Leading a Volunteer from a Fan to a Raving Fan

We all know that ministry would be next to impossible without amazing volunteers.

And from what I’ve seen, most of the work in volunteerism and most of the questions that are asked about volunteers happen on the recruiting side.

While that’s great and definitely important, recruiting volunteers can kind of be like dating before you’re married: You’re willing do just about anything to get the person to marry you. In some cases, it’s basically smoke and mirrors in hopes you can trick them into saying, “I do.”  But, as we all know, the real work of the relationship takes place after you are married.

So it is with volunteerism! The real work takes place after they’ve signed up to join your ministry. The volunteers start out as fans, and that’s what gets them to sign up. But what can we do to move them from being fans to raving fans? Because raving fans will stay!

How do we keep them inspired and motivated?

How do we keep them engaged and energized?

How do we keep them happy and prevent them from experiencing burnout or volunteer fatigue?

It’s crucial we have a game plan for this because, as our volunteer culture goes, so goes our ministry.

So what can we do to make this happen? Here are three simple steps you can take to move your volunteers from being fans to raving fans:

  • Lead them through purpose.

Every person (including you and me) needs to know that what they’re doing matters if they’re going to stay inspired to do it. They need to know their job is connected to something bigger than themselves. Volunteering has to be more than just parking a car and hitting a perfect light cue. We need to be assured that our small actions and pieces of the puzzle is part of something far more significant. We have to connect each action (and each person!) to the mission of the church.

The truth is, if our volunteers don’t see the bigger picture, it’s our fault, not theirs.  There seems to be an unfortunate tendency as leaders to look down on the people we are leading. Instead of connecting them to something bigger, we say things like, ”If they would just get it,” or “If they could just see the opportunity and the influence they could have.” We must remember it’s our job to consistently connect and reconnect them to the bigger purpose and the bigger picture to keep them inspired to serve.

  • Lead them through development.

As leaders, we can’t just care about where our volunteers are serving. We need to care for and about them as an individual. That means we need to be constantly investing, training, and pouring into our volunteers as people. But before you know how to invest in and train them, you must know the people you are leading. You can’t lead them well if you haven’t figured out the best ways to lead them personally.

Remember, development must be intentional. It takes time. It requires being strategic and developing a plan. What is your plan for developing your volunteers? How much time do you devote weekly to making it happen? Does anything in your budget reflect a commitment to development? Remember, volunteers need to know we aren’t just using them to accomplish a task. They need to know we care. When that happens, you’ll be leading them one step closer to becoming a raving fan in your youth ministry.

  • Lead through ownership.

How are your volunteers able to use their own ideas, gifts, and unique personalities in their volunteer position? This one can be incredibly difficult for us as leaders, especially if we tend to view the people we are leading as inferior. When we maintain a mindset that we possess all the knowledge or that we must teach them everything we know about their role as a volunteer, there’s no room for ownership. Volunteers need room to breathe, to be autonomous, and to infuse their own gifts and abilities into a given environment.

When volunteers feel like they own what they are leading—whether that’s a Small Group of students, a team that runs the sound booth, or the game at the beginning of your weekly service—the payoff will lead to less burnout, higher productivity, and greater retention.

And ultimately, it will turn your volunteers into raving fans! 

When it comes to leading your volunteers through purpose, development, and ownership, what’s one thing you could do that would move them from being fans to raving fans?


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