In gearing up for the fall, one of your highest priorities needs to be time spent focusing on your volunteer leaders. These leaders, if you’ve done a good job recruiting, are your greatest asset – if you know how to use them. Here are 14 tips for leader empowerment that will set you up for the best fall ever!
1. Recruit New Leaders. Study after study shows that growth in churches happens most effectively through the multiplication of small group environments. The only way to multiply the number of groups that you have is to multiply the number of strong leaders you have. Recruiting needs to be a year-round endeavour but it is highly beneficial to have some seasons of highly focused efforts toward this end. Remember in all of this that you recruit 80% of your problems, so be smart about who you invite into your ministry!
2. Cast Vision. Casting vision is a key element of a growing ministry because people are attracted to and motivated by the excitement of a ministry that is on the move! God has not called us to be still and boring. He has called us to reach to the ends of the earth, and has empowered us unto that end! Spend some time alone with God and ask Him to give you a fresh vision for your ministry. Set some goals for growth and spiritual development and then CAST THAT VISION! When your leaders know what you are going to say before you have the opportunity to say it, you are learning to cast vision well, and when your leaders shout your vision and rally around your leadership, you will be on your way to the best fall ever.
3. Acknowledge Your Leaders. One of the best things you can say to your leaders is, THANK YOU!!! Even in the smallest volunteer roles, your leaders are giving up a lot! I didn’t realize this until I started working at Lifeway and began volunteering in my church’s student ministry. Serving your church week in and week out as a volunteer is a tremendous commitment, and your leaders need to hear you say thank you.
4. Cast Vision. Yes I’ve already said once already but, having a vision, and casting your vision are key elements to empowering your leaders for great ministry! Cast your vision and make sure that your leaders know where they fit into it! Now that they know, set them free to do the work!
5. Celebrate. In addition to saying thank you, you need to be looking for areas of achievement among your leadership. Anytime that you see a leader going above and beyond, you need to acknowledge that success one and one AND in front of all of your leaders. Praise them for what they are doing well and it will fuel them for even better ministry.
Also, celebrate what God is doing in your ministry! Part of people coming on board with your vision is hearing about how God is using it for His kingdom. When students get saved, baptised, go on mission trips, start new leadership initiatives, etc. make sure to celebrate those things with your leaders! Make sure they know that what they are doing is making a difference. This will get them geared up to hit the fall with great enthusiasm and strive for the best fall ever!
6. Cast Vision. Here it is again! Throw it out there again and make sure that everyone within a 5 mile radius of you knows exactly what you and God have discussed for the direction of the ministry! Think big, dream big, pray big, and communicate it loud and often!
7. Communicate. Communication, or a lack thereof, can make or break your ministry. Many times, leaders have all of the pieces put together in their mind, but fail to communicate those details to their ministry teams. In failing to communicate, we limit our effectiveness, and leave ourselves and others open to confusion and frustration.
Make sure that you are communicating often and through various channels. We know that people don’t read entire emails very often, so we can’t just rely on an email to effectively inform everyone. You need to plan to communicate electronically, through meetings, through training, and through print pieces. This may seem like overkill to some, but any gaps in communication will always work against what you are trying to do.
It is important not only that you communicate, but also how and when you communicate. Always think through your communication plan and make sure that your communication is hitting all of the right stops, at the right time, and in the right order. You always want to make sure that you inform your supervising staff first, then your student ministry level staff, volunteer leadership, parents, and finally your students. Any missteps in this process and flow can lead to mistakes and distrust that may potentially damage your ministry efforts.
8. Cast Vision. Again!
9. Train. At this point, your leaders should be clear on where the ministry is headed and how they fit in. The question is, do they know how to do what you are asking them to do, and are they confident in it? Training is crucial to effective leader empowerment. The best thing you can do with your leaders is train them in a way that duplicates your influence. In effect, you want to work yourself out of a job. Many pastors are scared of this because they think they might literally work themselves out of a job, but I’ve never heard of this happening before! The more leaders you equip, the more effective you will be. This effectiveness normally leads to growth, which will require you to find and train more leaders! Who is going to fire a guy that is heading up a dynamic ministry like this? Answer – nobody ever!
10. Cast Vision. The more you train and equip, the more your leaders will understand and engage with your vision. Make sure that you don’t let them forget where you are heading or they will lose focus and you will have to rebuild your momentum.
11. Challenge. Challenge your leaders to step out of their comfort zone. This doesn’t necessarily mean asking them to commit more time, but for me this meant training my leaders to expect more of their kids. Teach your leaders to lead the way in a deeper walk with Jesus. Challenge them to challenge their students for the sake of raising leaders in their groups. There are hundreds of possibilities here so dream up whatever fits your vision.
12. Cast Vision. You knew this was coming right?!
13. Recruit. And here we are again at the recruitment step again. If you have journeyed through all of these steps, its time to do it again! Go find those leaders and make room for more kids!
14. Cast Vision. Don’t forget to cast that vision to your new batch of leaders!
This post was written by John Paul Basham, Student Ministry Specialist