Building and managing a team is the most rewarding and, at the same time, the most challenging endeavor a worship leader can undertake. Many leaders who are entrusted with overseeing volunteers find themselves navigating unfamiliar territory, balancing their concerns for the team's well-being with the practicalities of directing and developing the ministry. With such a broad task, there are three simple approaches to help your team feel valued while ensuring that the needs of your ministry are being fulfilled.
1) Set clear expectations up front.
When we first meet a potential volunteer, it's natural to be excited. We've found someone we connect with who has a similar heart for ministry and is gifted and skilled. Often, though, the temptation can be to bring them on team immediately—before we communicate our expectations.
To avoid confusion or frustration, have an initial meeting in which you lay out the contract for all volunteers. Despite the formality, this contract is simply a written agreement that expresses the ministry's core values, behavioral expectations, vision for the future and weekly time commitment.
Before inviting an individual to be a part of the team, he should know exactly what he's getting into when volunteering. This protects volunteers from being overused because they can refer back to the clearly defined parameters of the agreement if they feel their boundaries have been breached.
When our ministry started implementing these agreements, we saw a significant increase in commitment from team members. They understood they were stepping into something meaningful and being respected in the process.
2) Be generous.
Our volunteers are freely offering their time and talents week after week, so leaders should demonstrate gratitude with some generosity. This may be as simple as giving volunteers a free coffee at the church cafe or paying for the team's meal at your next community gathering. We all want to be good stewards of our resources, but spending a few extra dollars in this way is an investment in your people. Showing you want to honor and bless your volunteers will go a long way toward creating a committed and unified team.
Beyond paying for a meal or coffee, be creative with your generosity or think of ways to bless your team that don't require spending money. Small gifts with an encouraging note can speak volumes. I once wrote a word of encouragement on an old lantern about how one particular individual had a light that was visible wherever he went. The love of Christ was burning in his soul and radiated to those around him. This little act of blessing strengthened my relationship with him and the rest of my team because they felt they were seen and loved.
3) Lead with an open hand.
When people step into our world, it's easy to expect them to be as passionate as we are about every aspect of the ministry. But as leaders, we need to give people permission and freedom to pursue the desires of their own hearts too.
Practically speaking, we must recognize that our people have lives outside of ministry. If a volunteer calls in sick, is running late or needs time off, it's vital we meet those moments with grace. It's healthy for people to take a break and be assured it won't cause them to lose their place on the team or damage their relationship with their leader.
Leading with an open hand also means giving space for volunteers to step into their dreams. For example, you may have a drummer whose preference is to play keyboard. An open-handed leader will create opportunities that will allow team members to explore these types of desires. It may require compromise on both sides to make this happen practically, but by limiting volunteers to one thing, you could eventually lose your drummer and also miss out on a potentially good keyboardist.
Finally, open-handed leadership means having grace when people ask to be released from their commitments. It's tough to do so when you love someone and you're relying on them to fulfill their role. But holding onto people and demanding they stay involved will only push them further away if their hearts are no longer in their work. Let them see you care more about them thriving personally than you do about the ministry.
Remember, as worshippers of Jesus, our ultimate ministry is to love people well, not to build an awesome band or craft the "perfect" church service. Consistently demonstrating how much you value your volunteers will cause your team to grow stronger, healthier and more unified in their own expressions of worship, servanthood and love.
Joshua Mohline is director of WorshipU (worshipu.com), the online school of worship from Bethel Music. With a background as a worship leader in settings from small to large, he has been a part of the Bethel Church worship teams since 2012. He facilitates the worship school, as it equips and empowers thousands of worship leaders and teams worldwide.
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