Create a Healthy Volunteer Culture With These 7 Habits

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When was the last time you evaluated if your worship team was healthy? Is your team thriving? Are your volunteers growing? Is your church engaging?

Focusing on your volunteer culture is important, but it's often overlooked. There's simply too much to get done. Rehearsals need to be productive. Services need to be pulled off. You must reach your goals. Week after week after week.

But over time, if you don't invest in your volunteers, they will leave. They'll find a place where they feel more appreciated and alive. No one simply wants to be used. Of course, the goal isn't to please everybody and cater to multiple preferences. The best team members want to submit to a vision and be led.

Now is the best time. Especially as we race toward the new year, this is an important season to plan and brainstorm how to have the best year on our teams. Build disciples instead of abusing volunteers. Invest in people. Let's make this the year we don't just barely squeeze by.

  1. Breathe Encouragement: An atmosphere of encouragement makes all the difference. It needs to be a way of life and communication for your team. Celebrate. Celebrate. Celebrate. As a kid growing up on my worship team, this is what kept me coming back. I was believed in and encouraged on a weekly basis.
  2. Offer the Right Amount of Challenge: What do I mean by the "right amount" of challenge? Studies show that there's a sweet spot to feeling satisfied in your work. If it's too difficult, you'll back away and lose interest. The pressure will be too much to bear. But if the work is too easy, you'll get bored. Pay attention to your culture and find a way to challenge your team on a regular basis. Keep that challenge coming, both musically and spiritually. Don't let your vision drift.
  3. Hold to High Expectations: The word "expectation" can have a poor connotation. Think of expectations as good communication for the excellence you're striving for. Volunteers want to do a good job, but if they don't know what that means, the culture becomes clouded. Create a standard of excellence that your team can strive for in an atmosphere of grace and love. You just might see everyone rise to the next level.
  4. Foster One-on-One Conversations: No matter how large your church and team grow, one-on-one conversations will always be important. Because you don't just lead a random, large group of people. You lead individuals with individual insecurities, dreams, fears and hopes. Create a system where those conversations can happen regularly. If your team is large, raise up leaders to help you with this. It's that important.
  5. Cast Individual & Corporate Vision: There needs to be a corporate vision for your team—a direction you're all heading. But I've found that tremendous momentum can be created when you cast vision to individuals. Every team member is at a different place. Some have worship leader potential. Others have music director potential. Identify those individuals and help them with their next steps.
  6. Climb Mountains Together: Not literally, necessarily. Although a summit of Pike's Peak is never a bad idea. What was the last project you took on as a team that scared you silly? There should always be a mountain on the horizon that you're planning to climb together. Think of this as a large project beyond the week-to-week execution of Sunday services. I don't mean to say the weekend is unimportant. But we humans are prone to complacency if we're not being challenged on a regular basis. The "big project" could be something like writing an EP together. Or, it could be something as simple as a new song or a new creative element in the weekend experience. Determine what will challenge your team. It will vary from church to church, but find what that is and start climbing together.
  7. Build Relationships: This is a big deal. One of the churches we visited this last year had numerous volunteers who were fiercely committed to the church. And they traveled upwards of 45 minutes to get there! The distance wasn't a factor in their choice because they were committed to relationships. That's what drew them back and kept them active. This is easy to miss. Be intentional about how you build relationships and create context for connection.

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God is doing a great work in your team. But we need to be good stewards of the people He sends our way. We have the incredible privilege of walking with God's people as they discover who He's designed them to be.

Are you up for the challenge?

David Santistevan is a worship pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

This article originally appeared at

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