Group Publishing’s Simply Strategic Volunteers: Empowering People for Ministry by Tony Morgan and Tim Stevens offers 99 straightforward solutions to help you recruit, train, motivate, and keep volunteers in ministry. The Inside Track is delighted to give Church Volunteer Central’s members a peek at this resource. You can order this book at the members’ 20% discount by clicking here.
Tip # 17: Choose Proven Leaders
“Unless you are faithful in small matters, you won’t be faithful in large ones. If you cheat even a little, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities” (Luke 16:10, NLT).
Do you want to kill a ministry program really fast? The easiest way to do it is to make a mistake when selecting leadership for that ministry. In Chapter 43, we describe the danger of considering availability over ability. That error is magnified when you’re trying to identify people for leadership roles.
I’ve run into people who are genuinely passionate about a particular ministry area and want to help expand it to reach more people. The problem is that they want the pastor to design the ministry strategy, cast vision to the church, recruit help, and participate in ongoing programming. Don’t launch new ministries until you’ve identified someone else to fill those roles. A good volunteer leader will take responsibilities off the pastor’s plate rather than add to it.
Here are some suggestions for identifying volunteers with leadership ability:
Find people who have led smaller groups. If people have successfully led a home group, Bible study, or task team, they’re more likely to succeed in leading larger groups that include other leaders. Find people who have shown they can lead and influence others in smaller settings before you put them in charge of larger ministries. As Paul suggested to Timothy, people “should be given other responsibilities in the church as a test of their character and ability” (1 Timothy 3:10, NLT). If people prove they can handle smaller roles, then you can give them more responsibility.
Always ask, “Is anyone following them now?” Leaders naturally attract other people. Though people may not occupy formal leadership roles, you’ll know they have leadership potential by the number of people who are already following them. Do people gather around them before and after services? Do they influence the decisions of others for social activities? Do they tend to include others in their daily activities?
Then ask, “Who is following them?” Are the people following them the ones you’re hoping to attract to a particular ministry area? If not, then the potential leaders will not likely change whom they attract when they’re in leadership roles. Typically you attract people who are like you. That’s why it’s so important to consider who appears on the speaker’s platform during your weekend services from week to week. The same holds true in subministries throughout the church. People gathered in large groups will probably reflect their leadership teams, and that’s why you should consider the diversity of your team to make sure it reflects the community you’re trying to reach.
Look for people who have demonstrated leadership ability in the marketplace. Obviously there are biblical guidelines to consider when selecting leaders in the church (see 1 Timothy 3:1-2 and Titus 1:6-9 for examples), but I think we often overlook the obvious. If God has granted a person leadership gifts, then he or she will probably be demonstrating leadership skills in the marketplace. Even if these people aren’t spiritually prepared for a leadership role, identify them and create a discipleship process to prepare them to leverage their leadership gifts in ministry.
People need to demonstrate the capacity for leadership before they receive increasing leadership responsibilities. This principle may not hold true for selecting the governor of California or Minnesota, but it should hold true in your ministry.
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