11 Components of Leading Volunteers in Church Ministry

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11 Components of Leading Volunteers

Leading volunteers can be one of the most fulfilling tasks a pastor or church leader has the privilege of doing. At the same time, it is not without its challenges. Leadership at this level carries with it great opportunity. With its mission in the balance, it is important that you provide the best leadership possible to all those involved.

From day one of your leadership with a church board, committee or any group of volunteers, you are building a track record. Sports teams and fans always look at the record of the new coach they hire. You will read of a career record of 279-82. You do not read of career records of 82-279. Even the smallest of your decisions is credited or discredited to your leadership.

What does leadership to these groups look like and how can it be done effectively?

There are a variety of components of leadership at this level. None of these should be overlooked in your effort to move the group forward in accomplishing the mission of the church.

1. Leadership Must Pray

Skip this one at your own peril. As good as you are, you are not that good. With God, you are really good. When leading a group of men and women around a table, always be aware that the true leader is the One who put you there.

This is more than opening meetings with prayer. This means you need to fervently seek God as you chart His course for the church. Believe me, in the weeks, months and years that follow your consistent trail of prayer (when you hit major issues or challenges), you will be glad you prayed.

2. Leadership Must Be Earned

The monster mistake any pastor or church leader can make is to assume that because of their position they can command leadership respect. Sometimes true but frequently not. Leadership must be earned.

New pastors and church leaders in particular should spend time with the group as a whole and with board, committee or volunteer members individually. You do so not to coddle them but to truly get to know them and demonstrate who you are as a leader.

Investing in these individuals in the present will pay huge dividends when tough issues confront the group in the future. Your ability to earn and garner leadership capital with this group is critical to the advancement of the mission of the church.

Leadership must be earned. Click To Tweet

3. Leadership Must Be Clear

When leading a people you must always be certain in that which you are leading. As a caveat let me note that there are times when we do not feel certain. In fact sometimes we feel quite uncertain and we need the group we lead to help us process. That is a good and necessary role for the group to play. However, at the end of that processing, once a decision is made, it is your role to be clear in your leadership. Muddy leadership sets you up for more misery than you have time for.

4. Leadership Must Be Smart

This is where the purist-at-heart sometimes struggles. They view it as manipulative. It can be but need not be. Leadership is about taking a group of people from where they are to a place where they want to be. To do that you must be smart.

For example, if you have an influencer on issue ABC at the table and you know they can sway opinions around the table, let them in on the ABC issue to be discussed ahead of any group meeting. Explain why the decision you want is critical to the advancement of the ministry (assuming it is) and why you want them to help you carry the water. You must always be selective when taking this step.

When leading you must not be afraid of conflict. Click To Tweet

5. Leadership Must Not Be Afraid of Conflict

Please note that your longevity at the church will contribute to a greater sustainability of your leadership but it does not guarantee you will be conflict free. You must be certain that in all you do there will be detractors, even after you have been at the church a long time.

When they present themselves you cannot run. You must be ready to address differing opinions of the people in your area(s) of ministry and be ready to move forward. If you constantly acquiesce to those with whom you are in conflict you really will not be the leader. Leaders don’t pick fights but they are always aware of the potential for conflict and the need to address it.

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6. Leadership Must Be Active

One of the worse things a pastor or church leader can do is to take Ephesians 4:11 to the furthest extreme and hand everything off to a church board, committee or any group of church leaders, expecting that they will come with a God-directed decision in the absence of senior spiritual leadership. Not going to happen…

While you should continually equip volunteer leaders to lead in their own right, you must also remain engaged in all that happens.

(On this note, if you are leading a governing group, never allow for a church board to meet in your absence, even if it is to decide the color of napkins for the Christmas Banquet. I’m always amazed how simple short meetings become a forum for a disgruntled board member to bring up their pet issue in the absence of the lead pastor.) Stay active – ALWAYS!

7. Leadership Must Be Spiritually Attuned

Throughout one’s leadership, a pastor or church leader must never lose sight of their ordained assignment as a spiritual leader in the ministry.

At all times you must lead with sensitivity to the Lord’s guidance. Listen for that which is said and that which is unsaid. Do not pass over issues with spiritual overtones even if you feel a team member is making something spiritual out of that which is not. You never know how the Lord will speak to you, and sometimes it comes in ways we might not expect. So maintaining sensitivity is critical.

8. Leadership Must Be Biblical

It is important that the Bible be your guide in all you do in leading people. While there is a variety of interpretations of what Scripture commands and/or permits, it is always true that you must demonstrate an understanding of Biblical roles and responsibilities.

Conduct yourself in leadership with an understanding of their unique roles in the Body. Further, be sure that on the interpersonal level your demonstration of leadership is never in conflict scripture. In other words, don’t fly off the handle when things don’t go your way!

9. Leadership Must Be Relevant

Like anything else, styles change. That includes styles of leadership. This can be particularly challenging to older pastors or church leaders. The way they led in the 90s or 00s may not work today. You may have dealt with volunteers that were generally older than you back then. Now they may be generally younger than you. Clearly those generational differences and how they manifest themselves will dictate how you adjust your leadership with this key group.

Leadership must stay relevant to today at all times. Click To Tweet

10. Leadership Must Be Unique

You are not just one of the guys/gals. While you want to identify with those you lead, you must also remember that you lead In other words, your role as leader sets you a part from them in some ways. You can be friends no doubt, but know that you’re also their leader, and with that come times when you have to steer people along – even your friends.

11. Leadership Must Be Humble

At the end of the day the issue will be whether you have lead the ministry and volunteers to the highest level of accomplishing mission. Whether you did this with flare or with bumps along the way will be less important. How you lead and whether you lead with humility will mean everything. It is clearly possible for church leaders to lead with strength, confidence and humility. Pray to that end.

If you follow this advice you will find a rich experience in leading the volunteers in your ministry. Begin with prayer and travel with humility. At the end of the journey God will say, “Well-done!”


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