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Six Outdated Mindsets that are Hurting Your Volunteer Ministry

Do you feel like your volunteer service teams are a sinking boat full of holes? As soon as you get someone to jump on the boat, do they start taking on water and eventually bail out? If so, you may be suffering from an outdated mindset of what volunteering in a church is all about. I’d like to explore six crucial flips in thinking that will help you see your volunteers as people to be developed instead of names to fill a time slot. When you become consumed with helping people use their gifts in the area they’ve been called to serve, you’ll find that your volunteer ship will set sail for smoother waters and gather a lot more passengers along the way.

1. Outdated Mindset: Leading volunteers means managing schedules.

Flipped Thinking: Leading volunteers means shepherding people.

If all you’re doing is filling people’s names into a schedule and sending them a reminder of when they’re supposed to serve, you’re managing, not leading. A volunteer leader checks on people regularly – encouraging them, appreciating them, equipping them, praying for them, and caring about their spiritual development.

2. Outdated Mindset: Volunteering is about doing.

Flipped Thinking: Volunteering is about becoming.

If volunteers think all they are expected to do is a set of tasks, it’s easy for them to choose to not show up because they don’t see the eternal value in what they’re doing. Instead, develop a culture where volunteers see themselves as a part of the vision and ministry of the church and realize they can grow spiritually and learn to become the people God created them to be as they serve and invest in others.

3. Outdated Mindset: Volunteering is something we want from people.

Flipped Thinking: Volunteering is something we want for people.

Too often, when we communicate with potential volunteers we stress what we want them – what we want them to do . “I have one space left on the nursery schedule. Would you fill that slot just once a month?” Don’t you want everyone in your church to have the opportunity to use the gifts God gave them in service? It’s so awesome to serve God in your sweet spot – that’s something you should wanteveryone! So learn to communicate that! “I see the way you are with babies! You have a gift! Serving in the nursery might be a great way for you to use that gift to serve the babies and parents in this church. It’s an incredible opportunity and I think you’d love it!”

4. Outdated Mindset: If I advertise for a position, people should respond.

Flipped Thinking: If I ask in person and build a relationship, I’ll know where to help them get plugged in.

Newsletter advertisements, video advertisements, and generic pleas for help are generally ineffective in helping people get plugged into service. These mass cries for help aren’t personal so it’s easy for people in the pews to think, “That doesn’t apply to me. Someone else will do it.” Instead, seek to develop relationships with people in the church. Spend several weeks or months initiating conversation so you get to know them personally and where they are called to serve. If you ask someone to serve in an area without taking the time to get to know them, you’re not going to be able to figure out where they are uniquely gifted to serve. Developing relationships takes longer, but volunteers who are serving in their sweet spot are much more productive, effective, and stick around longer than those who aren’t.

5. Outdated Mindset: A warm body is better than no body.

Flipped Thinking: No body is better than just a warm body.

We need to stop filling the schedule with warm bodies who are not called to serve. Filling volunteer roles with people who are not happy, called, or effective in their ministry roles does more harm than good. Consider the couple who has been recruited onto serving on the Greeters team. They aren’t comfortable talking to others, but they didn’t want to say no so they said yes. They stand at the door handing out bulletins but feel awkward talking to strangers so they don’t. Because they aren’t serving where they are called, they’re in a bad mood – they don’t enjoy what they’re doing and don’t see the purpose behind it. As guests walk into the church, they pick up on the attitude of your uncomfortable greeters and their first impression is not a positive one. In addition the attitude of these unhappy volunteers rubs off on the others serving on the team.

If you don’t have the volunteers to do the ministries you are trying to do, stop the ministries until you have the right people in the right place. Having no greeters at the door is better than having the wrong greeters at the door. If you can’t find just the right person, leave that space blank on the schedule and continue looking and praying for the person God has in mind to fill that role.

6. Outdated Mindset: It’s just easier to do it myself.

Flipped Thinking: It’s worth the extra time to train a volunteer.

Too often leaders take too much ownership of their ministries – so much that they squeeze out any possibility for volunteers to plug in. When you do that, you’re taking away an opportunity for someone else to use their gifts in His service. It may seem “easier” to you to just do it yourself, but in reality it’s selfish and controlling. It’s always worth the time to develop a volunteer to do a job. Think about the things you can turn over to someone else and allow them to use their gifts to accomplish the task. Reverse the trend of companies who “down-size” and make every opportunity to “up-size” and provide additional opportunities for people to serve in your ministry.

By getting rid of outdated mindsets, you’ll be able to provide opportunities for volunteers to become the people God is calling them to be.

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