Four Keys To Leading Volunteers

If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously (Romans 12:8).

Leading volunteers is different than managing employees.  

My entire career has been leading volunteers. Once, I had a consultant give me ideas for management and I thought, “That might work if I was paying people but not for those volunteering.”  

Handing out paychecks is a different dynamic than instilling enthusiasm in those who serve without pay. What have I learned – and am still learning – about leading volunteers?

  1. A leader’s purpose can’t be self-fulfillment but other’s fulfillment. Volunteers figure out motives quickly. They sense if they are being used. I learned long ago that followers of Jesus want to follow Jesus, not me. My job as a leader of volunteers is to open doors for them to serve Jesus.
  2. The goal must be of the Lord. Volunteers will work harder than paid employees if they know they are serving God. I’ve learned that followers of Jesus are motived by the Spirit, not me – my job is the help them walk in the plans and power of God’s Spirit.
  3. A leader must articulate vision. One of gifts of the Spirit is leadership. Most of the other gifts of the Spirit require good leadership. Vision coalesces the body of Christ in focused unity. My job as a leader is to provide the direction clearly and concisely.
  4. A leader makes it easier for volunteers to follow Jesus. I’ve watched leaders emphasize organizational charts, personality tests, and such an abundance of meetings – that their volunteers become exhausted just considering tasks. My job as a leader is to make it easier, not more complicated, to get from point A (leaving home) to point B (place of serving).

I read a book in 2007 entitled Dream Manager. It’s a secular book that examined the high turnover rate in companies. As a pastor for 49 years, I’ve had volunteers work with me for decades. This book had a paragraph that summed the difference between turnover and longevity…

People all have dreams. We need to find a way to connect their job today with their dreams for tomorrow. 

A few pages later the author said…

In many ways, we are our dreams. But people stop dreaming because they get caught up in the hustle and bustle of surviving. And once we stop dreaming, we start to lead lives of quiet desperation, and little by little the passion and energy begin to disappear from our lives.

All volunteers want to serve something bigger than themselves. Leaders of volunteers give significance to their efforts of serving God.

We aren’t “dream managers” but “vision managers” – articulating the path, providing an example, and then getting out of the way as volunteers stampede the paths of clearly articulated and significant vision.

If you want to volunteer for Discipling Another – we want to encourage you and others to follow Jesus by becoming disciplers.

Just shove me out of the way.