Are you a great volunteer?

Are you an all-star volunteer?

As someone who has worked with a lot of volunteers here is a list of what makes up an all-star volunteer.

1.  Loves the mission- The best volunteers are involved because they love the values and methods of the mission.

2.  Bring ideas- Great volunteers help us get better and they bring great ideas.  The downside of this is when a volunteer is married to their idea and it becomes a deal breaker for them.

3.  Trainable- The best volunteers receive coaching and have a desire to have a great impact.  Without training the mission identity gets lost in the individual identity.

4.  Mission before community- A dangerous volunteer is one that comes to you with a list of things they are hoping to get out of their service.  The most dangerous on the list is relationships for themselves.  The greatest communities are mission minded about relationships and not relationally minded about mission.

5.  Great communicators- Volunteers who initiate communication demonstrate that they are all in.  The volunteer who constantly has to be reminded is stressful and distracting.

What else makes up a great volunteer to you?

Volunteerism is killing the effectiveness of the volunteer

Is volunteering in the name of volunteering still volunteering?

When the end goal of the volunteer is volunteerism, than serving is a "probably should" but not a "have to."   Culturally speaking we've arrived at a place where volunteering is rare and often laden with the volunteer's prerequisites and expectations.  

The biggest war on volunteerism right now is the desire for immediate results.  We want our volunteer experiences like we want our pizza: we can pay for it online and it is brought to us.  Most volunteers aren't out to be the "Linchpin" of volunteering, instead they want significant results with as little time investment as possible.

On the other hand, organizations can over-celebrate the volunteers who are able to hang out the longest.  I heard a mission leader say this week that a volunteer, who wanted to be heard the most, wanted the mission leader's job, but said they had too much at stake (Money, title, education, etc...) to walk away from their current role.   These types of volunteers will burn through mission leaders in order to remain the most influential, but they are not quick to take on personal risk.

So how can we find the pure-hearted volunteer?  Look for these traits:

1.  They are humble - Their passion to serve is greater than their desire to be seen.  

2.  They are coachable - They look to be coached so that the mission/organization/team can have a greater impact.

3.  They create space - Regardless of what anyone says, what people set aside time to do is what's the most important thing in their heart.  Absolutely nothing gets our attention unless we give it time first.

4.  They are committed - This volunteer is all in.  Missing something kills these people.  They stress out about missing something and they over communicate about what they might miss.  

We can be a generation who leads past this season where volunteerism is  a "probably should" and create a season where volunteering is serving out of a calling.

What makes you want to serve?


PHoto Credit to Hryck

Punch someone at church

Have you ever wanted punch someone at church?  Gut check, it's honesty time, don't lie to yourself - have you? [youtube 5RnVfXFd5MU ]

I recently observed a young, upper middle class dad give it to a church volunteer. He was upset because for fourth week in a row he wasn't able to get his kid checked into the nursery  so he and his wife could attend the service undisturbed because it had filled up.  Here's where the plot thickens: 1. He was 15 minutes late to the service.  2. The volunteer was super polite and asked him if he had tried a different service that wasn't as full so there would be less competition for nursery space.  3.  Last but not least, the church desires to keep a volunteer/child ratio in order to keep HIS kid safe.

This dad had a couple of options, he could of volunteered to work in the nursery to create more space for his kid.  He also could have gone to a different service OR he could have shown up EARLY like the parents who got their kid in the nursery (jack-leg).

When I heard him speak to the volunteer this way my anger rose quickly.  I wanted to knock him out.  He's speaking to someone who certainly doesn't need his crap and that volunteer isn't responsible for him getting to church on time so HIS kid gets in the nursery.  This dude was lucky it was church because I had some unfriendly words for him and I hate seeing volunteers get disrespected. (I sound so much like Jesus right now?)

But how often do I do that?  How often do you do that?  How often we as leaders blame people instead of adapting to the system or make ourselves accountable?  Because those were the right options, he either could have said to himself one of the following:

"I will no longer be late, this is my fault."


"The system is one that rewards those who are early, I have to deal with it and adjust."


"I will start volunteering so there is more space for kids"

As leaders it starts with us.  When someone isn't getting it done we have to look at ourselves first and ask ourselves what we aren't doing.  If it is a system issue we either adapt to the system or get our hands dirty and fix it.  When we don't do these things we just storm around pouting looking like a spoiled child.

As a leader, when do you find it the most difficult to evaluate yourself?  I would love for you to share with a comment.



Why you don't want volunteers

Volunteers are nothing more than warm bodies.  They typically show up, do what they're told, and then leave.  Did they file the papers?  Probably.  Did they put food on a plate?  Yep.  Did they fold the clothes and sort them?  Absolutely.  Volunteers are the work force to do the job faster than you could do alone or to do the job you yourself don't want to do.

But we have absolutely glorified the volunteer.  "Dear volunteer: thank you for stopping your self consumed life long enough to give an hour or so once a year.  Without you, we would be lost and ineffective."

Are you picking up my sarcasm?

The world needs less volunteers and far more callings.  Callings are what makes a significant difference in the lives of others.  Callings move us from showing up for self gratification to fighting for space to make a difference in others.  Callings creates sustainability and endurance.  A calling moves us from outsider to insider.  A calling forces us to do things better instead of volunteering in order to makes things bigger.  Ultimately, those who are called end up telling volunteers which grill to man or where to put a nail.

So why build a team of volunteers when you really want to build a team of people who feel called?  Being called is the "X" factor in volunteering that is often unmeasuarable.  But four "called" volunteers will have a far greater impact than 12 people looking to "give back."

Have you experienced the difference between called volunteers versus someone wanting to feel like they've given back?