Keep them Around

volunteer

 

Non-profits, churches and schools all receive a significant boost in productivity through the work of volunteers. Volunteers are the life blood of many organizations. Yet, volunteer turnover effects them all. This leaves organizations in an constant pursuit for new volunteers that need to be trained, coached, launched into positions, and overseen. The pressure to be in the constant hunt for new volunteers can be lessened when you increase your ability to retain the volunteers you already have. Before you can go and recruit more leaders you have to make sure leaders aren’t slipping out on you because of your volunteer culture. Fix the culture first so that volunteers can flourish in your organization. Through working as a volunteer, leading volunteers and helping problem solve with other organizations here are a few ways to retain the volunteers you have currently.

Value your Volunteers

Volunteer retention can be as simple as showing that you value them. You care about them as the individuals they are and not just for the tasks they do and how they advance your organizations agenda. Look volunteers in the eye and say you appreciate them and tell them how you see them engaging in the organizations mission. Volunteers often leave because they are overworked and under appreciated. Buy them coffee before they show up, send out thank you notes, and budget for volunteer retention ideas. Show that you care about your volunteers and they will stick around.

Clearly defined roles and expectations

Make sure your volunteers know their role and the expectations of them. Volunteers get frustrated when they signed up for one job and end up being overwhelmed with tasks they didn’t sign up for. Volunteer frustration often comes from unclear expectations and not knowing what a win looks like for them. They may not see how their effort helps in the long run. As an organization, take time, especially during the recruitment and training phases, to coach volunteers on expectations, defining their roles and what a win looks like for them. Your volunteers will knock it out of the park when they know what pitch to swing at.

Create ownership

Whenever you can generate a sense of ownership in your volunteer team your organizations culture begins to shift. Listen to your volunteers and their suggestions. They are the eyes, ears, hands and feet of your team. They see the problems in your systems and procedures that you may overlook. Ask for volunteer feedback and empower your volunteers to come up with solutions. When volunteers are asked for their thoughts and suggestions it helps them to feel part of the team. Creating a culture of safety, mutual respect and ownership goes a long way in retaining your volunteers.

Stay organized and ahead of the game

Get your stuff together! You cannot expect a team of volunteers to work well in the midst of chaos and dysfunction that you create. Take a moment to get yourself organized, create better systems and stop living in the moment. When you are going by the moment a lot of your time is putting out small fires that arise. When you have a great volunteer culture you have coached and empowered volunteers to put out the fires for you in a way that drives the mission of your organization. This allows you to stay ahead  of the game, think big picture, and be innovative.

A revolving door of volunteers prevents momentum in your organization. Look at the volunteers you have right now. How are you celebrating them? How are you allowing them to feel part of the team? How are you getting yourself organized to better lead others? If you are struggling with volunteer retention and recruitment it is time to evaluate and improve your team.

Faithful with Few

mentoring

 

I’m helping my current church launch small groups in their student ministry. I learned a lot about small groups when I was a student pastor and love the relationships that small groups foster. I’ve even helped launch a small group model in the current school I teach at. Launching small groups can be tough. There are leaders to find, sign ups to happen, contacts to be made. Transitioning a student ministry from a program emphasis to a small group/relational emphasis is tough. It changes the goals, the wins, and the measures for your ministry. Yet, it is completely worth it.

One of the small group leaders (SGL) had ten girls originally signed up for her group. For her groups launch four showed up. I celebrated, people wondered why I was so excited. I explained how four girls connecting to a leader in an intimate setting, growing relationally, is a HUGE deal. I told the story of how I had a group of two kids that over time grew to be a home group of over twenty consistently. I talked about celebrating those four girls and praying for them daily. That those four girls connecting with a leader and with each other helps to connect even more girls. We are laying the foundation for something great.

We can get caught up in the numbers. I’ve learned from a good friend that numbers are important, but they should not be sole factor in your ministry. Numbers help us to see trends in our ministry, help us to be strategic with plans and they help us to see where God is leading the ministry. Numbers are not relationships though. You could have a student ministry with hundreds of kids, but if community is not a central aspect of that ministry students may miss out on discovering and developing an authentic faith.

There is a vision of huge number of students connecting through small groups. Right now we are laying that foundation. We are connecting leaders to students. Even if it is a few, we party.

Rough

kids

Some kids are tougher to reach than others. My proximity to kids helps me to realize some of the severe trauma that some may experience. Dropping kids off at their homes that have no furniture, no electricity, and no food you begin to realize the lives they live after 4pm. You may be the only consistent person in their life, they may not know how to respond and act around you, they may fear abandonment and have seen so much loss they don’t even want to try.

The toughest kids are the most rewarding kids when you give them love over time consistently, show up for them and speak life into them.

Dealing with kids that have dealt with extreme trauma in their lives is tough. They can be more argumentative, angry, defiant and lack the desire for social connections. Don’t take it personally. You did not cause their trauma, and you are not the sole person reasonably to fix it. It takes time and will be rough at times. Things will be said and done that seem like a personal attack. Sometimes, students who have faced trauma ‘test’ your willingness to stick around. Show up. Some great advice I received once was to “let all the badness roll off you like water off a ducks back.” Remember to not take the rough moments personally.

Despite the frustrations you get from dealing with students who have faced trauma in their lives, you are called to love them anyway. Know them, ask them questions, treat them fairly, be clear with expectations of behavior and be fair. Invite them to have lunch with you. Treat them as they are, kids. Build a relationship that is founded on trust, respect and consistency. You may be the first time they have seen this type of relationship.

You will get tired. Tired of the struggle and tired of the slow process in building relationships. Keep at it. It is worth it, they are worth it. These students will come around, it may take longer, but they will open up. When they do listen to their stories, help them to see that their stories do not define them and speak life into them. Help them discover their passions and strengths in life.

Orange is Coming

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Orange Tour is underway and you have to get your tickets. Every year Orange takes the information, speakers and resources from the Orange Conference and brings them to you. It is a great time to learn, laugh, and create a dialogue around your ministry.

Last year, I had the chance to have Orange Tour come to the church I was the student minister at. The people on the tour are amazing. Even Reggie got into the hustle of the day as we set everything up. Orange leaders make themselves available for attendees to chat with, ask questions and better themselves. Not everyone is able to go to Orange Conference, that is why they bring the fun to you.

Monday is coming and Orange Tour is bringing it. Here you will discover the best ways to connect kids and their families to Jesus throughout the week, not just on Sunday. Monday is coming is a great idea to test your ministry against. How are students and their families acting on their faith throughout the week? How is your ministry helping them to do just that?

Through the speakers, workshops and conversations at Orange Tour you will be challenged. Challenged to re-evaluate your environments, your programs, and even your mission. We all want students and their families to live out their faith. To have an autonomous faith that can change the world. Monday is coming will challenge our current practices and provide practical steps to see success.

Check out Orange Tour this year. It will be a great way to invest in your leaders and your ministry. Create space to have conversations about your ministry with your leaders, students, parents and your lead pastors. Sometimes, for success to happen we change what our success looks like. Monday is Coming will help you connect Jesus to the everyday lives of people and to the moments that mean most to them.

For more information check out http://orangetour.org/. Can’t wait to see you there.

Be ready for Orange Conference 2017! Registration opens up on October 13th