3 Ways to Grow Church Staff and Volunteer Engagement

Posted by Aaron Buer on October 14, 2021

How engaged are the people you lead? Are they fully in?

Are they bringing their best, or are they going through the motions?

Do they own their role and their work, or are they passive?  

Lack of engagement is a sign trouble is on the horizon…or perhaps is already here.

If your people aren’t bringing their best creativity, problem solving, communication, and pastoral work, the ministry will slip in effectiveness.  

However, a fully engaged staff and volunteer team can accomplish just about anything.

A fully engaged team can accelerate growth or even turn a struggling church around.  

So, how do you promote full engagement? Can you?

I believe the answer is yes, and more than that, I believe it’s the job of the leader to create a culture of full engagement for the sake of the mission of the church.  

I’ve been reading a Patrick Lencioni book that presents a very simple approach to creating a culture of engagement.

I’d like to share three simple ideas from that book, which I believe will help you create a culture of high engagement.

I Matter

Lencioni puts it this way,

“Without seeing a connection between the work and the satisfaction of another person or group of people, an employee simply will not find lasting fulfillment.”  

The danger here is irrelevance.

When an employee or volunteer feels like their work is irrelevant, they will not bring their full self. They will not be fully engaged.  

Here’s the good news: we lead churches!

There is a ton of inherent meaning in what we do.

The key for us as leaders is to help each person, in each role, understand how what they do matters to the people they serve.  

Do the volunteers who greet on Sunday mornings know, and I mean specifically, why what they do matters?

How about your facilities team that cleans the bathrooms between services? Do they know?    

It’s not the staff member or volunteer’s job to define this. It’s your job as their leader.

A healthy exercise for you and your team might be to spend some time clarifying this.

And, instead of telling people why their role matters, invite them into the process. 

Bottom line: Fully engaged staff and volunteers believe their role matters.

I Am Known

In the early days of my ministry career, I joined a student ministry team that had somehow achieved the highest level of volunteer engagement I had ever seen.

It was, and still is, incredible.  

I was puzzled over how the staff was able to achieve this with more than a hundred volunteers.

Over time, one of the answers to this question became clear.

Every volunteer in the ministry was known and relationally invested in.

Staff spent a huge amount of time meeting with volunteers and simply getting to know them.  

We were created for relationships.

We have a need for a sense of belonging, whether at home, at school, or at work.

Lencioni says that,

“People cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known.”  

Full engagement requires relationships.

Do you know, and I mean KNOW your staff and volunteers? Do you know what is going on in their lives beyond the work you do together?  

If you want to grow engagement in the ministry you lead, one of the simplest strategies is to grow your relational investment over the next season of ministry.

I Am Winning 

Imagine joining a soccer league where you are part of a team that plays a game each week.

Week after week you show up and play against another team.

However, there’s no scoreboard and no winner or loser.

How long would you bring your best to each soccer game? How long before you came up with a sly and creative way to quit?  

Scoreboards matter.

There is something in us that requires purpose, progress, and a sense of contribution.  

You know this. You can feel it in your bones. And yet, so often, we don’t provide this clarity for our staff and volunteers.

We leave them guessing on whether or not they are doing a good job.  

In Lencioni’s words,

“Without a tangible means of assessing success or failure, motivation eventually deteriorates as people see themselves as unable to control their own fate.”  

In other words, people need a scoreboard.

Here’s my suggestion: Begin a conversation with each staff member or volunteer and ask them to come up with two or three tangible scoreboards to measure whether or not they are doing a good job.  

  • I’m doing a good job if I meet with four volunteers each week.
  • I’m doing a good job if I contribute to five smiles in the atrium before and after services.
  • I am doing a good job if I am able to find a seat for every family that comes to a service. 
  • I’m doing a good job if there are no typos in the worship slides.

You get the idea.

They are attached to the purpose of the job and they are measurable. That’s the key.

Can you measure it?

Wrap Up

Okay, here’s the crazy part: That’s it. It’s only those three.

I matter. I am known. I am winning.

If you focus on helping your staff and volunteers believe in these three statements, I believe you will see engagement grow over the next few months.  

Give it a try and let us know how it goes.  

If you want to go a little deeper on this topic, give Lencioni’s book, The Truth About Employee Engagement, a read.


Topics: Advice

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