How to Develop and Grow Church Staff and Volunteers

Posted by Aaron Buer on December 2, 2021

How do you ensure your church will be a thriving ministry ten or twenty years from now?

Those of you in a primary seat of influence and leadership in your church, perhaps THE primary seat of influence and leadership, what can you do to invest in the future of your church after your time in leadership is over?

One of the key answers to these questions is leadership development—growing the leadership and ministry skills of the people around you.  

So, how do you do that?

Leadership development sounds like a fancy skill you have to hire a consultant to do.

Actually, it’s pretty straightforward.

All it takes is a plan, regular attention, and persistence.

Here’s a simple strategy you can start using to develop your church staff and volunteers.

An Accurate Job Description

First, you need a starting point. What is this person responsible for and how are they doing?  

An accurate job description is a great starting point.

A good job description outlines the 3-5 most important tasks for that person to focus on in order to be successful in their job.  

As an example:

  • Teaching the Bible to students
  • Growing a strong volunteer culture
  • Building trust with parents 
  • Managing the student ministry budget

I would argue that each volunteer position in your church should have a job description as well.

A job description helps you recruit the right people for the right roles, provides clear expectations, and if a volunteer isn’t performing the required tasks effectively, a conversation about an unfulfilled job description is much easier than a subjective “you’re not doing a good job” conversation.  

If you don’t have job descriptions, or accurate job descriptions (like you have them but they’re 10 years old), I’d recommend working on those first.

Regular Evaluation and Feedback

Once you have accurate job descriptions, the next step is to provide your church’s staff members and volunteers with regular feedback through a development plan about how they are doing in each of the tasks outlined in the job description.

With a motivated and driven person, clear expectations and regular feedback will make up most of a development plan.

A person like this is motivated to develop themselves.

When they receive negative feedback, they take the initiative and figure out how to grow on their own.

If you have staff or volunteers who are self-motivated in this way, consider yourself blessed!  

However, even gifted and mature staff and volunteers often need help growing areas of weakness or blind spots.

Invest in High Performance 

Sometimes, we think a development plan is all about improving areas of weakness.

That is partly true, but also not a great investment of time and resources.  

As an example, let’s reference my earlier made-up job description.

If the staff member is great at teaching the Bible to students but pretty terrible at managing the student ministry budget, the temptation is to pour your development energy into improving their ability to manage the budget.  

I would argue you should pour your energy into the area of high performance.

Connect this person with a preaching coach and grow that area of giftedness into a towering strength!  

My point is that often it’s a better investment to focus on areas of strength.

It’s the difference between a B+ becoming an A+ or a D+ becoming a C-.

The A+ will have a much greater impact on your church. The C- will never really be very impressive.  

So, what about the C- budget? Just pretend it isn’t a weakness? That doesn’t seem wise.

Support Low Performance

The way to invest in areas of low performance is not to try to develop skills in a person who is not naturally gifted, but rather to support low performance.  

An example from my life: I’m pretty terrible at managing my calendar.

Just this week, I noticed an event on my calendar I didn’t recognize.

I was confused for a few days until I realized I had entered the wrong year when I added the event into my calendar.

Yup, I literally did that.  

I’m never going to be great at managing my calendar.

My boss knows this and instead of sending me to remedial calendaring 101, I was assigned a ministry assistant who manages my calendar, email, scheduling, and a variety of other tasks that I’m not, and never will be, gifted in.  

My point is, rather than attempting to get a low-performing area up to snuff, acknowledge it as a weakness (we all have them) that needs to be supported.  

 

Invest in THEIR Future

One last thought on leadership development.

I think it’s important to develop a person according to what’s expected of them in the job they currently occupy, but I also believe it is wise to invest in the future of an employee or volunteer.

Not necessarily the future you envision for them, but the future they envision for them.  

These two questions are game-changers:

“Where do you want to be in ten years?  

“How can I help you get there?”

If you can get a church staff member to answer these questions honestly, and if you facilitate development around where they want to go, whether that’s in your church or somewhere else, you will be providing an incredible gift.  

Investing in people rather than positions is one of the most effective ways to build a healthy and high-performing culture in your church.

Wrap Up

Well, there’s a very simple, yet effective, strategy for developing and growing your staff and volunteers. I hope this has been helpful. 

Topics: Advice

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