When More Volunteers Create More Problems

As you might guess, our Volunteer Rocket coaching is primarily about helping churches get more volunteers. With that in mind, you may be surprised to learn there are instances when getting more volunteers can actually create more problems.

The primary reason this happens is because you have a leadership shortage. If more volunteers create more problems, you very likely need more leaders. Here are some symptoms that you have a leadership shortage.

Your “span of care” is too high. In business, it’s called a “span of control.” Fortune 500 CEOs usually have seven direct reports. In ministry, I would argue our span of care should not be any higher than that because we’re trying to accomplish a mission and disciple people. So add up the number of volunteers and then divide by the number of staff and volunteer leaders. If the result is higher than seven, you have a span of care issue, and you need more leaders.

The mission is getting in the way of your relationships. Because we’re in the ministry, we can’t just focus on getting things done. We are also in the people business. When it comes to volunteer teams, that means we need time to share life together. We need to create space to coach, encourage, challenge, care for and pray for the people we lead. When was the last time you prayed for each person on your team? If you can’t remember or you didn’t know specifically what to pray, you need more leaders.

You are making all the decisions. If you have to touch every task and every decision, you haven’t learned how to empower your team. Of course, this begins with clarifying mission, vision, values and strategy. Everyone must understand their role and know the expectations for what success looks like. Once that’s in place, you need to challenge leaders to move from doing tasks to actually leading their teams. If they don’t have the capacity to do that, you need more leaders rather than doers.

You are waiting for leaders to magically appear. If you’re hoping and praying for more leaders but you don’t have an intentional strategy to develop people, you probably have a leadership shortage. Leaders just don’t grow on trees. They need to be mentored and discipled. They need to watch you handle leadership challenges. They need the experience of facing leadership challenges themselves. If that isn’t happening, you likely need more leaders.

When you don’t have enough leaders, more volunteers can lead to more problems. As you might expect, we don’t suggest you avoid adding more volunteers to the team. The solution is to raise up more leaders.

Because churches have limited resources, hiring staff leaders to won’t work either. The only way to grow your teams will be to raise up more volunteer leaders. Here’s the great news–the spiritual gift of leadership isn’t just limited to be people who are on church staff. Volunteers can be leaders too!