Archive for the ‘Volunteerism’ Category

book list [for today]

i’m in the middle of a million books right now. or 5.  i love reading multiple books at the same time. in a strange way they sort of shape and speak to each other, making the reading experience fuller and deeper.

i’m finally through all of my summer vacation books and am now moving on to a few heavier books. books on leadership, and fear, and food, and spirituality. you know, none of the subjects that should be read while lying on the beach! what are you reading this fall?

here’s my list:

the land between: finding god in difficult transitions [by jeff manion] i listened to jeff’s talk at the leadership summit and instantly knew that i wanted to hear more from him on the topic. after going through a somewhat rough transition in my own life, i realized that we don’t often hear christian pastors speaking about what it feels like to be “in between.” i love that jeff addresses this, and only hope that his book sparks the way for more conversation. and, he’s dan scott’spastor – so that makes him extra cool!

permission to speak freely: essays and art on fear, confessions, and grace [by anne jackson] i’m a huge fan of anne jackson, specifically loved her first book “mad church disease” and love, love her blog flowerdustand this new book is so good and creative, and honest, and lovely to read. i’ll be posting a full review next week (9/7) on the book blog tour. can’t wait!

women food and god: an unexpected path to almost anything [by geenen roth] i picked up this book last weekend at barnes and noble, and even just a few chapters in, i’m already loving it. it’s such a different book than i’ve ever read, and is really stretching my thinking on how our spirituality is often expressed by how we cook and eat. not necessarily a traditional christian perspective (and her language isn’t the cleanest) but i am really enjoying the book.

unleashing the power of rubber bands: lessons in non-linear leadership [by nancy ortberg] yes, i’ve read this book before. and yes, i’ve blogged about the book before. here and here. this is my current favorite leadership book. when i was thinking about a leadership book to read with sandy, the new intern, this was the book i thought of first. i’m excited to digest and process it alongside sandy. it will be fun to see it from her perspective!

on writing: a memoir of the craft [by stephen king] my husband just read this book, and oh-so lovingly, handed it over to me the minute he finished. the book really inspired kelly, and i’m hoping for the same!

what does your book list look like today? oh! and if you’re interested in adding a free book to your list, my brother in law is giving away a copy of transition planon his blog! happy reading!


age of volunteers: +/- 10 years

yesterday, i received my smart ministrye-newsletter with a link for a fascinating article from usa today titled: “more young adults going into ministry.”  a quote from gail ford smith (director of the center for clergy excellence) stuck out to me:

“a pastor usually attracts persons 10 years above and below their own age range,” says gail ford smith, director of the center for clergy excellence at the texas annual conference of the united methodist church. “if you have a 27-year-old starting a new worship service, they’re going to attract people ages (17) to 37.”

while not implying the average age of church volunteers, the article made me wonder if the same was true for the age of volunteers in our children’s ministry. do you think this idea of plus or minus 10 years is true for leaders who recruit volunteers? are the majority of your volunteers 10 years older and younger than you?

a (digital) volunteer perspective

lately, i’ve been challenging myself to apply a digital perspective to as much of children’s ministry as i can. and specifically, i’ve been wondering how we can better connect, communicate, and train volunteers by utilizing technology and starting with a digital perspective.

next month, i’ll be presenting my digital ideas at the children’s ministry telesummit.

today, just a few ideas as it relates to volunteers:

consider eliminating a few of your physical volunteer meetings, instead encourage volunteers to attend meetings via skype, iChat, or tokbox. oftentimes, volunteers want to attend our training meetings but aren’t physically able.  imagine if more volunteers were able to attend training meetings because they were able to participate from home, or the office?  fantastic!

consider sharing files digitally: instead of emailing large curriculum lessons, or photos, or videos, or policy manuals – create a digital folder where volunteers can easily access everything. i’m a big fan of dropbox, and i think the potential for utilizing this tool with both volunteers and parents is incredible!

explore ways to simplify volunteer communication by considering mobile app development. an app for volunteers would enable you to encourage volunteers to check in for service via their mobile phone, send curriculum lessons to volunteers on their phones during the week, receive small group photos from volunteers, and share videos and important news events. so exciting!

utilize online networks for volunteer training like: children’s ministry blogs,twitter, facebook, andcmconnect for great content, easy accessibility, and an affordable price (free)!

i absolutely love the possibilities, and would love to hear what have you been trying in order to digitally connect with volunteers.

and don’t forget! sign up today for the cm telesummit (it’s free, and fun, and educational)!

and poof! a great meeting appears

originally uploaded to flickr by amanky

it’s not a secret that i love to think/talk/blog/tweet about how to lead successful meetings.

i may actually be a tad-bit obsessed with the whole subject, and i promise to get help from my therapist as soon as i’m done writing this post on how to lead successful meetings in 3 easy steps!

step 1: identify

when you are leading a meeting, work hard to identify these key things prior to the meeting:

identify the goal of the meeting

identify the participants of the meeting (and why they are invited – what do you hope each person will contribute?)

identify the length of the meeting

identify the type of meeting [this is a helpful chart for identifying the type of meeting]

identify (and prepare) the agenda [this is my favorite agenda template for tactical meetings]

by identifying these things prior to the meeting and then communicating them to your participants – you establish clear expectations. when clear and common expectations are established, you set the stage for each person to contribute his/her best.

step 2: honor

when you are leading the meeting, work hard to honor the identified goals, agenda, length and roles of each participant. this is where i most often witness meetings gone wrong. do not let the meeting stray; off topic, off agenda, side conversations, and meetings that run over time are dishonoring to the group.  honor the agenda, honor the participants, honor the length of the meeting, and you will witness a successful meeting.

step 3: participate

encourage all team members to be fully present in the meeting, and on a side note: if computers are present – they should be used for purposes that will directly affect the meeting. i’ve been to plenty of meetings where participants were allowed (and by allowed i mean it was never addressed by the leader) to tune out, be distracted, or not fully contribute to the conversation during the actual meeting. as the leader, you’ve invited each participant for a specific reason – so do everything you can to lead so that everyone can give their very best.

3 steps: identify, honor and participate, and just like that –  poof! a great meeting appears!

the small things really really matter

i’m convinced that when it comes to caring for volunteers, the small things really really matter.

usually when we think about celebrating or shepherding volunteers we consider big things: a year end party, a meaningful gift, words in a card or praise on stage in front of the whole church. while all of these things are great i think we make more of a positive impact on a volunteer when we are consistent with the small things. and the same is true when we are inconsistent in the small things – a volunteer who is consistently frustrated by the small things is not going to have a change of heart when a big celebration comes along and the leader is ready to publicly sing his praise.

consider these ideas for stepping up your “smaller” game.

1. spell volunteers’ names correctly (i’m not joking) – this is especially important when printing a volunteer’s name badge that he/she will have to wear every sunday. i experienced this with a volunteer recently and you should have seen the look of disappointment on her face when she saw her name tag. i offered to fix it and she said, “no, that’s ok, i’ll make do with this.” it broke my heart. this is worth taking the time to get right.

2. pronounce volunteers’ names correctly (again, not a joke) – i get it, some names are really hard to pronounce. my maiden name is wulbecker (wool-becker) but it is so meaningful when someone says your name correctly. and there’s no shame in asking someone how to say her name.

3. follow through on previously made arrangements – for example: if a volunteer is leaving work early to pick up materials at church to help out with the program, make sure the materials are there on time and in the correct location! a volunteer will only offer to help a few times before realizing that it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

4. email and return calls immediately – i believe volunteers should always be treated as vips. when you see a volunteer’s email in your inbox, move it up to high priority and reply as soon as possible. the same goes for phone calls.

so here is the basic equation:

small ways of valuing volunteers + consistency = happy volunteers who feel honored!

make your team work

it’s no secret…i’m a big fan of teams! and more specifically i love when a team is working well. united in mission and purpose, committed in respect and love to each other, and using talents to accomplish their specific tasks. oh, nothing makes me happier.

it’s like christmas comes early for me when i witness a team working well!

sometimes when i consult with a children’s leader, i’ll spend time with the leadership team. usually this includes both staff and volunteers, and i’ll ask each person to describe his/her specific role on the team. i love when they can answer with confidence and assurance. unfortunately they usually answer by saying, “i’m not sure.. i just do whatever needs to be done.”

lovely heart, servant’s attitude, but i’m sorry that’s the wrong answer.

consider making your team work. as they use their gifts to accomplish specific tasks.

if you are at the beginning of building a leadership team, or in the middle of an already established team but afraid that some of your team members might be unclear about their role, consider assigning very specific roles to your team members. here are just a few ideas:

  • operations leader: responsible for ministry logistics such as supplies, facilities and budget
  • volunteer developer: leads development of volunteers through recruiting, training, and encouragement
  • parent and family champion: suggests ideas and implements connections for families at home
  • event coordinator: responsible for special event logistics and promotion
  • security champion: continually looks for ways to improve and manage safety details
  • website & new media leader: develops innovative ways to integrate the website and social media with volunteerism, families, and kids’s programs
  • early childhood (infants-age 2) leader: responsible for curriculum & worship experiences
  • middle childhood (age 3-age 5) leader: responsible for curriculum and worship experiences
  • late childhood (k-grade 5) leader: responsible for curriculum and worship experiences

additional leadership team resources: developing a leadership team: a downloadable tool from david weil and coaches job description from north point church.

ridiculous recruiting

i looked up the word “ridiculous” in the dictionary. it comes from the latin ridiculosus, which literally means “laughable.”

last night i led a brainstorm time with the children’s ministry team at my church. we were all growing a bit tired of struggling with the same issue  – too many children and not enough volunteers.

at the last meeting i suggested we try a new approach in order to solve our problem. how about a big-huge-out-of-the-box-never-before-seen-brainstorm in which we spend a focused amount of time trying to think of ridiculous-even laughable volunteer recruiting ideas. my hope was that in that crazy time of focused ridiculousness, the mother of all recruiting ideas would emerge!

so that’s what we did.

first, i explained the 5 simple rules:

1. have fun!

2. no planning

3. celebrate each other’s ideas

4. no idea is a bad idea

5. be ridiculous

then we needed an activity to get our minds thinking ridiculously. i handed out various toys, and each person came up with a crazy recruiting idea that included their object. oh! it was hilarious! my favorite was the person who had a pair of silly scissors suggesting that we cut out masks to look like our pastor and then walk around with the masks on our faces asking people to volunteer. now that’s ridiculous.

the energy continued to rise as the excitement continued to grow. if there was energy around a particular category, i encouraged the group to continue thinking in that direction. if i hadn’t heard from one person in a while, i called them by name and told them i could see something good going on in their brains.

it’s amazing to watch people’s eyes light up, and brains start turning when given the opportunity to be creative and completely free from careful planning. i almost wonder if we did this more often, if we would more fully enjoy our times of planning.

last night, we needed to feel safe and freed up to explore new ideas. something that usually only happens when you are given permission to be ridiculous.

next month, we’ll have our work cut out for us as we try to execute all of the ideas. but today, we are resting in the satisfaction that we pushed ourselves to think ridiculously creative, and we trusted each other, and we came up with some really dang good ideas.