Leading Volunteers - Week 1


People > Systems

Finding the right people to partner with you in your ministry or organization is crucial to success. Not much happens without the dedication of a team of people who are willing to sacrifice resources like time and energy to get a job done. We should absolutely have great systems and structures in place to accomplish the things we want to see happen, but ultimately, it will always come back to people; who are the ones standing next to you who can catch a vision and will walk with you through hard seasons? 

Maybe you already have some things in mind when you imagine the "perfect volunteer." I would guess almost everyone would hope for attributes like dedication and humility in the people that serve next to them, and while we should look for positive character traits (maybe mostly just the willingness to grow), I want to focus more on how you as someone who leads teams of people actually have a huge impact on what you're getting out of the ones you lead. 

It's so important that we realize we can't ultimately control anyone, or make anyone do anything. Nobody likes a dictator! So, how do we get our teams motivated and actually get anything accomplished without resorting to manipulation, control or other nasty and un-healthy means? 

Over the next few weeks I'll post some key things I've found to be true when it comes to this topic. 

  • People Are Most Important - Systems have a role to play. Things like guidelines for being a part of the music team, or the ways we organize and delegate responsibility. The structures we put in place help us to go further and faster than we could otherwise. However, every structure we use should always be rooted in and built from a place of relationship. In other words, the systems we use don't work well (sometimes not at all) unless we are also pursuing healthy relationships with the people we work with. There have been times when I've personally struggled with how to find this balance. I've gone too far I think in both directions. Sometimes throwing out every guideline or structure we've put in place, mostly (If I'm brutally honest) because I'd rather not deal with confrontation -- shout out to sensitive creative types everywhere! On the other hand, it can also be a temptation to rely too heavily on these "guidelines" (sometimes read LAWS) we've put in place without any regard for the unique situation of every person. So, operating under the assumption that we need structure AND that people are important. How do we find balance? What does that look like? It looks like preferring the person over the system. It looks like demonstrating to your people that they have intrinsic value. That they are worth far more than any service or gift they can offer, or any work they can do. It looks like "I love you because I love you. Period." I believe these things allow structure to work in the best way possible. When you can relate to someone based on the foundation that they are valuable image-bearers of God, you are freed to see them and interact with them in a healthier way. Unfortunately (or not), I don't think there is much of a formula to apply when deciding whether to err on the side of structure vs. person. Every situation will be different, but I do think that if we can start from the place of seeing every person through the lens of valuable, we will be much closer to getting this right.

I would love to hear from you! Have you ever struggled with finding this balance? Experiences that you've learned from? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below. 

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