Five Reasons People aren’t Volunteering at Your Church

Do you need more preschool workers to serve children? Do you need more greeters to greet? Do you need more ushers to…ush?

If so, you’re in familiar territory.

I’ve never met a church that said, “You know…when it comes to volunteers, we’re good. We’ve got plenty. In fact, there’s a waiting list for the nursery.”
Churches everywhere need to mobilize more volunteers to get ministry done. But before you start signing people up and filling slots, it might be helpful to take a look at why people are NOT volunteering.

Here are FIVE REASONS people might not be volunteering at your church

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You’re not asking correctly. It takes more than blurbs in the bulletin and pleas from the pulpit to move people into volunteer positions in your church. If you want people to serve, you’ve got to learn how to ask correctly.

It’s hard to sign up. Signing up has to be simple and immediate. Hidden tables in the lobby don’t work. Remembering to email so-and-so isn’t a good strategy.

It’s not clear. If you want people to do a job, they need to clearly understand the expectations and requirements. Pull back the veil and show people what’s it like before you ask them to get involved.

You’re not saying thanks. People don’t want to toil away in a thankless role. Just because someone’s reward is in heaven doesn’t mean they don’t need to hear “thank you” on earth.

It’s too hard. The super-committed will do whatever it takes, but if you want to mobilize a bunch of people, you need to make it easier. Take care of their kids, provide food, and make sure they have everything they need to succeed. A little planning on the front end goes a long way.

To learn how to build a larger volunteer base, sign up for the FREE ‘Get More Volunteers’ Event.

10 Sets of Words We Confuse in Leadership, Part 2

Words

This is part 2. Read Part 1 HERE.

I’ve noticed we confuse a lot of words in leadership. They seem related, and are often used interchangeably, but they are very different.

Here are 5 words we often confuse:

Idea with initiative – Ideas are many. Actually working to make an idea a reality. Rare.

Leadership with management – Leading involves taking people somewhere, often into an unknown, where they may not go otherwise. It involves facing risk to achieve a vision, where the path to attain it is many times unclear. Managing involves helping achieve and maintain a known, predetermined vision, by implementing systems and procedures to effectively move people forward. Leaders thrive in tension and challenge. Managers thrive in details and structure. Both are needed, but very different.

Intentional with conventional – Okay, this might be a stretch in words, but the thought behind it is not. Intentional means we are doing things in the best way to get the job done…in the current context…with the current people…in the current setting. Conventional means we do the same things we’ve always done and hope progress continues. Both may be working towards a worthy vision, but one lasts for a season…the other lasts longer…much longer. We may not even use the words…but we certainly confuse the actions.

Change with progression – Progression is a form a change. Everything changes. People get older. There’s a change. Buildings wear out over time. That’s a change. Ignoring change is an impossibility. But, it’s one thing to let things progress naturally over time, and it’s another to make intentional changes for the good of the organization. Letting things progress is easy. Making intentional change…that’s hard work, but necessary if you want to continue to grow and remain healthy.

Promise with principle – A promise means it’s going to happen…as promised. A principle means this will generally work as stated, under normal conditions, provided the described conditions are met. Living as if a principle is a promise will make you very disappointed when conditions weren’t in place for the principle to perform like a promise. (I promise. In principle.)

I realize all of these could be blog posts of their own. I have expanded on some of them previously. Which would you like me to expand upon?

Add to this post. Who knows…maybe there is a part three? Can you think of any other words we confuse?

10 Sets of Words We Often Confuse in Leadership, Part 1

Words

I’ve noticed we confuse a lot of words in leadership. They seem related, and are often used interchangeably, but they are very different. I decided to break this post into two parts, so I will share 5 more in the next post.

Here are words we often confuse:

Possibility with probability – Just because something has a chance of happen, doesn’t necessarily mean the chances are good. In making changes, for example, I want to know what’s possible…what might happen…but also what is probable…what probably will happen. The leader needs to be clear as to the risk involved…not pretending a possibility is a probability…and vice versa.

Opportunity with obligation – Just because I could do something…doesn’t mean I have to do it or even that I should. This is incredibly important for those of us who struggle to say no at times. We could easily become ineffective if we make every opportunity an obligation.

Challenge with impossibility – Sometimes we dismiss the hard work, because it seems impossible, when really, if we are honest, it’s just a bigger challenge than we are willing to accept. We don’t always like the things that make us walk by faith into the unknown. But, really, what’s impossible if it’s of God? I know numerous pastors, for example, who have made change in the church they pastor seem impossible, when really it’s just harder to implement than they care to tackle, so they live with status quo.

Delegation with assignment – Some leaders I know confuse assigning someone a task with delegating. Delegating is far more than that. Giving an assignment is easy. I tell someone what to do and get to walk away from it. Delegating involves much more. It’s ensuring the person assigned a task has the skills, knowledge and resources to complete the task and then following through with them until the task is complete.

Responsibility with authority – This is a personal pet peeve of mine. Responsibility means I have to do it. Authority means I have the actual ability to get it done in a way that matches my skills and talents. If you want me to be a good follower…give me responsibility. If you want me to develop as a leader, and feel like a valuable part of the team…give me authority.

I will share 5 more next time. I also realize all of these could be blog posts of their own. I have expanded on some of them previously. Which would you like me to expand upon?

Add to this post. Maybe even guess some I will have next time (It’s already written, but can always be improved). Can you think of any other words we confuse in leadership?

You’ll Understand…Someday

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11 NIV

“This is the coolest hat I’ve ever had!”

That was the comment my son made years ago when he was in early high school. You would have to see the hat to clearly understand, but it had to be the ugliest hat I had ever seen. There was a new trend at the time with the teenagers to find the ugliest hat to wear. The most popular hats were the mesh back style (farmer’s hats) that were old, worn out, and would usually be found hanging on a back porch somewhere, having experienced many years of hard use. This particular hat had a blue bill and the mesh part was white. On the front of the cap was a “Tweetie Bird”. The hat just barely escaped being thrown away on several occasions due to its age and wear. My son, however, thought it was the “coolest hat” he’d ever had.

When he told me this the Lord gave me a great teaching moment. (When boys get 15 there are fewer and fewer of these times.) I asked him, “Jeremy, if I would have told you a year ago that this would be your favorite hat today, what would you have thought?”

“I would have thought you were crazy”, he said.

“So”, I continued, “in your wildest imagination, last year you could have never seen yourself liking this hat.”

“No,” he replied.

Then I went on to explain to him that this is the way it is sometimes when I had to discipline him or I gave him advice. At the time, it might not make sense. He may not always understand what I was doing…but one day…he would look back and see that my logic was well-founded.

It also served as a good teaching moment for me. God had something for me to learn too!

Sometimes, really many times, God has something for me to endure that I cannot understand. There seems to be no good benefit for the trial that I am enduring. Later on, however, the good God was seeking in my life will be more apparent. During the trial I will simply have to trust that God knows what He is doing.

Thank you, God, for teaching me through an ugly hat!

(Or through the coolest hat in the world…it’s a matter of opinion!)

10 Easy Steps to Spoil a Child

Angry child with crossed arm

Have you ever wanted a spoiled child?

It is easy.

Here’s a 10-step quick formula guaranteed to produce results:

  • Give children everything they want.
  • Never tell them no.
  • Fight with your spouse over discipline.
  • Put children first, even over your spouse.
  • Strive to make every moment “the greatest moment of their life”.
  • Teach them they are the center of the universe.
  • Take their side every time…even over the teacher.
  • Make excuses for them.
  • Ignore their “minor” discipline problems.
  • Let them talk to you however they want.

Try that for 30 days and I guarantee you a spoiled child or your money back.

Good parenting is hard. It means saying no when the easy thing to say is yes. It means molding character that will yield maturity for a lifetime. Don’t take the easy route. Go for best!

I’m praying for you!

Any more suggestions to spoil a child? 

5 of the Worst Leadership Traits I’ve Observed

Square guy-Thumbs down

Someone asked me a great question recently. It came from a young pastor. He appears to be doing a great job leading, but he wants to do better. I admire that. I hope he (and I) continue that attitude throughout his career (and mine).

His question was this:

Knowing what you know now about leadership, what would you say are the biggest traps to avoid? What are the worst leadership traits that you’ve seen limit a leader’s potential to lead well?

That’s a hard question, because depending on the circumstances I think there could be many different answers. I wrote the “most dangerous” traits previously, but this question seemed different to me. It wasn’t addressing the dangerous traits, as much as the ones that were just bad. You can have these and perhaps still see some success as a leader, but they are still bad leadership traits….the worst. And they keep one from leading well. Eventually, they may derail a leader if not addressed.

There are many I’ve observed. I’ve seen laziness, for example, cripple a leader. But, with the right team around him or her, even a lazy leader can experience success. I thought of incompetence, but I have seen some dumb leaders (like me at times) smart enough to surround themselves with wise people. But, what about the worst?

So, I’ve narrowed my list to the following 5 of the worst traits I’ve observed personally. Feel free to disagree or add to my list. I certainly don’t have all the answers.

Here are 5 of the worst leadership traits I’ve observed:

Poor character – Nothing can overcome a flawed character. Dishonesty in a leader, for example, will always overshadow even the most worthy vision. You can’t hide a corrupt heart. Immorality always shines brighter than competence or ability. And it can be argued whether it should be called success, but I’ve seen some bad characters leading what appears to be very successful organizations.

Avoidance – The leader who ignores problems invites trouble to the church or organization. Problems never go away on their own. They fester and eventually explode. It may take a long time for them to be exposed but they will eventually catch up with the leader. Yet I have seen some leaders survive a long time while avoiding the real problems.

Indecisiveness – Every decision a leader makes is subject to opinion and there are always at least two. Most of the time many more. But, leaders are called to make decisions when no one else can or will. Indecisiveness stalls progress and frustrates people. Yet I have talked with countless staff members of very large church who say their senior pastor can’t or won’t make decisions.

Control – Inflexibility on the part of a leader limits the church or organization to the level of performance solely of the leader. That’s always bad. Even if the person is a genius, there’s a lid placed upon the organization or church’s future. People feel squashed of their potential and under appreciated, producing half-heartedness and poor morale. Who needs that? But, there are still growing organizations with controlling leaders (I didn’t say healthy…growing).

Pride – Perhaps the worst trait I’ve personally observed is the arrogance of a leader. It turns people away in disgust when they hear a leader brag on all his or her accomplishments. The braggart feels good personally, but is never as popular as he or she perceives. I’ve found if a leader is really good at what they do, they won’t have to tell others about it. And, yet, know any arrogant leaders who apparently lead “successful” organizations…even churches?

That’s my list. Again, these are all bad leadership traits, in my opinion and observation. Some will argue you couldn’t have these and lead successfully. That would depend, I suppose, on your definition of success, but regardless they are still bad traits…I would even say…the worst.

What would you add?

One thing that separates the best leaders…

In my observation…

The best leaders learn from their mistakes.

They improve. They develop strengths and minimize weaknesses. They ask forgiveness, receive grace and move forward in spite of their past or their shortcomings. They attempt to do better the next try.

Poor leaders dwell in their mistakes.

They run from them. They attempt to control others reactions to them. They pretend they never happened. They try to hide their flaws and weaknesses. They let the future be determined by regret rather than by grace. 

Which scenario more closely resembles your story?

5 Legitimate Fears of a Church Planter

Scared Afraid Man Wrapped in Red Fear Tape

Having participated in two church plants as a planter, and now working with church planters on a regular basis in a coaching capacity, I know first hand the fears associated with planting a church. It’s a leap of faith and one God is calling many to these days.

My theory here is that recognizing the fear and realizing their legitimacy is part of guarding our hearts against them. The fact remains that for a church plant to be successful, at least in Kingdom terms, God must provide His grace.

Here are 5 legitimate fears of church planters:

No one will show up – If we do all this work and it doesn’t work…what will we do? You’ll be thankful you were obedient to what you believe God called you to do and wait patiently for Him to provide. We had to consistently remind our core team that God was in control of numbers. Our job was to be faithful. That doesn’t mean you stop inviting people or investing in the community around you, but you trust that God will stir hearts for His work.

We can’t afford it - You probably can’t. There will seldom be enough money…or so it may seem at times. God calls us to big tasks. Church planting is hard…and not cheap. But, the Lord will provide resources for His vision. Again, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to educate people on the needs or help them understand the command, value and blessing of giving, but it does mean you trust God even when the checkbook balance is low. It also doesn’t mean you won’t have to wait to make major purchases or there won’t be times you have to wait until “Sunday’s offering” to get paid. Our paycheck was delayed several times the first couple years so other bills…and other staff…could be paid…but we were never hungry.

I don’t know what I’m doing – Isn’t it wonderful? It means you’re insufficient without His sufficiency. What a great place to reside! The great news is that many have gone before you. Learn from others and stay on your knees before God.

People will leave – True. Most core teams are cut in half in the first few years. At first I thought we were to be the exception. We weren’t. Other people will come and never return…But, some will stick. And, they will have hearts for the vision. And, in them we rejoice at what God has done. We build our teams around those who God sends to us and who remain steadfast to the journey ahead. That team may change several times the first few years.

We don’t have a building – No, but you probably don’t have a mortgage either. And, you’re raising up an army of volunteers for set up and tear down. You are building service and sacrifice into your DNA as a church. Isn’t it wonderful! Don’t lose that atmosphere and culture of dependency, even when you have a building someday.

Final thought. These fears are legitimate…real fears. Don’t be ashamed that you have them. The key is not to live in them, but to live and walk in the faith that God will complete His plans and enable those He calls.

What other fears have you experienced in church planting?

7 Ways to Protect Your PK…Pastor’s Kid in Ministry

happy family

I’ve written extensively about protecting the family in ministry. Recently my wife has guest posted about the unique role of the pastor’s wife. One comment I received was well taken. She basically said…”What about the PK’s? Who is looking out for them? Many disappear from the church as adults.”

PK = Pastor’s Kids.

I heard that. I have addressed the issue generally, as a family, but I haven’t posted specifically about protecting the children in ministry.

I have noticed the issue of the commenter’s concern. I’m blessed that my PK’s survived ministry well. Both of my boys are very active in the church. One is self-employed, but works mostly in the Christian sector, and one is in full-time ministry. I understand, however, that it is a problem for many pastors and their families.

By the time some pastor’s children reach adulthood they are often done with church…actually they are more done with the busyness and politics of church…and they want little or nothing to do with it. So, they sit on the sidelines of ministry…if they attend church at all.

Honestly, as much as I have heard it talked about, at least within my circles of ministry, it is more rare than it is a norm. I probably know more pastors who have children active in church than I know those who have children that have disappeared. I don’t know the statistics…please share them in the comments if you do…but, if we could avoid damaging a child growing up in the ministry world altogether I think we should.

Here are 7 suggestions for protecting your PK:

Level the expectations – Hold your children to Biblical standards. Train them well. Discipline appropriately. You hopefully teach it and you should parent what you teach. But, don’t be surprised when your children aren’t perfect. They aren’t anymore than you are…or anyone else’s children.

Let them be kids – Don’t expect them to care as much about ministry as you do when they are…SEVEN or even seventeen. They might. Mine did to a certain extent…on certain days. And, then other days they just wanted to shoot basketballs in the church gym while I went on church visitation.

Live what you preach – If you want them to appreciate the ministry, let them see you as authentic. Authenticity means you are in private who you claim to be in public. And chances are good they are observing both. They’ll respect you when you are equally transparent and honest with how you live your life on Sundays and through the week.And, the more they respect you…the more they can respect the ministry. Remember, their primary concept of ministry is you.

Protect your time at home – When you are home…be home. Let voicemail do its thing. Put down the computer. Say no to outside interruptions. There will always be exceptions in the role of a pastor, but they should be rare, not common place. The children need to know you value your time with your spouse and them even more than your time with others.

Be their parent more than their pastor – You may be their pastor, but first they need a parent. I actually found others on staff, or even pastor friends in other churches, were sometimes better at being their pastor anyway. No one could replace my role as parent.

Give them roles as they desire – My boys helped launch a youth group. They led at camps. They worked with children and preschoolers. But, I never forced it. I let them serve where they wanted to serve. Interestingly, when the idea was their’s, they seemed more likely to want to be involved.

Let them do ministry with you – My boys went to committee meetings. Staff meetings. Visitations. I took my boys on mission trips. Unless it was a highly confidential meeting for the parties involved, I gave them access to my calendar. They got to appreciate what I do as a pastor…not resent it because I wasn’t home. Again, this was voluntary not mandatory.

Someone is wondering why I didn’t put anything about my personal walk with Christ as one of the points. Well, hopefully that’s understood in the role of a pastor and a believer. But yes, of course that. Consider it understood that this is number one for every question of how to do ministry effectively.

Pastors…or even better…PK’s…anything else you’d recommend?

7 False Thoughts of a Pastor or Church Planter

no

Here are 7 false thoughts of a pastor and church planter:

If we build it, they will come – They might. They might not. Actually when God builds it they will come.

We need to pay someone to do this – You could, but chances are there are people with margin in their schedule, looking for a place to serve, who don’t necessarily need your money right now, as much as they desire the opportunity.

Some people will always stay – They won’t. Period. Some will leave even if you do everything the way they wanted you to do them. And if you change anything you may be helping some make the decision they may have been talking about but just haven’t done.

I need to know everything that’s happening in my church – You could try, but the church would be very small and the potential will be very limited. And, I like to ask myself…is it my need to know or my need to control?

They couldn’t do this without me – Yea…that sounds impressive. Not true. At all. The more we think it the less it’s probably true.

People will give when they are ready – They won’t. Period. You’ll have to encourage them. Give them a reason to give. Provide them opportunity. Teach them.

I’m responsible for everyone’s spiritual maturity – You’re not. Period. You teach. God’s spirit grows as they yield to Him.

Any you would add?