Published: 4 years ago

Don’t Divide Your Volunteers

Not long ago our five year old daughter lost her first tooth. Because we’re parents who are given to much childhood whimsy, we explained the concept of the Tooth Fairy and encouraged her to stash that incisor under her pillow. But because we’re also parents who are given to much adulthood frugality, we only gave her our standard $1 Tooth Fairy fee, plus the bonus $1 for the first tooth lost.

What we didn’t know until the next morning was that one of her big brothers – who dotes on her a just a little bit – snuck in her room and added another four bucks to the pot. So if you’re keeping score at home, that’s six dollars that has been burning a hole in a five year old’s pocket for the last couple of weeks.

It all came to a boil yesterday, when Haven and my wife Merriem were at the store. She asked if she could use one of her dollars to buy some gum (because what better way to commemorate losing a tooth, amiright?). Merriem said that she could. So Haven pulled out her dollar, ripped it in two, and handed half to her mom for the gum purchase.

We can’t be 100% sure what went on in her one-tooth-down cranium, but here’s a shot at it: in my daughter’s mind, if you don’t want to give up a dollar, you rip it and create TWO dollars.

Now that’s downright adorable when a five year old does it (yes it is. Shut up.). But it’s somewhat less so when we apply the same logic to our volunteer teams. Don’t have enough people to cover all the positions? No problem. Just multiply their efficiencies by adding to their responsibilities.



Like us, volunteers have a critical mass. That seems so obvious, but I think a lot of leaders forget that simple point. They can only say yes to so many things until they effectively say no to family, hobbies, jobs, or more practically speaking, they say no to having any effectiveness at all in ministry.

Sometimes one of the best gifts we can give our volunteers is to help them say no to certain roles so they can say yes to the best roles. We start that by being aware of their gifts and recognizing where they likely serve with the greatest passion. We limit the menu of ministries at our church so they’re not trying to take on every single thing.

And then we help them help others see the joy in serving. We train our volunteers to be shoulder-tappers, to create an asking culture where we’re always inviting friends to jump in and join us. It’s not just the job of the pastoral team to find fresh servants; everyone has to pitch in and invite in order to continue to build the team and expand the mission.

Don’t divide your vols in half. Add to the team…or better yet, catalyze them to multiply. How do you avoid division and promote the addition of volunteers? Comment below.


(photo credit)

  1. Dirk Haupt says:

    I agree with you all the way. Keeping your volunteering a spiritual experience, not one of backbreaking to-do-lists, creates an environment of growth and depth. We do all the typical things for recruiting more volunteers…asking volunteers to ask their friends and family, we’ve done invite cards, etc…but two we’ve recently implemented that seem to be getting some traction are: having our small group leaders display our volunteering opportunities materials at their small groups so people from their group can ask about it in a closer-knit environment and take it home to discuss further. We’ve also seen success at one of our campuses with their “quick 5” initiative where every staff person is required to meet and set a quick weekday appt with 5 new guest per weekend. In that appt they discuss steps such as our membership class, baptism, and of course…the volunteer ask.

    • Danny says:

      Dirk, these are great ideas! I especially love the small groups promo. Our brand new small groups pastor is my former membership guy from my team. I might cash in a favor. 🙂

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