions and heartstrings.
There is a reason these shows touch us. Loving People is the second greatest commmandment – it’s a command to Love each other, and when we do we are becoming more like Jesus. So when we see love in real life, on television or in movies, you’re seeing the essence of who Jesus is.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:7-8
Here are 10 things you can do on your team to win the hearts of your volunteers:
1. Give out compliments that you mean.
Freely give out genuine compliments. Make a conscious decision to tell your volunteers often what a great job they are doing and what their service means to your church and to others.
2. Speak and act honestly.
Be genuine. Never lie. Don’t fake it, people see through that a mile away. Be who you say you are. Let your actions match your words. Can people count on you? Are you accessible? I’m not saying that you need to say “yes” to every request or every project, in fact, it’s better to say “no” than to say “yes” and never deliver. Have integrity and be a person of your word. This will not only win hearts, but earn respect.
3. Attend events in the life of your team members.
This idea is definitely in the category of “do for one what you wish you could do for all”, obviously you can’t attend every thing your volunteers are involved in. But if you can – attend sporting events, community plays, tournaments, or anything else your team members may be participating in. Another idea here would be to give business to the places they work – do you have a volunteer that’s a mechanic? Have a teenager on your team that works at the local burger joint? Take opportunities to give business to your team members.
4. Listen more than you speak.
Listening is a form of caring. When you stop and spend time to listen to someone, you’re loving them. We all know that person that’s always running when you’re trying to talk to them. Or the person that is staring at their phone or drifting off when they are with you. Your body language is most of your communication with someone. Slow yourself down. Lock eyes, nod, show that you’re listening with your whole body, not just your speech.
5. Discern and nurture talent.
Give your volunteers opportunities to thrive at a gift that they are good at. You need people on your team that can fill vital positions, but you also need to create opportunities for people to nurture their talents. Do you have an older lady on your team that may not have the capacity to learn the gear for Sunday but can cook a mean breakfast and “mother” your team? Do you have people with administrative gifts that can help you schedule volunteers or send weekly updates to your team? Be discerning about what talents your team members have and use them. You’ll win their heart if you find a way to use what they have a passion or gift to do.
6. Show them appreciation.
Schedule time in your week to personally contact your volunteers just to see how they are doing and to tell them how much you appreciate them. Be personal – call them, write them a card, text them. The more personal you can make this, the more memorable it will be.
7. Smile and Laugh often.
This may sound silly – but your volunteers feed off of your energy. If you’re bored and it looks like you don’t want to be at church serving, that’s the kind of culture you’re creating. You’ll win the hearts of your volunteers if you have fun with them, if you laugh with them, if they can see on your face that you enjoy their company and that you enjoy serving.
8. Initiate physical contact.
Don’t be weird and creepy, but physical touch lets people know you care. Some people are more open to physical contact than others and you definitely want to be discerning. Again, I’m not suggesting that you be awkward and creepy – but I am suggesting that handshakes, hugs, high-five’s, fist bumps, and other physical contact lets people know that you care about them. Let me go back to my illustration of “Undercover Boss” – I’ve seen countless times on the show that when the boss will reveal himself as the CEO or leader of the company, and give very generous gifts to the employee, one of the reactions of the employee is to ask – “can I give you a hug?” Why is that? Because physical contact is a way we show gratitude, that we are thankful and care for that person.
9. Encourage three times more than you critique.
Get in a big habit of encouraging people. Not only give out compliments which I mentioned above, but encourage people in life. People want to be cared for and cheered on. They want to be loved. Encouragement is a gift. Give it freely and often. If its not in your personality to encourage and lift people up, raise up a leader that can be your right-hand person – that their main job is to encourage people. People long for encouragement and motivation.
10. Share in their life struggles and celebrations.
People know that you care when you’re there. It’s as simple as that. My dad has been a pastor all my life. It’s amazing to hear how people feel close to him. Truth be told, most of them haven’t spent a lot of time with him – but when someone in their family was sick in the hospital or died and he was there with the family during their toughest times, they feel close to him. The same is true with your volunteers – as much as you can be, be present during big events in their lives – are you visiting the hospital when someone has a major surgery or just had a baby? Are you present if your volunteer’s parent passes away? Does your team celebrate together when a team member gets baptized or their child accepts Christ? Be there in the big moments in people’s lives. They will remember it.
These are just a few ways that you can win the hearts of your volunteers.
What other ways do you care for each other on your team? Leave a comment below!
Carl Barnhill has served on staff at some of the largest churches and organizations in the country. He served as Media Director at Precept Ministries International, directing the television and radio program Precepts for Life with Kay Arthur, broadcasted to over 98 million homes around the world. He served as Video Production Director at Pinelake Church in Brandon, MS, where he produced media content for four campuses, as well as led volunteer teams.
He most recently served as Video Coordinator for Newspring Church in South Carolina. Newspring has 10 campuses across the state with a weekly attendance of over 35,000. At one campus alone, the number of consistent volunteers serving in media production tripled, under his leadership.
He currently serves as Creative Director and Owner of[twelve:thirty]media, a company that serves churches and ministries all over the world through motion graphics content and church media coaching.