Equipping Your Staff To Equip Others
By Calvie Hughson
Have you had the experience of certain staff members going out of their way to avoid utilizing the skills and abilities of people who are willing to volunteer? This isn’t an uncommon scenario in many churches.
Let’s look at five reasons why some staff members scare away valuable volunteers and the strategies that can turn these situations around.
1 Misconceptions—often staff members have a bias against volunteers. They believe unpaid workers re unreliable, inept, unskilled, and more trouble than they’re worth. In 20 years of working with volunteers and those they serve, I’ve found this to be a total myth.
Equipping Strategy: All-staff training is the key. Invite departments that work successfully with volunteers to share their experiences during the training. Be sure to cite examples of office-work volunteers because this can be an area of resistance for secretarial staff. Have your director of volunteer ministry or your equipping ministry team explain the process of inviting, screening, and placing volunteers. Assure staff members that volunteers are sent to them only after screening is done. Even then they, as staff, will make the final determination about the suit ability of people to serve in their minis tries. Emphasize that in the past it’s likely there wasn’t a system in place to match the right people with the proper positions.
2 Insecurities—Some staff members are fearful that overly competent volunteers will take their jobs or make them took bad or that their departments wilt be downsized. How do we address this problem?
Equipping Strategy: Communicate the truth that volunteers can set free overburdened staff members. While helpers carry out more routine tasks, employees can upgrade their skills, finish special projects, or better serve their supervisors, if your church professes a high value for mobilizing the laity, staff members who employ volunteers will be seen as innovative and visionary. Don’t forget to add that the church is a member-driven organization and that each staff member is called to equip people for works of service (Ephesians 4:11).
3 Lack Of Volunteer Management Skills—At times staff members want to work with volunteers, but they just don’t have the management skills. They’re afraid to treat volunteers like employees for fear of being too demanding. Yet if their expectations are too low, the volunteers’ work is trivialized and boredom sets in. Where are the boundaries, and how do staff members learn to work with volunteers?
Equipping Strategy: Most staff have little experience working with volunteers, so give staff the following guidelines. First, they need to treat volunteers with love and respect. Second, they need to treat them as staff members; for example, by giving volunteers an orientation to their work areas, such as the location of the coat closet, the supply closet, the coffee pot, and restrooms, and introducing them to everyone In the department. This is what you’d do for a new employee. I suggest creating a volunteer guidelines book that spells out the expectations for all volunteers as to time of arrival, dress code, under standing the ministry description, what to do in case of an on-the-job injury, lunch times, vacations, doctors visits, and days off. Everyone needs time off for appointments and vacations; volunteers are no different. We simply ask that they keep us informed about times away from their duties so we can plan coverage. The more professionally we treat our volunteers, the more they’ll see themselves as a vital part of the ministry and respond as mature servants.
During their orientation we also emphasize how much we appreciate who they are, their talents, and the time they donate to God’s work. And we let them know that celebrations of birthdays and other volunteer recognition events are part of what they can expect.
4 Negative Experiences With Volunteers—This is a common theme among some staff members. In the past, when there were no systems or processes for screening and placing volunteers, staff members would find themselves in the midst of a mess created by volunteers who weren’t well suited for the assignment, hadn’t been trained on the task, hadn’t been supervised during the task, or were frustrated because people had twisted their arms to get them involved in the first place.
Equipping Strategy: Meet one on-one with these staff members to discuss their frustrations. Make sure that they participate in the training mentioned above. Assure them that this is a new day and that safeguards are now built in to prevent the kinds of problems experienced in the past. Safeguards such as interviews, assessments of people’s skills and abilities, and proper placement will make all the difference. Express your confidence in a volunteer’s ability to do amazing things for the ministry. Make sure that the next lay worker who’s brought in is a top-notch qualified person. When I did this at my church, I received a phone call from the minis try leader saying, “Where did you find this person? She’s fantastic!” I told the staff person that we had a church full of people like this, ready to be invited to serve. It’s just a matter of placing the right people in the right place with the proper fit for ministry.
5 Resistance—I don’t care what anyone says… I’m not using volunteers.” I call this pure stubborn resistance to employing volunteers. These individuals are in their com fort zones, and no one is going to dislodge them. When these are lay leaders, I simply allow them to stew in their own juices until they become desperate for help and give me a call with humility in their voices. If, on the other hand, it’s a staff member, there are certain requirements that you can enforce.
Equipping Strategy: I know one church that asks employees in their annual reviews: How many volunteers did you employ in your department or in each program that was under you direction during the past year? In other words, involving volunteers empowerment.
Article “Equipping Your Staff To Equip Others” written by Calvie Hughson is taken from REV! the 2007 January/February edition.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”