Should You Serve On a Team That You Lead?
Leaders of volunteers are a hardy bunch: they have to possess the perfect mix of visionary, recruiter, trainer, coach, administrator, encourager…sometimes it feels like we hold every role from chief cook to bottle washer.
And there’s a temptation – if not expectation – that the leader of a team should actively serve on the team. In other words: the leader will put themselves on the schedule to fill a specific slot: auditorium door #1. Back section of the parking lot. Second grade classroom lead teacher.
But I want to challenge both the expectation and the temptation to consistently schedule yourself in a specific position.
Here are four reasons you shouldn’t serve on your team, and four reasons you should:
4 Reasons Not to Serve on Your Team:
- If you’re consistently in position, you can’t see the bigger picture. You won’t be able to keep track of issues in the 4th grade class if you’re always in the 2nd grade class. You can’t troubleshoot patterns in the auditorium if you’re always in the parking lot.
- If you’re focused on your task, you can’t focus on your people. Much of leadership in our weekend services needs to be “management by walking around.” You can’t be highly relational if you’re buried in your own role. It’s harder to coach from the sidelines when you throw on a uniform and rush to the field.
- If you’re consistently adding yourself to the schedule, it may be an indicator of a systemic issue. Filling in for a sick volunteer occasionally? Not a problem. Always in a role because have a steady stream of the same ol’ vols who never show up? Probably a problem.
- If you have a hard time giving up a role, it may mean you’re not replicating yourself. The one job of a leader should be to work ourselves out of a job. If we are to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, then we need to step aside and let them work.
4 Reasons to Serve on Your Team:
- Serving on your team says something to those around you. It speaks volumes to your volunteers, who will see that you’re not afraid to roll up your sleeves. It provides an example to your congregation, who will see their leaders serving them.
- Serving on your team helps you see what your volunteers see. It’s one thing for your vols to critique your process that looked so good on paper. It’s another for you to realize that it doesn’t necessarily work in reality.
- Serving on your team gives you shoulder-to-shoulder time with your people. While I stand by the “management by walking around” point above, there’s something to be said about long stretches in a lonely parking lot that helps you go deeper with the people on your team.
- Serving on your team will re-inspire your love for the things you lead. It’s too easy to get caught up in the minutiae of ministry: the spreadsheets and schedules and systems, oh my. But jumping back in does something to reset your heart and helps you to remember what it’s all about.
Now let me put my cards on the table, friends: I love serving on our Guest Services Team. I recognize that my role is a bit different, because I’m responsible for all teams at all campuses. I don’t actively lead a specific group of vols at a specific campus. So in a sense, it’s easier for me to throw on a parking vest and join the team out in the parking lot (and to be honest, serving on the parking team is one of my favorite ways to serve the church on the weekend). But it’s probably unwise for me to do that week after week, for the reasons listed above.
I don’t know where you land on the four for and the four against above. I don’t know the type of expectations that are placed on you by your leadership or by your job description. But I do know that Ephesians 4:11-13 is a universal command to church leaders to equip others. Let’s not ever lose sight of that.
Where do you need to begin to extricate yourself from the team you lead?
photo credit: Karen Lebron