The growing churches that are leading the way are doing more with less paid staff. In fact, in a 2014 study by Vanderbloemen Search Group & Tony Morgan’s The Unstuck Group, they discovered that "Churches with fewer staff members per capita actually grew more quickly,” and that "Megachurches are able to staff more efficiently because they rely three times more heavily on volunteers to do ministry.”
Three times more heavily on volunteers!
It’s funny how often we feel that more staff would solve our problems, but the data seems to be pointing at something different.
Here’s the problem, those volunteers have full time lives outside of ministry. They aren’t available at a moments notice to answer a question or sit in on a 2 hour planning meeting.
How on earth do you lead effectively with such an unavailable team?
There is one thing we can know for sure, if you limit your leadership energy only to paid staff, you shut out your church community from participating.
Plus, I would argue, that it’s not your mandate to lead only staff, it’s your mandate to equip the church to be the church.
So how do we go about relying three times more heavily on volunteers?
You learn to lead virtually.
1. Information communicates value.
Plan ahead and continually review with your teams what events and plans are on the horizon. Letting your volunteer teams know what’s coming…even if all the plans aren’t complete…says "I care about your time and energy and I’m want you to know what’s coming down the line." Check out resources like Mailchimp.
2. Dialog instead of instruction
Keep lines of communication open. We can have a tendency to get behind closed doors with staff, put together the perfect plan and then emerge with two stone tablets that will explain everything our volunteers need to know. While that can feel more controllable it doesn’t always help your team to feel ownership.
Instead, share with your key volunteers the progress along the way. Find a tool to keep communication open and a two way street. Don’t create more meetings, use technology to your benefit. Check out resources like Azendoo.
3. Create touch points.
Leading virtually will require all forms of communication but that can’t negate the value of face to face care. You may be able to push this out as far as once a month but find some time to connect by phone, FaceTime or a face to face meeting.
4. Don’t dump, help.
Relying 3 times more heavily on volunteers doesn’t mean you dump responsibilities on volunteers and walk away. It means you’ll need to teach them how to build a team around themselves to help them accomplish their goals and tasks. (See "2 Reasons to Stop Building your Volunteers Org Chart, Plus 1 Alternative") Spend your face to face time talking about who they are developing and what they need to keep growing their teams.
More staff isn’t the solution to your problems (there is a time for more staff, but it has to be strategic).
Does relying three times more heavily on volunteers make you nervous or relieved? Leave your thoughts in the comments or on twitter.