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Developing Potential Leaders Starts with You

In my mad search for directors and teachers for Sunday School, I found a winner and enlisted her right away.  Things didn’t quite go as planned though. Here is a play by play of the decline in morale of the promising teacher.

Beginning of the year:

  • Excited and wanting ideas
  • Needed more teachers
  • Always on time and prepared
  • Smiled and radiated joy
  • Worked in children’s events and on committees
  • Gave it her best shot

Middle of the year:

  • Enthusiasm began waning
  • Began to have a look of defeat
  • Made less time for meetings
  • Started dropping hints of quitting

End of the Year

  • Lost her joy in serving
  • Resigned when she fulfilled the year commitment

She shared some responsibility, but I have full ownership for the outcome of this particular teacher.  We wrestle with keeping volunteers happy and productive as well as motivated and connected.  Leadership Development is about an outcome.  Jesus, through His ministry, showed us an incredible model of investing in and developing leaders. So how can we develop potential leaders?  We have to build the foundation, just like Jesus did.

Make It Mean Something

Churches cannot hire everyone so we are driven to hunt for volunteers.  As a volunteer, I asked myself, “Why am I serving?”  There are many reasons why people volunteer. “I want to serve Jesus.” “I love kids.” “I have so much fun.” “I want them to accept Christ.”  Like most people, I spend my week in meetings, pleasing my employer, helping churches and other employees.  I look forward to being in the classroom with the kids – making a difference in their lives.  The main reason people choose to volunteer is, “It brings meaning to my life.”  People with this as their motivation are potential leaders who are ready to serve.

Volunteers want to do something that is meaningful!  People who are looking for a meaningful experience want you to give a clear and compelling purpose.  Happy volunteers are crystal clear on their ministry’s purpose.  They can tell you not only why their ministry group exists, but also why it is important. For an important cause, leaders will give unselfishly and thank you for it.

Involve Volunteers as Much as Possible

If you miss this, you will drive your volunteers nuts!  On one hand, volunteers are busy and juggling multiple priorities.  On the other hand, they desperately want to have input into the direction and development of the ministry.  Simply donating funds or following staff-made plans fail to excite long-term motivation.  Leadership Teams that start with a blank paper and listen to the heart of the minister and then to each other’s hearts will develop a collaborative vision and plan for the future as a team.

Don’t Waste Their Time

Our volunteers develop a sensitive nose for the hopelessly under-resourced project.  Nothing leads to starving projects like the failure to prune the ministry project list.

We can become leaders who are trying to staff and support too many ministry projects.  Some of these sub-ministries simply need to be eliminated.  Call it good church hygiene.  Regularly take a look at each project and decide if it can be resourced or reshaped or discontinued.  When all sub-ministries run dangerously close to the bone, volunteers become less motivated.  Maybe you need a “Stop Doing” list as much as you need a “To Do” list.

Celebrate With Meaningful Moments

I have celebrated my volunteers with a meal where I told them how I felt about the ministry and about their sacrifice to make a difference.  I have hosted many meetings in my home, never forgetting to appreciate each person and share my heart for the ministry being done.  I have recognized people from the pulpit, during deacon’s meetings, at finance meetings, and especially during meetings where children were present and could love on them. It is easy to brag about people to their family and friends.  Take the time to do it!

Stop Hogging the Ball

Any ball player knows how fun it is to play with a “ball hog” (sarcasm implied).  That player is silently communicating he doesn’t trust you to do something good with the ball.  Eventually, you just want to sit down.  How often do you really entrust your volunteers with doing the most important part of ministry?

I can remember wanting to take a part of a ministry that I was well equipped to do and in which I had many years of experience. I volunteered only to hear, “No, I would rather you not be responsible for it but you can do most of the work. Just clear everything through me before you do anything.”  I was very disappointed, unmotivated, disliked the project, disliked the leader, felt second rate or not good enough, and desperately wanted to quit.  All of these feelings surfaced because the leader chose to be a “Ball Hog!”  Are you being a “Ball Hog” with anything?  Try being the coach and a cheerleader.

Using these five methods will empower your volunteers and give them the staying power so that they can have satisfaction in their respective roles. Your satisfaction, your journey has come from pouring your life into your ministry.  Our volunteers can’t see that far down the road. We have to support and assist them until they too begin to see the fruition of their efforts.

What are some specific ways that you can begin to celebrate meaningful moments with your volunteers?

Are you being a “Ball Hog?” What tasks do you need to entrust to your volunteers now?

by Mark Jones

Taking Inventory: Personal Spiritual Evaluation as a Youth Worker

When I was a kid I had Star Wars toys. I had a lot of Star Wars toys. It was a passion bordering on obsession. It was my world. It was important to me. It was a daily goal to be immersed in the Star Wars world (Okay, truth is I still have Star Wars toys, but that’s a different conversation). In putting away my toys every day, I would constantly survey the condition of my toys. With painstaking care I would make sure that each figure was tucked perfectly into their slot on my Darth Vader head-shaped case with their weapons each accounted for before being placed into the accessories receptacle. To this day I could open that case and tell you how to fit R2 with The Emperor neatly together or how R5-D4 the Power (Gonk) Droid could share a space with the Jawa, maximizing the full capacity of the case.

This is how we need to approach our spiritual lives as youth workers. As you lead, it is important to always guard your own life and spiritual development, to know where you are in your spiritual relationship, to take inventory of your life before the Lord.

Here are three areas of your life of which you must constantly take inventory:


Are you regularly in the word of God?

Are you seeking to develop daily habits of time with God and in His word?

Are you growing in knowledge in and obedience to the word of God?

Are you memorizing scripture?

Focal spiritual disciples: Devotional time, Bible study, scripture memory

How could you spend more time in and grow in your desire for Truth?


Is your life consistent with what you say you believe?

Are you siding with Jesus throughout every day?

Are you applying the cross to your everyday?

Are you a good example of Christ which students can imitate?

Are you connected in the life of the body of Christ?

Is there sin you need to confess?

Is there a relationship that needs healing?

Focal spiritual disciples: confession, obedience, witness, involvement in the church

How can you walk on deeper obedience to the Lord?


Are you seeking the Lord’s direction in your life?

Are you acting on what you hear the Lord saying in His word?

Are you listening to and living what the Lord desires?

Are you giving yourself in service?

Are you taking the road to comfort or letting the Lord place you in uneasy, Gospel-advancing opportunities.

Focal spiritual disciples: Prayer, solitude, service, sacrifice

How might you expand God’s will over yours?

So, what’s the condition of your walk? Is everything accounted for? Are all the parts in place? Are you keeping track of the pieces? By examining your life in this way, you will be able to know how the disciplines fit together in your spiritual case and know what weapons you have in your arsenal as you face the onslaught of your everyday.

by Todd Sanders

Spiritual Growth

Stop growing. Stop leading. It really is as simple as that.

Unfortunately too many leaders stop growing long before they stop leading. The tell-tale signs are predictable. Your study and your prayers follow the same pattern as always. You rarely, if ever, employ any new approach in your spiritual devotion. You read in the same places in the Bible. You use the same study helps. You do these things in the same location. Predictability breeds dormancy.

The growth I have in mind here is not primarily in your leadership but mostly in your walk with Christ. Agreed, there is overlap. Some of the key principles will apply in both environments.

The longer you are in a leadership position, the more likelihood that you have plateaued in your spiritual growth. Yesterday at church, we sang that old Southern gospel song, “The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows.” However, that isn’t always the case. According to the REVEAL study done by Willow Creek several years ago, tenure arrests spiritual growth more than it enhances it.

In light of that, what are you going to do to ensure on-going spiritual growth? Here are some thoughts about jumpstarting your spiritual growth:

Encourage people to tell you the truth. Many of the “growth spurts” in our walk with Christ are preceded by some shocking revelations about ourselves. These won’t come to us if those closest to us and in the best position to offer grace-filled assessments know that we react negatively to them. Ask people to give you honest assessments about what they see in your character and devotion. When they do, receive it with humility and appreciation.

Allow for the slow growth of character. Learning a new skill or technique takes less time than a change in one’s personal character. Yet over the long haul of ministry, who we are carries more impact than what we do. Eugene Peterson’s definition of discipleship is priceless: a long obedience in the same direction. Is that true of you?

Determine how you will measure your spiritual growth. Dallas Willard suggests that we use two basic questions to measure progress in our walk with Christ. They are: (1) Am I growing more or less easily irritated these days? (2) Am I growing more or less easily discouraged these days?

Take responsibility for your own growth. Be a self-feeder. Make sure you can feed yourself by a self-directed study of Scripture and time in prayer. Reading Christian authors is a needed discipline. However, don’t attempt to live off the fumes of other men and women’s love for Christ. Attune your own spiritual ears to the voice of the Spirit. Read the Bible before you read what someone else has said about it.

Make use of all the spiritual disciplines. As means to the grace that brings growth, prayer and Bible study are pretty obvious. Don’t neglect the others: fasting, Sabbath rest, meditation, private worship, silence, solitude, and service.

What God does in us through the sanctification of His Spirit is a priority in time what He does through us. Obviously the outcome—ministry, evangelism, discipleship—is eternally more important than the activity. The end is greater than the means.

But without the means of spiritual growth taking place in our lives, there will be no end, no outcome. Make sure that you are growing spiritually so that you can lead others effectively.

by Brett Selby

We Need Help with Enlistment!

One of the most time consuming and energy sapping tasks that you face as a Children’s Ministry Leader is enlisting and retaining volunteers. You lead an army of volunteers in Children’s Ministry.  While it will often be an overwhelming task, there are several steps that you can take to lay the foundation for a well-staffed volunteer program. Here are a few tips to remember:


Surely you knew I was going to say that.  It’s true though, I pray a lot.  I also remind myself, this is God’s church and He fits the body together perfectly (Romans 12:3-8).  No need for worry.  It’s an ongoing process and takes time.  As soon as all the positions are filled, someone will need to quit or we will grow and need another class. Growth is a good thing in case you forgot!

Find a Balance Between the Emergency, the Urgent, and the Ideal

Emergency is Saturday night and no teacher for tomorrow morning.  Who is on the bench that I can call to sub?  I put together a list of people who are willing to serve on the bench by going to all the adult classes and asking them to serve in that specific role.  My starters are in the game but I need people on the bench to join the game in progress sometimes.  Don’t call the bench people every week.  Spread the love.  Some prefer babies, others prefer elementary. Then there are adults who are parents or grandparents and they aren’t scared of anyone and can work anywhere.  Create an extra stash of curriculum or email them lesson packets so they have some ideas to use in the classroom.  No one likes childcare and we don’t want to waste valuable teaching opportunities with kids.   Don’t send volunteers in the game empty-handed. Giving them a game plan will help them have a more successful experience in the classroom.

The Urgent are those open positions that are a constant part of growth or change.   The need exists on an ongoing basis and you are actively seeking to enlist a volunteer for the classroom.

The Ideal is the plan that we are striving for, when each volunteer is in the perfect position to use their God given talents and every open spot is filled. While we should always be working toward the Ideal, we also must realize that God is often teaching and stretching us during the Emergency and the Urgent.

Enlistment Is a Slow Cooker, Not a Drive-Thru Window

It would be great if we could just order a teacher and drive away with an expert but it often requires asking, praying, asking again. A good course to follow is asking the potential volunteer to “Come and Watch”, then enlisting the volunteer in a helper role, and later maybe as regular volunteer that you can begin training and encouraging. I can almost hear you saying, “How am I supposed to be that patient when Sunday keeps coming around each week?”  Let me remind you again, God is working everywhere. He may bring you a teacher that someone else trained and developed and now you get the harvest. He may be working with someone to take steps of faith in this role and they are trying to trust God.

While you are asking others, waiting on the Lord, and watching the calendar move forward; build in a detour.  I have driven past our city’s construction on I-40 for four years.  When they said it would take four years, I thought that was forever.  “Don’t they know we need that road now?”  Four years later and it finally opened.  The new road is great!  The detours and traffic jams were awful but now worth it. The same principle applies to volunteer enlistment. Here’s what I practice and suggest to you. Find a volunteer that can work a month.  That’s all.  After the month, thank them and let them go.  Keep your promises and don’t beg.  I have begged and that is never flattering.  You can set up a couple of months ahead and give yourself a little breathing room.  This is not ideal for the children but it is the reality for now.

Take “No” for an answer

The Bible says in James 5:12, “Let your yes be ‘yes’ and your no, ‘no’.”  I might not want to hear people tell me “no.” However, I would rather they be honest with me than quit a few weeks later or just not show up some Sunday, both of which have really happened to me.  Be gracious and accepting when told “no” just like you are when you hear “YES” and the angels sing in Heaven.

Maybe some of my practices will help you think through a strategy and move you out of the wilderness of frustration.  Start in the prayer closet then begin drawing up plans for a detour path that moves you a little farther forward and gives you some breathing room so you can think more clearly.  Building this road takes time but the new highway will be such a reward.

Take a few moments to jot down your current needs. While your ultimate goal is always the ideal volunteer, which needs could be filled with a “detour” volunteer? 

See more free helps and resources from Mr. Mark at

by Mark Jones

A Tough Assignment: Effectively Recruiting Volunteers

Growing up, my brother and I had GI Joe talking commander dolls. It was a high tech development in the 60s & 70s to pull back that ‘Adventure Team’ dog tag from the commander’s neck, releasing it to hear one of the 8 rotating phrases or commands. Great fun!

One of the phrases I remember most is “I’ve got a tough assignment for you.”

As a kid, I wasn’t familiar with military work, or the important work of an ‘Adventure Team’, outside of what GI Joe could teach me, what I picked up from TV or movies, or the stories told by my Vietnam Vet uncle, I might have overheard through very young ears.

None the less, I knew that if I was going to accept an important assignment, it would be tough. It would be tough, but it was worth it.

Recruiting volunteers is a tough assignment. Tough, but certainly not the toughest thing you’ll ever do. It’s tough. It takes work, but it is vital to the success of Sunday school or small group ministry. It’s worth it. For us, in relation to recruiting volunteers, as the adventure team Commander would inquire,  “This is going to be rough. Can you handle it?”

Let’s look at seven mission objectives that will help you effectively recruit volunteers.


Survey the landscape. State where you are. Even if you can find one other church member to recruit and train, you have doubled your personal leadership and influence ability.

In the absence of available or ‘qualified’ leaders you might consider scaling back the organization for a time in order to position and plan for growth.


You must communicate expectations beyond just handing someone a DVD curriculum, discussion guide, or quarterly. Let them know:

  • What you are asking them to commit to
  • What you are asking them to do
  • How you want them to do it
  • How long the commitment is to be

Also communicate expectations within that and how they will be evaluated.

Share with them what it looks like to “win” in their role. When recruiting leaders, you are often asking for the heels of some pretty driven people. Make sure you are asking them to commit to something worth committing to.


This goes hand in hand with communication. In fact it seems pretty elementary to even have to mention, but often, we are so focused on finding warm bodies to fill roles that training gets lost.

Training needs to be:

  • Relevant to the recruited role,
  • Cohesive with other training and with the mission of the church and ministry area, and
  • Consistent. It must be regular and often.

This approach to training will give you the best chance of accomplishing your mission effectively.


Encourage your leaders in those roles. Keep before them what it is you are aiming for, the reason you do the work, and, ultimately who you do it for.  The last thing we want to be a part of is a leadership role that requires and never returns validation and recognition of effort. It can be simple or more elaborate, but just find a way to encourage.


Okay so that’s not a real word, but it is true we need to be creative in seeking out new volunteers to staff our Sunday schools, small groups, and other ministries.

Some things to look at:

  • Do you have one type of volunteer?
  • Do you only have one age group of volunteer?
  • For youth and children’s ministry, do you include parents and non-parents?
  • Do you only limit leadership to a select group of leaders and not allow for others to input and influence?
  • Are you asking current leaders to help in the recruitment process?

These questions might help you evaluate the condition of your current leadership team, approach to recruitment, and effectiveness in assembling your ‘Adventure Team’. Exercise creativity in your selection of potential volunteers.


Sometimes we take this to be a negative thing. It often is interpreted as too rigid and selective, but here’s the truth. Not everyone needs to be serving or may be ready for some leadership roles. You want the right people in the right places, so screening and selection is important. Not to exclude, but to include in a way that protects the church as an organization and individuals in it (not to mention you).

Create and employ a system of selection. Establish guidelines and a filter in place that you are willing to enforce.

Background checks (criminal and national sex offender registry) and applications should be a part of your process. This is even more important in children or youth work. You may also want to include spiritual gifts surveys, personality assessments, and leadership interviews in your screening process.


Here’s the truth. You will either loosen your grip on leadership in your ministry or you and the ministry will wither. God designed His people to lead out of His gifting in their lives, within their skills and abilities. Let them. Find as many avenues of leadership for people to serve in–not just your preconceived notions of what leadership is and is to be. Let the diversity in the body make you and your ministry better, rather than some self-limiting, sad, little attempt at impact. That’s when we will reach more with the great Good news of Jesus.

So, good luck to you in your assignment of recruiting and developing volunteers. Be diligent and Godspeed. “The Adventure Team has the situation controlled. Mission accomplished. Good work!”

by Todd Sanders

Enlisting Leaders in Sunday School

The most basic, yet helpful, definition of leadership is a person influencing people to accomplish a purpose. This is a great place to start when you ask the question, “How do I enlist people to serve in a Sunday School or Small Group ministry?”


People do what people see. You can’t take someone anywhere you haven’t been yourself. To enlist Sunday School leaders, they must realize your deep commitment to it. This isn’t to say that only a teacher can recruit other teachers, or that only a department director can enlist someone to lead a department. Pastors often enlist leaders for positions in which they do not serve. But they won’t enlist very many if their commitment to Sunday School isn’t apparent to the entire congregation.


The greatest impact we can ever have on another person is personal and individual. Enlisting Sunday School workers with a group announcement or through a newsletter request is not the optimal approach. Make a list of potential Sunday School leaders then have a personal conversation with a potential leader. This should be an ongoing process. Before the “will you serve as a…?” conversation, have a couple of “you’d be great as a…” conversations. Play the long game. Groom people for leadership roles over time.


Let people know what you are asking them to do. Make sure you have job descriptions for every leadership position in your Sunday School structure. But you must go beyond the task to the contribution. Help the potential leader see what impact they will have by serving in the role to which you are recruiting them.

Leaders accomplish purpose through others. This requires recruiting and enlisting others to do the work. Enlisting others into leadership roles is an essential task for a dynamic Sunday School or Small Group ministry.

Points of Application

  • Model commitment to Sunday School
  • Compile a list of potential leaders
  • Enlist personally and individually
  • Make enlistment both an event and a process
  • Communicate both the task and the contribution

by Brett Selby