In in the middle of a blogging series on creating a magnetic volunteer culture. A magnetic volunteer begins with giving them what they want: community, a mission and a guide. Today, I want to talk about raising the bar for our volunteers.
Over my student ministry career, I’ve noticed something. People want to know what the standard is. Everyone wants to know how they are doing. That’s why we have grades. That’s why we keep score. That’s why we celebrate accomplishments. In addition, everyone wants to know what the rules are. That’s why we have speed limits. That’s why we have regulations. That’s why God gave Israel 10 Words.
It’s the same for volunteers. It’s disorienting when you don’t know what you’re supposed to be doing and how you’re doing. A magnetic volunteer community requires clarity on expectations. This will help improve your student ministry in two ways. Volunteers will typically play by the rules. And, volunteers will rise to the bar you set. So, let’s raise the bar! Here’s what I mean.
RAISE THE BAR FOR EXPECTATIONS
What exactly does a small group leader do in your ministry? What are their roles? How often should they meet with students? What do you want to happen during small group time? What events should they attend? How would they ever know if they are meeting those expectations? Clarifying these things will bring peace to the hearts of your people and raise the impact of your volunteers’ ministry with students.
Secondly, how do you want your volunteers to behave? Do they know how they are expected to behave? What are your standards for dress, language, social media behavior, driving and meeting with students?
It can be uncomfortable to be a volunteer and to sense that their are expectations but to not have clarity on what the expectations are. The clearer we are on communicating what the boundaries are and what winning looks like, the more healthy and magnetic our volunteer culture will be.
If you’ve never put together something like this, here are a few examples from our ministry:
SG Leader Expections
FM Covenent Staff
One last thing, if you’re going to have expectations, you have to be willing to enforce them. Volunteers are the backbone of everything we do in our student ministry. We simply must have great volunteers who are invested and committed. If a volunteer isn’t fulfilling expectations we will have up to three meetings with the volunteer:
1. Clarify the expectations
“Hey, you haven’t been meeting the expectations. I just wanted to meet with you to make sure we’re on the same page on what the expectations are. Can you do these things? Yes? Great! Let’s meet in a few weeks to check on your progress.”
2. Set a deadline
“Hey, you’re still not meeting expectations. Can you do this? Yes? OK. I’m giving you 2 weeks to implement these things. If you’re still not meeting expectations, I’m afraid we’re going to have to ask you to step down.”
3. Enforce the expectations
“Hey, you’re still not meeting expectations. I’m really sorry but I don’t think this is a good fit for you. I’m asking you to step away.”
In most cases, meeting number 1 is all it takes because the volunteer thinks, “Oh! They are actually serious about this. I better step it up!”
RAISE THE BAR FOR INVESTMENT
Creating a magnetic volunteer culture requires investment. Volunteers who feel like they are being invested in and growing are likely to stick around for a long time. The beauty is, when you invest in volunteers, they grow and volunteers who are growing make fantastic leaders.
However, we have to be honest about human nature. Very few people grow naturally. We get comfortable. Most of us require pushes, big and small. Who has the relational authority and equity to make these pushes? The people we trust–the people who we are confident love us and have our best interest at heart.
We have to understand that while we need our volunteers to grow, we don’t automatically possess the relational authority to ask them hard questions, challenge their habits or call them into deeper spiritual practices.
If you want the relational authority to speak truth into a volunteers life, you must first invest. They must know that you care. This means that your volunteer community must be built on quality relationships, and someone on the student ministry staff needs to be driving the relational culture because investment matters and investment can’t happen outside of trust.
RAISE THE BAR FOR COMMITMENT
Here’s my one sentence descriptions of how high school girls feel about their small group leader…
Freshman year: “I bet you’ll ditch us.”
Sophomore year: “You actually came back?!?”
Junior year: “If you ditch us now we’ll kill you!”
Senior year: “Can I be in your wedding?”
Graduated: “Will you be in my wedding?”
Sure, I’m oversimplifying, but my point is that it takes time for a small group leader to gain the trust of students but when trust is achieved, the relational connection becomes powerful. If a small group leader has invested and stayed connected, by the time that small group is in the last two years of high school the potential is phenomenal. I’ve been continually amazed by the quality of relationships that develop when a small group leader stays invested for years. It’s incredible and the spiritual impact is unlike anything else I’ve seen in ministry.
When an adult comes alongside a group of students and invests in them over the long-haul, the result is pure magic. On the flip side, I recently spent a couple days buried in the statistics of our student ministry. One of the measurables I was studying was retention. My questions: Why do students drop out? What are the factors that contribute to good retention? The clearest indicator I found was the student’s small group leader. If their leader bailed during high school, the student was very likely to walk away.
More than great programming and content, atmosphere or experiences, the most powerfully attractive factor we have in student ministry is the small group relationships. In many ways, our success is contingent on the longevity and commit of our small group leaders. We must raise the bar here.
Magnetic volunteer community requires raising the bar in three crucial ways: raising the bar for expectations, raising the bar for investment and raising the bar for commitment. I hope you’ve found this helpful. I’ll be sharing more ideas soon.