In church, when a volunteer underperforms, we often write it off saying something like, “Well, it’s not like they are paid staff…they are just volunteers.”
But, before we take the easy way out, let’s think about what is really being said here. You could easily replace the phrase ‘they are just volunteers’ with ‘they are just serving God’…
Brings a new perspective, doesn’t it?
The main problem with this type of thinking is that when you expect less, you get less.
You are effectively inspiring volunteers to be lazy when serving God. In other words, you are teaching that you should only give your best effort when a paycheck is to follow.
So, how do we inspire and attract the best volunteers?
Nothing is more demotivating than leadership being unprepared. As leaders, it is our responsibility to make sure team members have the tools and resources they need to complete the task at hand. As a worship leader, this means providing sheet music, MP3s and other resources to help your musicians learn the set list.
A worship team that gets their materials at least a week ahead of time and shows up to rehearsal with all the sound equipment working is able to focus on their real job: leading worship. On the flip side, if the worship leader did not take time to prepare these things, the worship team is distracted, frustrated and ends up just going through the motions.
If you are an unorganized leader, don't be discouraged. God has equipped you with the ability to do what you need to do. So, lean on Him as you put in the effort to become organized.
I have gotten a lot of flack for using the phrase 'fire volunteers'. The push back usually sounds like this, "We are not talking about employees here...they are just volunteers." I really don't see the difference. Whether volunteering or paid staff at a church, we should put forth the same effort.
A volunteer who doesn't care shows up late and unprepared. They always have an excuse for their poor performance. But, since they are just volunteers, we tend to let them continue serving...when they actually show up.
It's time to cut off the dead weight. Allowing volunteers who don't care to continue serving will eventually demotivate the entire team...and eventually the entire church. Am I saying you should be rude and brash about this? Of course not. Following is a good plan to use when making the transition.
You might also enjoy: How to Handle Difficult Worship Team Members
As a leader, the natural and expected thing to do is devote your time to helping low-performers improve and letting the high-performers take care of themselves. But, it is much more effective to spend your time with the high-performers. Why is this?
First of all, when high-performers are encouraged and empowered by their leader, their performance increases even more. Plus, they do not require babysitting, which frees up your time to become a better leader.
Low-performers are generally not looking to get better, they just want someone else to do the job for them. So, you schedule meetings and interventions only to end up wasting your time - time that could be spent encouraging and further equipping your high-performers.
There are other ways to 'pay' people other than money. As a matter of fact, studies have shown that non-financial currency can be more impactful than money. Following are a few ways to pay your volunteers.
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