Don’t Leave Your Volunteers Hangin’

(continued - For my next few posts I will be borrowing some wisdom from my idol in the retail/restaurant world, Jim Sullivan.)

In this world of fast pace, it is becoming increasingly difficult to have weekly meetings at odd times during the week with your volunteer teams as often as you may like to. With the new world of social networking, many have turned to team communications over facebook, twitter, email, etc.

It is probably wise to complement these communication strategies with “pre-serve meetings”. In the retail world, these are referred to as pre-shift meetings, alley rallies, jump starts, and pep ups. Quick 2-5 minute gatherings/conversations you or your ministry leaders have with volunteers minutes before they serve. The goals - communicate, encourage and empower them. Some tips:

· Make a plan, don’t fake a plan – Know which teams or individual you want to talk to and why you want to talk to them.

o Do your ushers need clarity on a new initiative, does your café have a new beverage volunteers need trained on, does your nursery team need encouraged?

o Have specific thoughts. One Meeting = One Issue. Don’t try to cover too many issues. Pick the pressing need and run with it. Save something for the following week.

· Keep it positive – Pre-serve meetings are to jazz up, pump up and motivate those you do ministry with to give it their all. Sell the new initiatives you are communicating to them and empower them to do what they do well.

· Teach your volunteers something new every Sunday – remember that you want your teams to leave after serving feeling more confident in their abilities and blessed to be serving with you.

· K.I.S.S. – Keep it short and sweet – Instead of meetings, maybe they should be called moments.

The higher the frequency of these “pre-serve moments” the better the communication will be on your team and the more valued your volunteers will feel. As Jim says, “Exchanging knowledge and sharing common goals with your team members daily makes them better. The better they are, the better the experience they create for their customers.”

Translated to Ministry

Exchanging knowledge, encouraging and sharing common goals with your ministry leaders and volunteer core on the day they serve makes them better. The better they are and the more valued they feel, the better you have helped to eliminate any distractions connecting guests with Christ.


Defending the 1st Impression

This past weekend, I had the joy of a weekend retreat with my wife to Niagara Falls.
We stayed at the Sterling Inn and Spa and had the most amazing time. It was a relaxing rare treat to have my every need anticipated from the moment we pulled into the parking lot. You have probably experienced this type of service while vacationing at a resort or on a cruise.

This was the type of service that anticipated my needs before I did. They thought of every detail so that my 3 day retreat from reality was not flawed by any distractions. The facility was clean, it felt safe, I felt cared for and my favorable first impression lingered with me throughout the entire stay without changing.

So then I began to evaluate our facility.

  • What do guests experience from the moment they drive up? Is our parking lot inviting? Is our facility clean? Do guests feel safe here? What is your plan for the future to fix these if you lack the funds now? How are you counteracting distractions you can't immediately fix?
  • How are you anticipating guests needs in the lobby? in the cafe? in the children's area? in the youth area? in our verbiage from the platform?
  • Are you removing every and any distractions for the guest, as they construct their 1st Impression? As Jon McDerment once stated, "The building needs to be the last distraction to anyone searching for God-change."
The point is, guests are walking into your church every weekend with a million distractions and suitcase full of hurts and needs. If your ministries and facilities don't mirror your mission and vision for guests, they are going to be a distraction to the Gospel guests will hear once they are in your worship service. The style and quality of your 1st impression dictates the guests that stay or go elsewhere.


Never Practice on a Guest and other thoughts.

For my next few posts I will be borrowing some wisdom from my idol in the retail/restaurant world, Jim Sullivan. Jim is a genius when it comes to training/empowering your employees and increasing your ticket sales/customer traffic. I am going to merge some of his thoughts with how they correspond in the ministry world. Here are a few of his gems:

  • Never Practice on a Customer (Or in our Case, the Guest) - Know your volunteer teams’ strengths and weaknesses. Make sure you have fully communicated any changes in advance so there are no misunderstandings on Sunday morning that may reflect to the guests. Make sure you have strategic trainings, practices, and team gatherings (ministry meetings, fellowship, or discipleship related) weekly, monthly or quarterly. Our team leaders and ministry volunteers need to have significant knowledge of our processes, vision, mission and goals so the guests will catch a glimpse of what our church is about in one encounter.
  • Bring Enthusiasm, Energy and Excitement to Every Shift – Be positive, focused and jazzed about your ministry and why you are doing it. Passion Persuades. Be selective with which of your team leaders you voice any frustrations or burdens with, if any. After all, if you are not in love with your ministry, why should your volunteers be and why are you still doing it?
  • The More You Know, The Faster You Go – Teach every volunteer or guest you come in contact with something new every Sunday. Empower an up and coming volunteer to take ownership of the Sunday school class that day, coach a ministry leader through what you would do in a circumstance they are confronted with, be the example of greeting guests and being Christ to all people. Be someone your volunteers look forward to seeing everyday. Every volunteer should have a mentor as well as a staff ministry leader.