Volunteer Development: The Next Step

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At Grace Church, and many other churches, Promotion Sunday (or, Promotion Weekend, for those churches with Saturday night services) is coming up. For all that I miss about leading a children's ministry, there are parts that I don't, including all that is needed to get done this for Promotion. I bet they'll have over 1000 children assigned to Small Groups, and classrooms will need to be re-stocked with supplies and curriculum needs.

One thing I don't miss is the sheer volume of volunteers needed, and how overwhelming the summer recruiting season can get. But for the volunteers we had, I did enjoy being involved with equipping them and helping them grow and develop as leaders.

Churches need to grow, not necessarily every month or year, but over time for sure. If a church is not growing, it is dying. And when I say "grow," I'm not just talking about attendance or membership, but also about how the individuals are maturing as believers in Jesus.

One of the main ways that churches can fall short is by failing to develop leaders. We need to remember that even in areas like children's and youth ministries, it's not just about the kids. The ministries are about helping the leaders grow.

Everyone needs to grow over time. But one mistake that I made early on was failing to recognize that each person progresses at different rates. We had to learn to balance the tension between encouraging people to grow versus being patient and gracious with them as God works in their hearts.

So, we tried to keep the options open, to help everyone realize that there is a place that they could start to contribute (for those who are new), and roles in which they could achieve (for those who are ready for more responsibility and impact).

Here was a general progression for regular weekend volunteers in our Children's Ministry. Most people followed this order, but sometimes we would skip a "level" or two.
  1. Jump-In. A non-committal one time experience to shadow a regular volunteer. Someone could "jump-in" to as many areas as he wanted.
  2. Substitute. Someone who fills in for a Small Group Leader once every 4-8 weeks.
  3. Share. We always preferred full-time volunteers, especially in Small Group roles, for the sake of meaningful relationships. But we also acknowledged that not everyone was in a place to serve that often; some people, for example, are out of town every 3-4 weeks. Instead of saying that they could serve "twice-a-month" or "every-other-week," we told them that they could share a role. The term "sharing" put more of an emphasis on their own responsibility.
  4. Full-time. Our ideal, regular volunteers. Serve every week (except for occasional vacations, sickness, and "sanity breaks").
  5. Assistant Coach. Leadership role, helping Coaches (see #6). How the Coach and Assistant Coach divided their responsibilities could vary, depending on skills, needs, and passions.
  6. Coach. Volunteer roles that did things that most churches pay people for, like scheduling and calling for subs. Here are 4 Great Reasons to Have Volunteer Coaches.

The great thing about having a progression like this is that everyone can recruit and equip for volunteer levels below them. There is nothing better then Volunteers recruiting Jump-Ins and Subs, or when Coaches recruiting other Volunteers. No matter what level you are in in leadership (as a parent, volunteer, staff, or employer), you can always help those below you grow.

Do you have a similar progression in your area of ministry?

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