The High Fives of Leading Volunteers

5 Steps Toward Healthy Leadership to Volunteers


by Casey Gibbons/ June 13, 2017

Volunteers. We truly can’t lead as effectively without them. We need individual units connected to function for the common goal, like fingers and toes on our hands and feet.

All of us who are in ministry are familiar with giving high-fives (or for the germ conscious, perhaps a fist bump). Here are some easy and necessary actions to implement with our leaders.

First: Communicate. Make yourself clear. Most volunteers don’t read inspiring Kidmin blog posts, attend informative ministry conferences, or sit in on family-like staff chapels. They may know what they are supposed to do, but do they know why? Can they see the culture you are striving to create? Do they understand your plan for moving forward? Have you taken time to share the direction your lead pastor has communicated for the church? Are they clear on new staff coming in? Do they know you are going on vacation? Inform, inform, inform. Meet weekly for a contact point before service to pray and give updates, use apps or text messaging systems, send email, create social media pages, or a set up a central stop-in point on site to keep everyone on the same page.

Second: Educate. Make training easy. By the time a person steps out to become a volunteer, most likely they have had to work through their own issues. Whether it is feelings of inadequacy, scheduling conflicts, or determining which area of ministry is the best fitwhen they get to you, every detail you give is important.

On the front end, it is crucial new volunteers feel heard and welcomed. Have a one-on-one time to get acquainted, then share with them the next step. Setting up a quarterly training session for new leaders can save you time from training new members every week. Once they are connected, consider having a once-a-month meeting with all volunteers before, during, or after service to teach leadership principles, and pray, and give testimonies. Additionally, take time to share helpful articles or books on how to reach kids, to provide opportunity for them to grow as leaders.

Third: Confront. Make confrontation a discipleship component. Confronting issues in ministry may not be fun, but it is often necessary and valuable. Recognizing something that needs to change doesn’t have to be a negative event. This can be a perfect time to gently lead someone through issues. The Apostle Paul instructs in how to confront by specifically having restoration as the goal: “You who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently” (Galatians 6:1, NIV). Addressing problems is for the good of both the ministry and the volunteer. Don’t run from it, just do it with the goal of leading your leaders closer to Christ in all they do.

Fourth: Duplicate. Make leaders of leaders. Don’t be afraid of growth! You may not be best friends with all your volunteers, but you can duplicate yourself so they can sustain meaningful relationships to the leader closest to them.

As the ministry grew in our church, we went from having a handful of volunteers to leading 200 volunteers weekly for a youth ministry of over 1,000. There was no way for us to lead at that level the same way we led with the whole group fitting in one 15- passenger van.  Set up your most reliable and effective leaders over volunteers. Everyone will feel more connected with a direct person closer to him or her as you focus on the ones directly under you.

Fifth: Celebrate! Make time for celebrations. Set aside budget for an end-of--year kickoff to the start of the year party, to say thank you. Send a handwritten note after a big outreach. Hand out T-shirts before an event. Send a printed picture of them serving. Give a shout-out on social media for their hard work. Stay dialed in on the big moments of volunteer leaders. If they are graduating, getting married, having a baby, or are new to the team, make a deal of it! Celebrations go a long way as you build your team.

The next time we say a hello via the friendly hand slap, let’s ask ourselves if we are reaching out with all we can. Giving our volunteers a high-five can be more than a passing greeting. Extending our high-fives of leadership could be the exact connection they need to mobilize all that is in our hearts.