One Mistake That is Easy to Avoid

Admit it; you make mistakes in ministry. I know I have. In fact, sometimes I feel like I’ve made more mistakes than I’ve made a difference, but I’m thankful for the grace of God and for the forgiveness of the people I’ve offended.

Being a leader in multisite ministry increases the opportunity for mistakes. There are often more meetings, more distance to travel, more emails to communicate vision and direction, and more logistics that require proper planning. The opportunities for failure are all around, but there is one mistake that is easy to avoid. Ready for it?

Here you go: Don’t make a STANCE at first GLANCE!

You know you’ve been there. Maybe you were making your way from one classroom to another as part of your teardown process on Sunday afternoon, and you spot one of your staff members just standing there goofing around with one of your key volunteers. “Why aren’t they helping,” you think to yourself. You walk by moments later, and they’re still standing there appearing to be doing nothing. Now you’re frustrated, and you shout out, “It’s okay, we got it!” Have you been there? Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve been there more than I’d like to admit.

Perhaps you can’t identify with my teardown story, but I wonder if you’ve experienced this “stance at first glance” mistake from a different perspective. You saw something, created a judgment about what you experienced, and reached a conclusion that later proved itself to be all wrong. Okay, maybe not you but what about someone else from your team? I think we can all admit that we’ve experienced something like this before. So how can we easily avoid this mistake?

Here’s what I’ve learned: ASSUME less and ASK more!

You know what happens when you assume, right? I won’t go into detail here, but assumption has the potential to destroy any relationship, at any time. When we take the time to ask questions about what we or others have observed or experienced, we can understand more clearly what’s going on.

That staff member that was not tearing down on Sunday afternoon and was just standing around tells you that the key volunteer he was talking to was just let go from his job on Friday without notice. What you saw as a prolonged discussion, possibly around Saturday’s game, turned into something much more intense and life changing.

What you or others experience in a moment is rarely all there is, assume less about the situation and ask more questions.

Have you been here before? How have you learned to avoid the mistake of assumption? Comment below.

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It’s True, I’m Working for the Weekend!

Whether you’re a multisite or a single-site church leader, everyone in ministry is working for the weekend. If you’ve been in ministry any length of time, you’ve been asked more than once: “What do you do during the week?”

While someone who is not in full-time vocational ministry might not know what happens during the week, we do. Prayers are prayed, people are cared for in times of crisis, others are celebrated with during some of the most joyous moments of life. Bibles are studied, sermons are prepared, schedules are created, and songs are practiced. Plans are coming together for the next major event or outreach, teams are being mobilized for impact, leaders are being equipped, and the list goes on.

If you’re in ministry, you know about the actual work that should take place during the week, but let’s be honest. There are some ministry leaders who aren’t working during the week. In fact, I believe the weekend reveals what level of work has or hasn’t been during the week. I can’t help but wonder if the question, “What do you do all week?” came from frustrated weekend volunteers and church attendees?

Most of the time, the weekend reveals issues that should have been addressed Monday through Friday, but too many church staff leaders aren’t working for the weekend, they are working on the weekend.

The most critical part of my job as a campus pastor is not the platform time, but what I’m stewarding Monday through Friday.

So what does working for the weekend look like? Here are five things I “work” every week to make sure I’m ready for the weekend:

1. I connect with my team
Whether you have full-time staff members or not, you should be connecting with your staff/volunteer team weekly. We do this in various capacities, but the most important connect is to debrief the previous weekend, and forecast the coming weekend. As part of the debrief, it’s always important to share the wins. Looking for bright spots in your ministry is not as hard as you think. Where did you and your team win last weekend?

2. I share gratitude
We cannot do what we do without the people God has entrusted to us. Sharing our gratitude and thankfulness for our team is a daily job. Writing thank you notes, sending text messages or emails, and making personal calls are great ways to say “Thank You!” to an amazing volunteer. The adage, “What gets celebrated gets repeated!” is so true. When are you taking the time to express gratitude today?

3. I communicate early
Communication among teams is hard enough before you add the complexity of multisite ministry. As a leader, you cannot communicate enough. Key volunteers hate learning key things about the church during the announcement time, and your staff hates this too. Keeping volunteers and staff engaged and energized starts with communication. I love to tell our team, “You’re hearing this first!” or “We wanted you to be the first ones to know.” You’ll be surprised how thankful people are to know the direction. What do you know that your team needs to know now?

4. I prepare for the weekend (before the weekend)
As a campus pastor, I can’t prepare for my platform responsibilities on the weekend, I’ve got to get prepared beforehand. I typically do this on Thursday or Friday. I know a lot of ministry leaders take Friday off but I believe Friday is one of the best days to prepare for the weekend. Having carts for teams ready, supplies for the greeters, platforms prepared, and countless other tasks shouldn’t happen moments before service. What can you do today to prepare for the weekend?

5. I pray
This should go without saying, but I still struggle with the reality that I cannot do this on my own. Prayer reminds me of my role and God’s responsibility. Praying for your staff, volunteers, attendees, and guests shouldn’t happen only on the weekend. Create space to pray today for what God is going to do on the weekend.

Are you working for the weekend too? I’d love to hear your best practices for preparing for the weekend, comment below.

Three Words Every Volunteer Needs to Hear

As multisite leaders, our words have power and influence that echo in the hearts and minds of our volunteers beyond the weekend. What we say, and how we say it, matters more than we realize. In the rush of our weekend responsibilities, and in the spirit of completing tasks quickly, we often fail to think critically about what we’re saying to our teams in the heat of the moment, and it’s in these moments that our words either build up our volunteers or tear them down.

If you’re like me, there have been moments where you totally said the wrong thing at the wrong time to a volunteer. You’ve crushed their spirit and sent them walking out the door. I’ve had to apologize for more moments like that than I would care to admit, and I would do anything to take those words back. I’ve had to learn the hard way just how powerful my words can be in both negative and positive ways. The words we plant in our volunteers hearts and minds today determines the world we reap tomorrow. Our volunteers need to hear words that build them up, empower them, and release them to serve with confidence.

“I trust you.”

I cannot think of another phrase that reinforces these truths more powerfully than, “I trust you.” Trust is the greatest expression of our gratitude. When we tell our volunteers that we trust them, it releases them to serve and make decisions with courage and confidence. When we fail to equip our volunteers with trust, we fail to empower them to lead and serve at any level in our churches. But before we can give trust away freely, we have to train properly.

If you can’t trust your volunteers to make the right decisions, you shouldn’t trust your training process either. We can’t blame our volunteers for indecision when our volunteer process lacks the proper training and coaching. When we provide the proper training and the right coaching, our volunteers are equipped to make decisions that emulate the DNA of our church.

If volunteers are the lifeblood of our churches, let’s equip them with the right training, and empower them with our trust. If you have volunteers that you can’t confidently say, “I trust you” to, it might be time to reevaluate your training process or redirect where they’re currently serving.

Create a world where your volunteers feel trained, trusted, and appreciated. What other words or phrases do you think volunteers need to hear?

5 Inexpensive Ways to Value Volunteers

No matter how small or how large your church is, volunteers are the heart and soul of its potential. Our role as multisite leaders is to identify, equip, and release volunteers. But we can’t effectively do these things without valuing them. Communicating the value we place on volunteers is easier than most leaders think, and it doesn’t require as much money as we might expect.

I’ve listed below five¬†inexpensive ways that help communicate genuine value to the volunteers we lead:

1. Prepare
Being ready for volunteers is the first thing they will notice. When a volunteer commits their time to serve, it’s important to value their time with our preparedness. My friend, Tammie Hurd is the best at this. She puts a lot of time into preparing carts, charts, resources, instructions, and maps before volunteers ever arrive, and she has some of the most committed and longstanding volunteers in our church. Why? Because her volunteers know that they are needed, and that their time will be productive. When they arrive to serve with Tammie, every item they need to complete the job is there, and they feel valued. Being prepared communicates to the volunteer that you care about, and respect their time.

2. Pray
Sometimes we get so busy serving with our volunteers that we forget to shepherd and care for them through prayer. Knowing how to pray, and what to pray for our volunteers matters more than we think. Yes, the pre-service prayer time or the post-event prayer is valuable, but those times often don’t allow us to pray specifically over a volunteer’s needs. Creating space in the rhythms of our serving together, to ask how we can specifically pray for our volunteers, is invaluable. We need to make time to stop right there, and pray with and for them. Following up on the prayer need later also communicates the value you place on a volunteer’s personal life.

3. Praise
Affirmation is a powerful tool in communicating the value we place on our volunteers. Expressing gratitude doesn’t require expensive gifts or fancy dinners; I’m still surprised how significant a written note can be. While a text message or an email doesn’t adequately express my gratitude, a written card communicates the value I have for them individually, because I took the time to personalize a note. Some volunteers prefer private affirmation over public recognition, but I’m always looking for a way to express my appreciation publicly in our team meetings or on social media. I want our team to know just how much I value each and every one who serves with us.

4. Protect
If we value our volunteers, we have to protect them from burnout and overcommitment. A volunteer who serves at everything is usually running from something, and we have to recognize that unhealthy commitment, and address it head-on. Doing so communicates that we care more about who they’re becoming than what they’re doing. We like to stress to our volunteers that serving starts at home, because if we’re not taking care of our families first, how can we take care of the family of God? Another way we protect our volunteers is making sure they’re attending a worship service that they don’t serve in. This helps make sure they’re receiving at some point during the weekend, and not just giving the entire time. Protecting a volunteer from too many commitments reveals just how much we value them.

5. Party
If our volunteers are not having fun, no one is. Our volunteers set the tone and create the atmosphere in every environment, and we want that environment to be full of fun. Having a party with your volunteers, to celebrate all they accomplished, goes a long way. Not everyone can afford a party, but don’t let a smaller budget keep you from partying with your volunteer team. Add music to your next meeting, go out for a buy-one-get-one appetizers after serving together, deliver Slurpees to your traffic team one morning, and the list goes on. Have fun with them, because if they’re having fun, everyone is having fun.

Valuing our volunteers reveals just how much we care for them, and who they’re becoming while serving at our church or organization. These five tips have something in common – TIME.

We cannot express how much we value our volunteers’ time without being intentional with our time.

You may not be able to do all these things this week, but you can plan to do one or two them.

I hope this list helps you in expressing the value you place on your volunteers. I’d love to hear if you have any other ideas too. Please comment below.