As a church or ministry, we are only as good as our volunteers, and our volunteers are only as strong as the culture we cultivate for them to serve, grow in and be a part of. So building a dynamic volunteer culture is not only a nice idea, but an essential component to the life force of your local church.

Here are seven tips to consider when building your volunteer culture:

1. Do it Together
Leading is not about making all the decisions. Leading is making sure you make the right decisions. This approach to leadership takes the pressure off of your shoulders and allows you to build a strong team of gifted individuals, where the best ideas and practices win.

One practical way of doing it together is, when approaching a new initiative, lead with this question, “Here’s where we’re going; how can we get there?” This allows for feedback, interaction, ideation and ownership among your team. Personal ownership among your team goes further than dictatorship and delegation every day of the week.

2. Set the Bar High
I have never met one person who longs to be part of something mediocre; who is willing to sacrifice for something average. Most people want to be part of something that is excellent and worthy of their time and sacrifice. And while some may say setting the bar too high makes it difficult to get volunteers, setting the bar too low makes it easy to get the wrong volunteers.

Setting the bar high means you expect excellence, not perfection. Excellence is doing the best with what you’ve been given. It means bringing your best every day and continually looking for ways to improve.

The higher the bar, the clearer you need to be about expectations, commitments and the pursuit of excellence. Your commitment to this standard will attract high quality volunteers who contribute to the dynamic volunteer culture that attracts other great volunteers.

3. Create a Fun Environment
Fun creates buy-in and helps build community. Laughter assists in tearing down the walls we build up inside ourselves which leads to a greater sense of vulnerability and authenticity. And authenticity is the secret to any dynamic team.

In all that you do, whether it’s planning, building, rehearsing or serving, look for ways to have fun. Remember, volunteers don’t have to be there – they are choosing to be there, so keep the experience positive and the environment a place your team looks forward to returning to.

4. Keep Your Front Door Wide Open
I find the best time to recruit volunteers is all the time. While it would be easier from an organizations perspective to have seasonal intake points for volunteers, most people don’t work that way or fit into a neat and tidy box. So the best approach is keeping the door wide open.

This means creating a clear process of receiving, accepting, training and integrating volunteers and communicating that clear process to your existing team. This allows your current volunteers to assist you in recruiting new volunteers.

5. Create a Culture of Constant Critique
While we all desire to be praised, appreciated and encouraged, we also desire to grow. This means embracing critique and being able to learn from our past experiences. Andy Chrisman, Worship Pastor at Church on the Move in Tulsa, Oklahoma says it this way, “Critique without praise stifles enthusiasm. Praise without critique stifles progress.”

By modelling and encouraging your team to ask critique-basd questions, you begin to create a culture of growing and developing individuals. Questions like: “How did that feel?” “Did it come across the way we had hoped?” “Was the message clear?” “Is there an area we could improve?” These questions lead to honest dialogue, that if embraced, create a culture of critique.

6. Continually Pitch the Vision of What You do
It was Bill Hybels who first said, “vision leaks.” People forget. They become weary and self focused. As leaders, it is our responsibility to keep the ‘why’ in the foreground of what we do. Never grow tired of speaking vision, purpose and direction. Become a good storyteller. Find examples of life- change and continually communicate those stories to your team.

The what we do and how we do it have very little impact if we forget why we do it.

7. Be Intentional About Developing Community
As your team grows, the need for community increases and so does the challenge to cultivate it. Become intentional about curating opportunities to foster authentic relationships and community.

Think about it this way, we all have a desire for natural and organic relationships – no one wants to be forced into anything. However there is a big difference between wild flowers and flowers that grow in a greenhouse. Both are natural. Both are organic. Both are authentic. However, the flowers cultivated in a greenhouse are cared for and grow in unison with other flowers around them.

As leaders, we need to adopt a ‘greenhouse worker’ approach and be intentional about cultivating and curating opportunities for authentic community.

Building a dynamic volunteer culture doesn’t just happen, but if you’re willing to put the work into it, you’ll begin to experience the benefits and progress it can bring.

The WHAT we do and HOW we do it have very little impact if we forget WHY we do it. - Adam Fry
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About Adam

Adam is the Executive Pastor at Lifecentre in the Ottawa. He is incredibly passionate about the local church and designing unforgettable opportunities for people to experience God.

Adam lives in Ottawa with his beautiful wife, Wendy, and their twin boys, Carter and Hunter.