Archive for the ‘Encouragement’ Category

Here’s a Rock star that’s been around since the inception of Granger Community Church: Sheila Beeson. OK, I know what you’re thinking, “Sure, pick the senior pastor’s wife – that’s not going to hurt.” Well, get over it.

Without apology, I’ve decided to spotlight Sheila because her influence in the children’s ministry has marked the lives of thousands of children for the Kingdom. She’s placed the name of Jesus before children nearly every weekend for the past 25 years. For decades, Sheila has the led charge in the Penguin Room (5 year olds-2nd grade). Her influence on the lives of these impressionable souls is paralleled only by her influence on the leaders she’s mentored along the way.

You know you’re a rock star leader when you’ve got volunteer rock stars that willingly follow your lead. John Maxwell says, “If you think you’re leading, and you look over your shoulder and no one’s following, then you’re just taking a walk.” Shelia’s never been known to “just take a walk.”

Although this rock star post is about Sheila, she’ll divert all the attention back to her team – and she should; that’s a prerequisite for entering the category of rock star. Her influence on her team of volunteers has kept them in the “game” for 10, 15, even 25 years (and everything in between).

Sheila, like every great ministry leader, has cried and prayed with her team. She’s opened herself up to them and has earned their friendship and trust.  She’s led with dignity and humbled herself while never forgetting the children and the incredible privilege of presenting Christ to them. She’s prepared for over 1,000 weekends and then given those very weekends to live and breathe in that privilege. Want to know one of the things Sheila likes to do in the middle of the week? She loves volunteering. Serving guests and encouraging volunteers on their journey has become part of the life she’s modeled in her 25 years at GCC. Mark captured the above photo of his bride at the most recent Food Drop. Can’t think of one of those she’s missed either.

The truth is rock stars like Sheila hate all the attention. To alleviate some of the attention, I want to call out the rock stars who continue to partner with her in love and prayer as they teach children the values of the Kingdom.

For 15- to 20-plus years: Joanne Rendall, Karen Nowak, Liz Ditto, Kathy Avery, Ann Snyder and Claudia Volheim (Yeah, I know. That’s not going to hurt either).

For about a decade: Otto Taylor, Connie Kamerer, Dan Sipress, Chuck Atwell and Betty Stafford.

An amazing group led by an amazing leader. Their service has been – and continues to be – a privilege and blessing to GCC’s children’s ministry. Thank you, Sheila, and thanks to your team for setting the pace for volunteerism.

 

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You’re Invited

Posted: February 11, 2011 in Encouragement, Leadership, Team

We’re running a VolunTOUR at GCC this weekend! I’m juiced because the upfront work is done. We selected the weekend long ago to match the message content. The promotion’s been out there for weeks as well. The bonus is that there’s a supporting media that shows hundreds of volunteers in action. The printed materials are ready and the tour stations are set. Our guides and leaders are ready.

Mark Beeson will invite guests (as only Mark can do) after each service to check it out, which will successfully challenge many. I’ve made it easy: I’ve linked emails with the information, written extensively about the benefits of volunteering in a dozen posts and I’m talking about it everyday.

As great as the tour is – and as ready for the tour as we are – there’s still nothing better than an invite from a friend (It’s that shoulder tap thing). There’s no magic bullet when it comes to motivating people out of the seat they’ve grown comfortable in. There are systems up front that can be worked on and there are programs we can all utilize but nothing will replace the one-on-one conversations or the “ask.”

What if everyone asked just one friend to check out the VolunTOUR? Did you ever think of the impact that might make on our churches, on our ministries or, especially, on our people? What if each of us (as fully committed Christ followers) was determined to point at least one person we knew toward an opportunity, to look at a next step, a step that could change them forever?  You think I’m exaggerating? Nope. I’m convinced a well-functioning team can transform the life of anyone instantly and, quite possibly, during their greatest time of need.

Here’s the bottom line on this one: If we’re not willing to make the “ask” – if we decide that we’ll let someone else shoulder that end of the responsibility – then perhaps it’s time to re-examine our roles as leaders.  Are we teaching the tools without utilizing them ourselves? Are we as motivated as those who serve with us, work for us and give beyond their forty?

Commit to ask; we all have someone in mind.

 

Excuses, Excuses. Top Ten

Posted: January 10, 2011 in Encouragement, Heart

Over the busy holiday season, when so many incredible volunteers gave an exorbitant amount of time, several thoughts crossed my mind. As co-leaders in the mission field of volunteerism, I’m sure they’ve crossed your mind, too. I walked among the volunteers in our facility, accosted by endless expressions of joy from those involved, and was reminded that there is true joy in giving; in this case, the joy of giving one’s time. Volunteers were serving to make an impact in the lives of not just the regular, weekend crowds, but also seasonal visitors, friends of friends and first-time visitors. I was in full appreciation mode.

Our volunteers – like yours – had Christmas gifts to buy and wrap, holiday parties to attend and families to visit. They had regular jobs to go to and all the challenges of life to face when they woke up each morning. Where did they find … er, better yet, WHY did they take the time to pour hours and hours into our weekend services?

That’s a pretty easy question to answer, so I’m going to attack the other question – why are there so many Christ followers in your church who won’t? Now, here at Granger we don’t have that problem. Naturally, every single one of our attendees is also a volunteer. In fact, we have to turn volunteers away! So, this blog post is for those of you who have a shortage of “joy bling” in your attendance. Please read on and share with “players” in your church who are choosing to sit the bench.

Pause.

Are you catching the sarcasm yet? There’ll be more.

Over the next couple of blog posts, I’m going to dissect some of the reasoning people give for not getting involved in ministry. I want to try to address them with compassion, but to do so will be (begin sarcasm) a bit of a challenge (end sarcasm) so I’ll just bottom line this: If you are a follower of Christ and not involved in a ministry where you’re serving so that others will “get it” or engaged so that those “without” might receive relief, then you’re not only missing out on an incredible opportunity and real joy, but also living in contrast to the call God has commanded his followers to fulfill. Can I say that to those in our church who, for years, have closed their ears to the call to volunteer? I don’t know, I haven’t asked. But I hope you’re glad someone’s “calling out” those in yours.

What excuses have you heard? Here’s my top ten, in no particular order. Feel free to send the post on anonymously to those who come to mind. I’m not worried about calling anyone out or off the bench; it’s a gift I’ve crafted over the years. The world is watching (and waiting) for followers of Christ in your church to get out of their seats. Heck, Christ followers are watching, too! This consumerism christianity (lower case intended) thing happening in your church is driving me crazy.

I’m posting the first three excuses this Wednesday. My guess is that if you’ve been involved in leadership long, our lists will look alike. Just a hunch.

As a volunteer, have you ever been told, “your ministry made a difference in my life?”

I know our performing artists hear something like that a lot. I’ve heard stories of guests coming up to an artist, with tears in their eyes or sobbing, because a musical element touched their life in a profound way. I’ve read comments written by those who were moved beyond imagination during the performance of a song; it shook them to the core, brought them out of their seat and ultimately to the foot of the cross. How powerful. It’s so true. Performances by gifted individuals often are that last link in the chain to a changed heart.

For those who’ve never heard, “you made a difference in my life,” I want to remind you that it’s a step-by-step process that often involves a bunch of people utilizing their giftedness to effectively communicate that our guests matter to God.

Think for a moment about the steps that lead that guest to a place where they can become receptive to the performance. Maybe it started months ago in -10 degree weather, walking from the car to the front door on a snow-cleared parking lot and sidewalks. They noticed something most take for granted, but it didn’t happen by accident. It happened because because a volunteer woke up at 5 a.m. and knew it would make a difference.

Maybe it continued when they dropped their child off in a classroom, a classroom where volunteer technicians help create an engaging environment for children to hear from volunteer teachers about Jesus. While we provide “little people” church downstairs, upstairs adults are freed from distraction and able to engage in the message within the artistic moment taking place on stage or on screen.

Or perhaps a guest’s reception to Christ was softened during a weekend service where moments captured in photography were edited and produced into a compelling video. Maybe it was the greeting, or the latest “seasonal café latte creation” served by smiling volunteers.

Get the point? Volunteers are needed in every step of the process; the roles vary but the impact equates the same in service to God. Whether you’re a guest’s first impression or last impression, you’re part of the plan! It doesn’t really matter in the big picture; God has given you a gift and the church is blessed when you chose to use it.

 

My apologies to you who’ve been looking for a new post for the last few weeks.  I warned you when I started this thing that developing a discipline for new projects such as this could be a problem. I’m going to get better.

Affirming the Ministry

My contention is that leaders can encourage volunteers month after month, year after year, speaking into them the encouragement they deserve but fall short of their call. Leaders can consistently offer thanks for the time and energy volunteers selflessly give but, still, fall short. Leaders can effortlessly connect team members in relationships and nurturing friendships for growth and, yet, overlook a key element of leading our teams.

Affirming the value of individuals is critical but if our team members are not convinced that what they’re doing is making a difference, it will leave them less than fulfilled.

Here’s the problem: If we’re not consistently communicating the importance of the ministries we lead, it just becomes another “thing to do.” What is generally perceived as a good thing will lose impact, momentum and, eventually, importance. Efforts will fall away from the mission-critical status. The life-changing potential every opportunity to serve has the capacity to become will deflate if there is little emphasis on the difference it will make.

Do our teammates know that they’re making a difference every time they put on the tag or wear the shirt. Do our volunteers understand the ministry impact when they place the cones, plan the lesson or mix the drink (assuming you have a café-insert smiley face)? Are they convinced that when they block out the weekend, there’s a real possibility that they’ll make an immediate or future impact on an individual’s life for eternity? How’s that getting communicated? How often is ‘we’re-on-a-mission-from-God’ mentality breaking through to our volunteers? More importantly, is that impact becoming internalized by every member of our teams?

If you lead, championing others toward a great cause is a big part of your calling. Who else will keep the flame alive? We’ve all heard the metaphor that “vision leaks.” It’s the responsibility of every leader to keep the cup full. Think of it this way: Affirmation of the person is critical. Affirming the value of the ministry is “person’s” first cousin.

In real estate, there are three words for success: location, location and location. Although I’ve never bought or sold a property as a realtor, I believe in this rule enough to have moved from a couple of properties. When it comes to successful volunteer team leadership, I think there are three words at the top of the list as well: affirm, affirm and affirm. Affirmation can come in a couple of “big buckets.” Here’s the first:

I.  Affirming the Person

As leaders, it seems obvious that we need to be all about this. Often our team members come from work environments where there’s little encouragement, a lack of recognition and a shortage of real Christian community. Why would they want to give up what little free time they have left to volunteer on a team where these very same values are lacking – the environment’s the same, they just don’t get a check at the end of the day.  Yea, I know all about the fact that their “pay” comes in Heaven.  That doesn’t change a thing about how we’re to value the individuals on our teams.

Are we looking for opportunities to build into our volunteers through affirmation? Have we, as leaders, told them why we appreciate them specifically?  Have we looked them in the eyes and expressed what it is about them that is a God-given expression of their giftedness? Maybe it’s their promptness, the level of excellence they aspire to, the joy they bring to others, their attitude, they’re willingness to give, the way they bring joy to others. The ideas they bring to the ministry, the time they’ve given to our teams and even the difference they’ve made in our lives.

Have we written them and expressed our appreciation in a tangible keepsake? Is their box of encouragement letters empty? Are we teaching others by our actions to do the same?  Are we affirming them with those phone calls that exclude “asks?” How about speaking well of them to others?

Here’s an idea – how about affirming their family members? Not only does that add value to their spouse or family member, but it also brings value to the volunteer as the truth of your affirmation gets back to them.

Notice how all of these commas keep me from being “listy?” The point is that affirmation is a tool in our arsenal against burnout and loss of interest – it’s a key element for encouraging the team members God has entrusted us with until He hands out the final “pay check.”

Encouraging our volunteers can happen on a couple of different levels.  Currently, I’m sharing on the interpersonal level…you know, the one that exists in every human on the planet, that level that includes the desire to be encouraged.

In addition to just knowing their name, our volunteers feel valued and honored when they know we care.  Not too many things speak louder (other than knowing their name) than when we invest in our volunteers with time.

Time is precious. It’s what our volunteers give to ministries every time they say no to a project that’s been on the to-do list for months, or even years.  It’s the same commodity we leaders are passionate about when we watch people sit on the sidelines, unengaged, claiming to have none to give.  It would be to our advantage as Christ-following team leaders to give some of that back without expectations.

Giving time to our volunteers doesn’t happen unless it’s prioritized.  I’ve discovered it’s a two-part process. First, leaders need to realize the value they add to their volunteers’ lives when giving them their time. Secondly, no excuses; just give it!  I told you this blog was going to be slow pitch; didn’t burn that by anybody!

Look for opportunities to spend time with your volunteers.  Arrive an hour early at the next service and expect to invest in a team member’s life.  Ask questions and inquire about their families without any expectation of sharing about yourself.  Follow through with your “asks.” Talk about each individual and give your undivided attention.

Identify a member of the team who’s leading socially and challenge them to take on some responsibility for team community (that event where conversations happen without looking at watches).  See if they don’t love it, but I bet they will! Provide the setting for a team gathering and build into each person.

Making phone calls without “asks” is another place to start.  If you’re like me, the “ask” used to be one of the only reasons I would call volunteers; what a poor leadership model. I’ve repented and have vowed to make more calls as a friend than as a “scheduler.” What about taking time every week for a sit down conversation with a valued team member? Tried that lately?

Because of my line of work, the paradox of intentional interventions without expectations is something I’ll forever be working toward.

Over the last few posts, I’ve looked at the “why” behind rethinking how we might have viewed “Team Strength”. What I want to look at next is to consider some practical ideas that might allow leaders to strengthen their volunteer base through Intentional Team Development.

Without getting “listy”-(my editor didn’t even have to remind me that’s not a word) here’s the plan. Let’s just pick some from these posts, give them a shot and see if they make a difference. I’ll stake my job on them or I wouldn’t waste your time.

Let’s start by considering some things that you can do to Encourage your volunteers.  Here’s a good place to start: Know their name! I’m not suggesting that if you are responsible for a department team of 100 volunteers that they are under your “span of care”.  We should all have leaders for our various teams that offer that care, encouragement, and opportunities for connectedness our volunteers seek.  Other volunteers who connect with team members, someone in our volunteer’s life needs to know their hurts and needs, their celebrations, kids, etc.

What I’m suggesting is that, as ministry leaders, if we have team members who have served for years and years on a team we’re responsible for, then yes, we should simply know their names.

They should be more to us than “that guy who’s been helping every other weekend for a few years-you know the guy-his wife serves with him.”  Please understand my heart in this. We’re all busy leaders and have to-do lists that don’t stop.  What I’m saying is that we might need to prioritize our responsibilities to include this simple-yet critical step.

For many with very large teams, this isn’t something that’s going to get fixed in a month or two. I guarantee that I’ve forgotten more names than I know over the years, but I’m going to keep asking their names because I want to know them. It’s a value that speaks loud.

What do you think? One down, 3, 209 ideas to go.