5 Steps To Get Your Team Excited About the Future

I would bet you have a preferred future. You can see a better future for your church, but getting your team to see the same thing you do can be hard. And when they get it, if they don’t see a plan to get there, their excitement can quickly turn to discouragement. 

They can feel like the team is “behind the eight ball,” like any move forward is blocked. 

Before you know it, a scarcity mentality can creep in. "Yeah, but we don’t have enough leaders to do that." "Yeah, but we don’t have enough money to get there." "Yeah, but we don’t have enough time to get that done."  

Why don’t the get it? 

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Most often, they haven’t had the chance to wrestle with the problem. 

I’m not talking about thinking about the problem. That can happen in an instant. You can point toward a change that needs to happen, and they can think about it in that moment and agree, but they haven’t wrestled. 

Even then, it can feel like there are too many problems that need to be solved (more than you know…everyone has an opinion). And if you don’t approach these problems in a strategic manner it can feel like your team is always pushing uphill. 

So, instead of getting stuck “behind the eight ball,” allow your team to focus on what’s most important and start building some momentum. Easy, early wins to get things moving forward.

Enter the “Eight Ball Challenge”, to help your team wrestle with the problem and make progress toward the future. All while building buy-in and excitement around what the future might hold. 

Step 1// Define the Canvas
It’s easy to see every problem in every area of the church. Take a moment to focus the team on an area, department or program that needs attention. 

Step 2// List All The Issues
Grab a whiteboard and start brainstorming. Ask the team to list every issue, small or large that needs to be addressed in the next few months. Let the list get as long as needed. Write everything down. Even if you think it’s only a personal opinion. 

Step 3// Vote
Ask your team to vote on their top 5 issues. Give them a marker and tell them they have five votes. They can put them all on one issue if they think it’s most important or they can spread them around to up to five issues they think are most important to solve right now. Once everyone has completed their vote, tally the results and highlight the top 5 issues that need to be addressed. Those are going to be the most important focus for the next few months. (Team leader gets veto power and can replace any of the top issues if they see fit)

Step 4// Discuss the Who/What/When
For each of the top 5 issues, discuss WHAT needs to happen to resolve that issue. WHO on the team can run point? How can everyone on the team help address the issue? And WHEN they think it can be resolved. 

Step 5// Review Regularly
Then, as a part of your regular meeting rhythm, review these top 5 issues and their progress. You don’t have to spend a bunch of time on the details, but regularly putting them in front of the team will help drive progress (no one likes to see a project stall…that’s just embarrassing). 


If your team can recognize the most important issues and be able to visualize their resolve, that breeds excitement. Everyone is a part of the solution and the entire team gets excited about the progress. Every early win adds fuel to the fire. 

Soon enough, no one will feel like “behind the eight ball” and problems don’t seem as big because the team begins to believe they have the power and tools to tackle them. 

Go for it, take that eight ball and throw it in the trash. Don’t let it ever get in the way again. 

How Many Volunteers Do We Need?

There is a simple concept that is true in business: you need to make money.

Spend less than you bring in and you end up with a profit.

In any profitable business, employees should pay for themselves in sales, whether they in some way support the sale or especially if they make the sale. The job of a manager is to find the sweet spot between customer experience and employee cost.

It makes sense. A great customer experience at the optimal and minimum appropriate expense. As long as that ratio is right, you make money, you grow. Get it wrong and eventually you can’t afford to have employees.

But when it comes to church, that same concept doesn’t apply.

One of our campuses recently moved to a new location with a much smaller parking lot then we were used to. Our team has done an incredible job creating a hands-on parking experience for each of our guests. Each person is handled with care and they have ensured that no family or vehicle leaves because they “couldn’t find a spot”.

It’s been awesome, but there is a question brewing on the horizon.

How many volunteers do we need?

There are three factors that must be considered:

  1. What kind of experience are we trying to create for our guests?

    On any given weekend we are creating an experience for our guests. Just like inviting someone into your home, we need to get ready. We make sure the house is clean, that there is a place to sit and that everyone feels “at home”. Church is not different. So, if we can identify what kind of experience we are trying to create for our guests we’ve got a great place to start.

    Using the parking lot example -- we want each family that drives onto the lot to know we’ve been expecting them and we’ve saved them a parking spot. That’s objective #1.
  2. In order to deliver that experience, how many volunteers can we create spots for?

    To clarify, it is not how many volunteers do we need, it’s how many can we create spots for? While it can be easy to get sucked into a scarcity mentality we’ve got to fight that urge. So for a moment, remove the “realist” part of your brain and write down what an amazing experience would look like driving into that parking lot. Someone waving at the street. Someone “tour guiding” you to the perfect open parking spot, close to the door. Another handing you an umbrella on a rainy day. Cast vision for what an amazing experience it would be for your guests if you created that kind of experience.
  3. Does each volunteer role feel like it’s contributing something valuable?

    Can you think of anything less motivating than volunteering your time and effort to something that has zero impact? I can’t.

    Creating multiple volunteers is important, but each must be making an impact. If you don’t have a parking problem, do you actually need a bunch of volunteers standing around? You might not.

Helping the people in your church find a valuable contribution they can make helps them feel like this is not “the church,” it’s “their church.” That is exactly what you want for them. Let them have some skin in the game and look for opportunities for your people to have measurable impact.

Here’s your next step:

  1. Take any one of your environments and make a list of every possible position available to create a fantastic guest experience. Don't add volunteer names to the list, just positions. We call this blanks on a page.
  2. Subtract any position that would make someone feel like they were wasting their time.
  3. Decide what triggers the need for more volunteer spots.

In our example, during a service where 50% of the spots remain available a skeleton volunteer staff is all that is needed, but when we anticipate the parking lot being 75% full, we’ve got to call all hands on deck to maintain a quality experience.

Here’s the simple math:

Maximum Volunteer List
Boring Volunteer Roles
"All Hands" Triggers

The Perfect Volunteer Team

For more on how to recruit without job descriptions see “2 Reasons to Stop Building Your Volunteer Org Chart, Plus 1 Alternative” [link].

How To Write Emails Your Volunteers Will Actually Read

We didn’t know about that!

What do you mean, I emailed you guys 3 times about it!” you say.

Have you ever felt like your emails were falling on deaf ears? They might be now, but that can change. And all it takes is a little clearer communication on your end.

When I look at our ministry teams I see a handful of ministry junkies. They read everything. They want more info and more details…but they are probably in the minority. Not everyone wants a jam packed inbox.

Last spring, Tony Morgan (The Unstuck Group) recommended we do a communication audit. So we saved every piece of communication our church sent to our guest, regular attenders and members. We taped it all to the wall and it was mind blowing. We sent a lot.

I can’t even imagine what the word count was. Too many, no matter how you count it.

It isn’t a surprise that with the mountain of email our volunteers get that some would fall on deaf ears. So what can we do about it?

1. Send Less Email

I know what you’re thinking, you only send them what they need. But this is one area where less is more. Pack more value into each email, and send less. Make your emails worth reading (in one sitting, not several).

2. Summarize

I know it sounds odd to give your email a table of content, but it works. Tell your volunteers what the email is about. Tease them.


3. Make It Scannable

This is as simple as bolding important sentences and turning lists into bullet points.

Maybe you’re a leadership junkie and you’ve read every word of this post, or maybe you’ve got a lot to do today so the first thing you did was read the bold words and scanned the numbered list. You’re human…so is your volunteer team.

4. If Possible, Use Images

When you already produce graphics for upcoming events, use the same images in your emails. Create anchor points for your church that they can visually tie together.

The communication you send to your volunteers is for their benefit, not yours.
— Steven J Barker

In reality, the communication you send to your volunteers is for their benefit, not yours. Your job is to give them the info they need to make a measurable impact. As volunteer managers, we aren’t bosses, we are assistants. It’s our job to give them the resources they need (and want).

Question of the day: How have you seen communication change in the last few years?