Tag: volunteer

Your theology doesn’t matter

I have a Nike+ running watch that tracks distance, pace, calories, and GPS. I wear it while I run, and it gives me instant feedback. When I’m done running, I plug it into my computer, and it tracks my progress over time.

It’s really a great piece of equipment.


image via Nike.com

But mine started messing up.

And I began to get pretty frustrated. I’ve had the watch for a year-and-a-half or more, so I just knew that when I called customer service I was going to be told, “Sorry…you’re outside of the warranty period. There’s nothing we can do. We wish we could help.”

When I called, I was blown away by what I heard on the other end. (here’s the gist)

Hey Mr. Reed, I understand your problem. I’m so sorry that’s happening. I know how frustrating that must be. I’m a runner myself, and I use a watch just like yours. I want mine to work every time. Let’s try a few things. If they don’t work, we’ll work on getting you a replacement.

They were already promising something that most companies would only use in cases of extremely irate customers. They actually established a relationship in the first 30 seconds, and already offered customer service superior to 99% of other companies I’ve ever talked to over the phone.

You know what that translates into for me?

I’m a Nike customer for life.

I’m going to buy Nike shoes. Use Nike watches. Wear Nike socks. Eat Nike spaghetti.

Because I believe that they care about, and will take care of, me. I believe they’re passionate about their product…and that they’re going to stand behind and replace it if something happens. My customer experience with them has made me a customer for life. Even though other companies may make a better running shoe, come out with a cooler watch, or release a whole new line of socks designed for people just like me.

I just became a loyal Nike customer. Even though I may disagree with Nike’s core principles. May not support the same initiatives that they support. And if I were to sit down and have a conversation about morality with them, I’m sure I’d find myself on a different page than they are.

I’m loyal to them because of my customer service experience.

The Church’s message

The same thing is true in our churches.

If you want to make loyal “customers,” (people who don’t just show up once, but come back regularly) that doesn’t start in the pulpit. That doesn’t start with your theology.*

People could care less about where you stand on the authorship of the book of Hebrews or how long it took to create the Earth. They don’t even care what you believe about the Bible.


  • life’s fallen apart
  • they don’t have any idea what their next step will be
  • they’re a wreck financially
  • their marriage isn’t fun anymore
  • they’ve been burned by the Church in the past
  • they’re coming because their spouse made them
  • they’re just looking for a little help
  • they don’t really want to be there anyway
  • they are skeptical of “church people”

…they could care less about your theology.** What you believe doesn’t matter to them. All that matters is their “customer service” experience:

  • how they were treated in the parking lot
  • how safe they feel dropping their children off
  • how warm and welcome they feel walking in the front door
  • how engaging the music was
  • whether the signage is clear enough to tell them where to go, so they don’t feel dumb walking around clueless
  • whether someone besides the “guy on stage” greets them
  • how they were publicly addressed as visitors

That’s scary, isn’t it? It means that a church with terrible theology, that doesn’t look to Jesus as the answer to hope, grace, mercy, and truth, could swoop in and convince people that their message is life-changing. Because they love people and help them feel cared for.

Your theology isn’t the reason that a visitor is going to stay. Or leave. At least not initially.

You want to fulfill the Great Commission, but you won’t get people to hang around long enough to soak it in unless you give an eye to people’s “customer service” experience.

Does your church have an eye for customer service? What do they do to show people they love them week in and week out?


*this is really a theological issue at heart, though. What you believe about our God who loves us despite our sin, who gives us His best (Jesus) to cover our worst drives this others-first behavior. But the specifics about what you believe theologically don’t matter as much to new folks.

**theology matters immensely. What you believe is of primary importance in the local church. And it drives what we do each and every week. But it doesn’t matter to people when they’re on the outside of faith, or when life has fallen apart. “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt


The 4 Invaluable Laws of Leading Volunteers

This is a guest post from KC Procter (Twitter, Facebook, Blog). Data admin by day. Social media manager by night. Writer in the space between. He likes LEGOs.


image credit: Cohemo.org

There are common themes to leadership. When your team is comprised of volunteers the value of these guidelines is amplified.

For the last 2 years I have had the privilege of working with a team of 100+ church volunteers each week. From a friendly smile to helping someone find a seat, we work to provide a warm and welcoming environment where people feel like they belong. Keeping volunteers engaged is crucial, and this is what I am learning from the experience.

1. Lead by Appreciation

You cannot over-appreciate your people. It must be genuine and frequent. Write thank you notes, give them a shout out on Facebook, and tell them you are grateful for their servant hearts. Volunteers work hard without compensation. They need to know you see and value their contribution. Acts of appreciation don’t have to be grand. Most of the time volunteers shy away from the spotlight. A simple handshake and a short conversation letting them know you care goes a long way.

2. Lead by Example

Never ask your people to do something you are not willing to do. Sometimes you need to get in the trenches and get your hands dirty. Everyone has their strengths, and it’s best to place people in a role that plays to their natural abilities. But that doesn’t exclude you from jumping in to fill the gaps. If your people see you hesitating to fill a need, they will follow suit and lose respect for your leadership. There is no task that is beneath you. After all, Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. And they walked around all day in sandals.

3. Lead by Delegation

You can’t do everything. This was my biggest area of growth. Even if you are capable in each role on your team, you can’t do everything. And chances are people on your team fulfill these roles better than you. That’s why you are the leader. It’s important that you’re competent and willing to jump in when needed, but you need to let your team serve. Volunteering is a blessing to the one serving as much as to those being served. Don’t rob your team of a blessing.

4. Lead by Learning

You learn more from your team than they do from you. It’s simple math really. There is one of you and many of them. Many people can teach one person a whole lot more than that one person can teach many people. A few of my college professors might disagree, but I’m still paying off student loans so their vote doesn’t count. Odds are there are some wise people on your team whose insight can equip you. Just because they’re volunteers doesn’t mean they aren’t experienced or educated. Perhaps even more so than you.

Working with a team of volunteers presents its own set of unique challenges. However, it’s also a rewarding experience that’ll touch your heart and grow your leadership skills.


Do you work with volunteers? Any words of wisdom you’d add?


10 Ways to Ensure I’ll Never Revisit your Church

I’ve visited a lot of churches. I’m always looking for ways that our whole church can improve.

It’s amazing what a fresh set of eyes can find.

It’s one thing to get people in the door once. But to get someone to visit again, and begin to call your church their home? Much tougher.

photo credit: Flickr User “The Snige”

We’re still trying to figure out ways to ensure people stick, but there are a few things we’ve learned that will guarantee someone won’t come back.

10 Ways to Ensure I’ll Never Revisit your Church

1. Offer no easy way to plug in to community.

Don’t tell me about small groups. Make me wait forever to plug in…or make me do extensive work to even figure out what kind of groups you offer.

2. Don’t be welcoming in the parking lot.

Just do your job, don’t speak to me as I walk in, and offer a bit of a “it-is-early-on-a-Sunday-morning” scowl.

3. Don’t acknowledge I’m in the service.

Give no head nod to “first timers,” “visitors,” or “folks just checking us out.” In fact, just speak to the inner core, the “members.”

4. Acknowledge me too much.

Call me out and have me stand up. Ask me to publicly share my name and darkest secrets.

5. Don’t give much thought or care to your kids ministry.

People don’t care if their children are safe, watched after, and learn the Bible. Nope. Let them run amuck.

6. Pass the offering bucket twice.

Or thrice. And shame me into giving you money.

7. Don’t share the Gospel, or challenge me spiritually.

Because that’s not why people come to church is it…to be stretched to grow spiritually, is it? Oh, wait, maybe that’s one of the main reasons they show up…

8. Ask me to give me your email address, then spam me.

Overwhelm me, starting on Monday morning, with news from every single ministry your church has ever offered.

9. Visit me at home.

Show up during dinner time, if you can. Or while I’m trying to put my son to bed. That would be ideal, please. Our generation loves the random church-member pop-in when we aren’t even sure we like your church. Love. It.

10. Pastor: disappear as soon as you finish preaching.

Go back to the greenroom. Or Starbucks. But don’t position yourself in the hallway. You are a diva, after all.

Note: If you want visitors to return, be warm and inviting. Challenge people to grow. Offer various opportunities to plug in and serve. Then get out of the way and give people the chance to explore.


Ever had a bad experience while visiting a church?


Out-dreaming Those You Lead

Leaders should dream, because without dreaming there’s no forward momentum.

But dreaming without leading can leave you out-dreaming your team.

Photo Credit: Creation Swap User Rob Gros

A good friend of mine has a boss that lives in her dream world. Her boss is living out her dream of owning her own small business…this is what she’s wanted to do her whole life. And she gets frustrated when those she’s hired don’t have hearts that beat for the business like hers does, and when her employees aren’t as personally invested in her dream as she is. Though she has great employees (case-in-point, my friend), they feel like they can never measure up to the standard that their boss sets as a pace for the organization, even when they’ve accomplished their job well.

I’d love to say that this only happens in the secular world, but I’d venture to reason that you’ve seen this dynamic on Sunday mornings at church. Maybe you’ve even fallen into this trap.

Ever have a volunteer you’re responsible for not show up? Ever been frustrated by that?

When church leaders grow frustrated because they’re out-dreaming those they’re leading, they often heap guilt on others. Here’s a scenario for you:

Sorry, I can’t make it this Sunday…it’s been a crazy week…I’m tired, my kids are tired, and I’m just not going to be able to make it to volunteer in the parking ministry…

Sorry I can’t make it this Sunday, we’re going out of town next week and I need to get things ready…

Sorry I can’t make it this Sunday, I’m going to the _____ game Sunday afternoon…

To which every church staffer thinks

I’ve had a hard week too…I’m tired…and I want to go to that game!!

And the follow-up thought, if you’ll be honest with yourself right now, is this:

Do they really love Jesus? Because if they did…

Confession Time

I’ve fallen into the trap of out-dreaming those on my team. See, I’m living my dream right now. I absolutely love what I do. I love my church, the team I get to work with, and what I get to do within it. And sometimes…*shocker*…I have some volunteers that aren’t as committed to leading their small group as I am to leading this ministry.

I find a part of me growing frustrated that they’re not as invested in this as I am. Frustrated that I put long, hard hours into leading the ministry, while they have other dreams they’re pursuing (which, in the moment, I’d call less important). I’ve even thought, “If it were me, I’d give up _____ so I could lead my small group.” Or, “If I were them, I’d not let my kids do _____ so that I could love people and lead my small group well…” Those are some low moments for me.

In those moments, I have to take a deep breath and remind myself that this is my dream, not theirs.

Leaders: your dream is your dream. Don’t expect that everybody is going to be invested in it like you are.

Sure, you cast vision well. Sure, you recruit leaders well. Sure, you sell the mission well. But at the end of the day

  • It’s your vision, not theirs.
  • It’s your job, not theirs.
  • It’s your passion, not (necessarily) theirs.
  • You live for this, they don’t.
  • They have other dreams, you don’t.

This shouldn’t discourage you from dreaming. But if you’re going to dream, dream well.

Leaders that Dream Well

  • Allow people to dream with them. Maybe you’re dreaming too small. If you’re going to accomplish your dream, you’ve got to have other people on board. More people = more laborers = more ideas = more solutions = bigger, more effective dreams.
  • Allow flexibility in their dream. In this, you may have to actually give up part of your dream, but in the process, your give your dream the chance to go further. Allowing flexibility means you work from a modified, but unified dream. More flexibility = more buy-in = more unified vision = bigger, more effective dreams.
  • Equip people, but don’t leave them hanging. It’s not their job, after all, to make sure your dream is accomplished. Equip them to work well, but don’t send them out to do a job because you don’t want to do it. Help them accomplish the vision you’ve given them, don’t simply heap a burden on them. More support = more effective work = less burnout = bigger, more effective dreams.
  • Lead well. Lead people to adopt your vision. Don’t look at this from the “You’re either all-in or all-out” vantage point. Lead people to buy in to your vision. Cast vision well, love well, and be patient. After all, how long did it take before you fully followed what God was calling you to do? More leadership = more leaders involved (leaders attract leaders) = more followers involved (leaders also attract followers) = bigger, more effective dreams. 

Have you ever out-dreamed your team?

Have you ever been expected to adopt someone else’s dream that wasn’t your own?


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