Every church needs a strong volunteer team. You can’t afford to hire enough staff to do all God wants you to do in your community.
More importantly, one of the purposes of your church “is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church” (Ephesians 4:12 NLT). Part of equipping your volunteers to serve the church is developing them into an effective team.
Strong churches have strong volunteer teams. So what makes a good team? Every good team has eight traits. When put together, these traits spell the acronym T.E.A.M.W.O.R.K. I’ll share these eight traits in the next two articles of the Ministry Toolbox. Here are the first four:
T – Trust
You can’t build a team without trust. Trust is the emotional glue that binds a team together. If you don’t trust someone, you don’t have confidence in that person. Without confidence, you can’t achieve anything of value.
Paul trusted Timothy to represent him to the church in Philippi. Paul knew that Timothy would be faithful to care for the church and carry back news to Paul. In Philippians 2:19-20, Paul wrote: “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare” (NIV).
What builds that kind of trust?
- Consistency. People must learn to trust you. The more your volunteers spend time together and with staff leaders, the more trust they will develop.
- Loyalty. I believe loyalty to your volunteers is critical. I will publicly defend my volunteers before I even know what the issue is. Loyalty builds trust.
You’ll know when your volunteers begin to trust each other because you’ll see them delegate to other team members.
E – Economy of Energy
Proverbs 14:30 is one of my life verses: “A relaxed attitude lengthens a man’s life” (TLB). If you want to live a long life—and have the people on your volunteer teams live long lives—you’ll need to encourage a relaxed attitude.
You and your teams are doing work with eternal implications. That’s why I encourage you to have what I call “relaxed concern.” In other words, while you need to recognize that heaven and hell hang in the balance for the lives of many people you’re serving, and although your volunteer teams impact those eternally significant decisions, no one should be tightly wound all the time.
If you aren’t careful in this area, you’ll burn volunteer teams out quickly. I have seen this happen in many churches, filled with burned-out staff and volunteers. Their problem isn’t that they’re not dedicated enough. Their problem is that their dedication isn’t tempered by the ability to relax.
You want volunteers who will serve at your church for the long haul. Be careful not to burn them out.
A – Affirmation and Appreciation
Appreciation means to raise in value. It’s the opposite of depreciation. If you’ve ever bought a new car, you know it depreciates the moment you drive it off the car lot—it goes down in value.
Appreciation means you raise the value of something. When you show appreciation for a spouse or a child, you’re raising their value. The same is true for your volunteers. The more appreciation you express, the more you’ll raise the value of their ministry.
How do you do that?
- Affirm their efforts. Make a point to notice and recognize publicly what your volunteers are doing well.
- Affirm their loyalty. Let them know that you appreciate the time and effort they are spending to serve at the church. Recognize that they’ve continued to serve regardless of any changes at the church.
- Affirm their uniqueness. Every volunteer is different. Let them know you see those differences as strengths that help your teams work effectively.
- Affirm their ideas. Your volunteers will be as creative as your church allows them to be. Let them know you appreciate any and all ideas so they will continue to share them.
M – Management of Mistakes
Proverbs 24:16 tells us, “For though a righteous man falls seven times, they rise again” (NIV). Everyone makes mistakes; the Bible is clear on that. Every volunteer and every staff member at your church will make mistakes from time to time.
Mistakes are useful—they teach us what doesn’t work. Any church with creativity makes mistakes. If there are no mistakes, the church isn’t being creative.
Give your volunteers the freedom to make mistakes. Redefine mistakes as “learning experiments,” and teach your volunteers how to learn from them.
In the next Toolbox, I’ll share four more principles of great teamwork! Don’t miss it.