Saving Your Marriage Using Only Volunteers

Having seen pastors in for multiple generations in both my and my wife’s families, I know all to well the impact that ministry has on families. As pastors we have huge hearts. We are in the game to help people and move them toward a growing relationship with Christ. But if you’re not careful your marriage can begin to crash and burn. 

This is something that every church can run into. Whether you are small and you feel like you’ve got to do it yourself or you work for and feel like there is too much to do, you can destroy your marriage if work takes the driver seat too many days of the week. 

Saving your marriage using only volunteers.

The quickest way to address this is to immediately write down every task or roll you find yourself completing or fulfilling on a weekly basis. Then assign one of the following categories to that task or role. 

1. Only I Can Do This

There are some parts of your job that only you can do. But if your marriage is in trouble, it’s because you’ve put to many things in this category. Be brutally honest! This list should be short. Most things that have creeped onto this list can be delegated if you are willing to let go. 

2. Someone Specific Can Do This

There are some tasks or roles in your week-to-week workload that can be assigned to a trained individual. Look for someone competent to help you solve a given problem. For example, "new volunteer followup" was something I felt like should be on my plate but I just wasn’t regularly following through. I ended up reaching out to a friend and asking if they could, in a volunteer capacity, help relieve me of this burden. They said yes, and a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. 

3. Anyone Can Do This

You may find that a handful of tasks can be assigned to someone without any training. Organize them into a project or into a weekly assignment…and then ask someone to help with that issue. 

4. No One Needs To Do This

If you could stop doing something and no one would notice or be negatively impacted….STOP DOING IT! 

Once you've categorized your roles and tasks, start brainstorming. Who can you ask to help with these specific areas? 

Your community doesn't mind volunteering if they are making a measurable impact. As long as your a great person to work for, a clearly led team can "help hold your arms up" when you start to get tired. (See "5 Ingredients to an Empowered Team")

If you find yourself in dangerous territory and your marriage taking a beating, stop and assess what can go. I’ve found that building a volunteer team can help tremendously with lessening the load, and more importantly, increasing the impact. An individual can only accomplish so much, but a well organized team can tackle big tasks and have an even bigger impact. 

As Andy Stanely said in his book "When Work and Family Collide: Keeping Your Job from Cheating Your Family" [link] , you are the only person that can be dad and husband. Put the most effort where you are the "only one that can".

Sunday Morning: Leader or Manager?

In the average North American church most pastors must fulfill both leadership roles and management roles. The problem we face is that these two roles require completely different skills. And what made you great at one WILL NOT make you great at the other. 

Ignoring this will cripple your ability to scale. 

No time? Download the Leadership or Management Infographic at the end of the post. 

Sunday Morning

Before we jump into the practical, let’s look at these two roles: Leader & Manager.

What does it mean to be a capital “L” leader?

Peter Drucker says it well, "Leadership is lifting a person's vision to higher sights” (see Quote card). As a leader, your role is to point to something higher. It’s to point to the next mountain and rally your people to march onward to the next camp on your journey to the summit.

What does it mean to be a capital “M” manager?

This is a slightly different role. Managing that same team you just finished “inspiring” requires some different skills. It’s no longer to only inspire, it now includes mobilizing the team. Management requires an ability to see each individuals contribution to the journey. Marcus Buckingham would say "The true genius of a great manager is his or her ability to individualize. A great manager is one who understands how to trip each person's trigger.” You now are mobilizing a group of people to accomplish a common goal.

Both these roles are needed as an organization moves and grows. The summit cannot be reached without both a leader and a manager.

So, how does the size of your church change the role you need to lean into? More specifically, how does this impact an average Sunday morning?

Sunday Morning Attendance - 100 +/-

You most likely lead a team between 5 and 20. You are hands on and lead from a personal vision. You work closely with your team and have personal relationships with the volunteers you manage. Right now, you need to be a Leader just enough to remind people of where you are going.

This might mean you use other forms of communication to fulfill your Leadership role. You might send your team video messages, emails (see How To Inform & Inspire Your Volunteer Team) or even inviting them to separate gatherings to cast some vision and rally the team. Sundays become management game day.

Your job then is to mobilizing your team. Finding their strengths and positioning each member of your team to make their greatest contribution. (Suggested reading: First Break All The Rules) Your Sunday is all about putting people in their strongest role.

Sunday Morning Attendance - 250 +

By the time you start finding yourself managing a team of 20 you are likely starting to feel the pressure of capacity. Having the time to manage a group that large is straining your ability to do the rest of your job. You've been looking around for people who can help you lead your teams and this is exactly what you should be doing. As you add new team leaders (team managers) your role with those teams will change. It is incredibly tempting to still be "hands on" but is increasingly important that you begin to release.

You will need to begin focusing on effective communication with your team, setting clearer expectations for your team and managing conflict between team members (see 5 Ingredients to an Empowered Team).

At this size your job still leans heavier into your management role then it does leadership. You are still hands on when it comes to identifying strengths and building teams, though now you may be building a team managed by someone who “reports” to you.

Sunday Morning Attendance - 500 +

By now you running an average Sunday is likely requiring a small army of volunteers. Your manager and leader roles have now switched. You still manage a small team of team leaders but the majority of your Sunday morning is spent encouraging people. You spend more time leading and helping people focus on the common goal.

Once you’ve built a team of team leaders around you, you will need to pay special attention to developing them, while at the same time not undermining them. Remember, the definition of great management isn’t having everyone do things the same way you would, it’s understanding how to trip each person's trigger. How to have them contribute at their very best?

The larger your church gets the more you’ll need to rely on others to manage well. Your job begins to lean heavy into leadership and reminding your broader team that we are working together to reach the summit.

If your not knee deep in leadership development it’s time to stop everything you're doing and start. Pick up a copy of Exponential (link) and start building your leadership pipeline.

Sunday Morning Attendance - 1000 +

As you approach a Sunday with 1000 in attendance you are relying almost completely on leadership to be your primary tool for progress. In fact, if you find yourself managing you are likely doing more damage than good. You efforts should be primarily focused on vision and strategy. Your management role will only really function within a smaller leadership team.

Start creating new opportunities for leaders to lead and managers to manage. Start more services, new campuses, more small groups or even new ministries. Expand your impact and unleash your people.

No matter what size your Sunday morning is pay special attention to what your organization needs most. And remember, not every manager is wired to become a leader. It’s crucial to understand is which role is most important for your current situation and lean into it now. 


Urgent Can't Be In Control

While we might say that we perform well under pressure, there are not many people that like feeling like they are constantly behind fighting to get ahead. And even if pressure is the thing that helps us be decisive, it's also those same deadlines that keep us from being able to say YES to new opportunities. When we let last minute deadlines rule our lives we can be forced to say NO to big picture opportunities because of the urgent. Urgent is okay, just not when urgent is sitting in the driver seat. 

Photo courtesy of  Jonathan Bliss

So what keeps us from planning ahead? 

  • We've had so much practice managing the urgent, we feel ill-equipped to do otherwise. 
  • We fear our planing isn't thorough enough and that we'll change our mind when we get more information. 
  • We've tried to get ahead before and failed. 

Some of those fears may have a thread of validity, but not enough to hold you back. 

This is all about manageable plans, chunking your progress with just enough detail to keep you ahead. 

If you're teaching, planning your teaching schedule far enough in advance to feel ahead doesn't mean you have to know exactly what you're going to say 6 months from now. But is does mean knowing the general category/theme of your next 6 months of teaching series. You should know the basic plan enough to quickly explain. Think short paragraph. If I asked you "what are you teaching for the next 6 months?" Your answer should take 30 seconds or less to describe. Now you're ahead of the game. 

If you're leading your team, this means you have some kind of plan for how often and how long your will meet with your team as a whole, as well as for your 1:1s. One of the best "systems" I've come across is in Patrick Lencioni's book:

Having a system/being predictable will allow you and your team to get into a rhythm. One that's just predictable enough to be powerful and flexible enough to be nimble (not stiff, slow and corporate). 

Remember, planning ahead allows YOU, not your deadlines, to control your schedule. 

Just because you're not a "planner" doesn't mean you can't have a plan.