Q&A: Should We Have a Volunteer Huddle?
In your experience, what are the pros and cons of a pre-service first impressions huddle? In my context, the first of two services begins at 9:15 AM. Prior to this service, we have a volunteer huddle at 8:30 AM, where we speak vision & prepare for newcomers. Is this necessary? Why or why not?
Ah, the old volunteer huddle. It is the nemesis of many a leader. Common complaints involve vols who are rarely on time, if they show up at all. The ones who do show up are often checked out, putting off a “I’ve heard all this before” vibe. (It should be noted that a lot of this rests on us as leaders: if we treat the gathering as the “same old, same old” devoid of compelling vision or new news, it’s no wonder that our folks scuttle the huddle.)
But the question remains: is it necessary? And if so, how do you fight what is commonly an uphill battle?
The short answer is that a regular volunteer huddle is important to align your team to vision and updates, but a pre-service huddle may not be as necessary as you think. Look at it from a volunteer’s perspective: they’re often running like crazy just to get to their spot before the service begins. There are kids to get ready, granola bars to scarf down, and church parking lots to conquer. If you want a volunteer in place 30 minutes before the service begins, a pre-service huddle means they have to show up 40-45 before. That often creates issues around childcare (i.e., your kids’ environment isn’t ready to take kids yet), it means you’re sometimes starting the huddle without your full team, and it means you’re racing to beat the clock before the first guest arrives.
And don’t forget that a pre-service huddle is almost impossible for any service after the first one of the day. In the rush to dismiss one service and start another, the changeover in volunteer teams rarely leave time for even a five minute gathering.
So how do we maintain the importance of the huddle but face reality at the same time? I think there are three ways:
1. Get weekend information out prior to the weekend.
We never want our volunteers to feel like we’ve hung them out to dry. If a guest comes to them for information, we want them to have it. But rather than communicating that info day of, why not do it earlier? Make it a habit that your volunteers have the weekend basics by Friday morning: service order, stage announcements, events on site, etc. A quick email to your team can give them the necessary info at a glance and prepare them for what is new and different.
2. Offload the huddle to your team leaders.
Consider sending the Friday email to team leads only, and give them the responsibility to communicate it to their volunteers via email, text, or face-to-face. It empowers them to lead, and makes it more likely that the right information will get to the right people. Just make sure your team leads have some “huddle parameters”…no more than two minutes, check in with small batches of vols rather than the entire group, don’t use this as a time to take lengthy prayer requests, etc.
3. Move the pre-service huddle away from pre-service.
If you subscribe to an attend one, serve one strategy, you have one of the best tools available to make your huddle great again. Once the service is underway (20 minutes in, whenever the sermon begins, etc.), scale back to a skeleton crew and encourage the majority of your vols to head to VHQ. That’s a built in time each week that is protected and predictable, and it’s a long enough time that you can have a quick huddle and allow volunteers to hang out in community together (I’d argue that’s more important than communicating the order of service, anyway).
How do you handle the huddle? Comment below.
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