Team unity is a beautiful thing. If you’ve been in a ministry setting for more than 90 seconds, you know that unity isn’t a commodity that’s easy to come by. Left to their own devices, volunteers often face in-fighting, jealousy, and superiority complexes.
So if your volunteer team is unified – focused on the same goal, playing together, getting along, enjoying one another’s company – that’s the point where you drop to your knees and thank God for a pretty unique blessing.
But is it possible for your volunteers to love each other too much?
Think back to the last time you walked into a fast food restaurant or a retail establishment. If you spotted employees cutting up with each other, teasing one another, or laughing together, your first thought might be, “This is a healthy environment. These people love what they do and the people they do it with.”
But here’s the rub: if the conversation and laughter continued to your exclusion, then team solidarity leads to guest solitude. In other words, they’re having a party, and you’re not invited.
In their delightful little book Fish!, Stephen Lundin and his team recount just such a scenario:
I was at the grocery store, waiting my turn at the meat counter. The staff was pleasant and having a good time. The problem was they were having a good time with each other, not me. If they had included me in their fun, it would have been a whole different experience. They had most of it right but were missing the key ingredient. They weren’t present and focused on me, the customer. They were internally focused.
How can you keep your vols from loving each other too much?
1. Remind them. In most scenarios, volunteers don’t intentionally leave guests out. They just drift into the behavior. So every week, before their shift begins, remind them that they’re here primarily for new friendships, not old ones.
2. Encourage play during off-peak times. If you push an attend one, serve one model, there is usually a good bit of downtime where volunteers don’t have to be hyper vigilant. Set an environment where they can talk without fear of leaving someone out.
3. Teach them to maintain an outward focus. Even when volunteers are having conversations with each other, an eye should always be out for guests. When a guest approaches, conversation stops and the focus turns to them.
4. Break the huddle. Literally. An inwardly-gazing circle of volunteers is an ineffective circle of volunteers. Teach them to stand shoulder-to-shoulder as they carry on conversations. It will help them live out #3 a little easier.
Has team unity actually become a problem for you? How have you addressed it? Comment below.
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