What's in this session?

  • Brady received multiple DMs asking about volunteers (0:24)
  • You can only control what you can control (1:07)
  • Motivation Idea #1: Tell them EXACTLY what you want them to do (2:15)
  • Motivation Idea #2: Demonstrate your own sacrifice (4:08)
  • Motivation Idea #3: Acknowledge jobs well done (5:19)
  • Motivation Idea #4: Focus on progress/goals (5:43)
  • Motivation Idea #5: Admit mistakes (7:26)
  • Motivation Idea #6: Build a compelling narrative (8:08

Show notes and resources

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The Transcript

Sandy Skills: Well, hey there. Welcome to Pro Church Daily, the show where in 10 minutes or less, you’re going to get a daily dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus, while we try and navigate the biggest communication shift we’ve seen in the last 500 years. I’m your host, Sandy Skills, joined as always by the boss man, it’s Brady Shearer. And today, we’re talking about how to get motivated and reliable church volunteers.

Brady Shearer: I got two separate DMs, Alex, Sandy, in the same day from members of Pro Church nation that asked me the question, “How can we find and keep motivated and reliable volunteers?”

Sandy Skills: They both used the same language?

Brady Shearer: They both used that exact word, motivated, and that same other word, reliable. And so it got me thinking that there is this existing tension within churches where we’re trying to build a team, we’re trying to get people involved, but millennials are too flaky and they’re not reliable and they’re not motivated. And that goes for every generation of course, and so I wanted to talk about six motivation ideas that I had to keep people motivated and also to keep them reliable. Before we jump into those, it’s important to note that there’s only so much that you can control.

Sandy Skills: Yeah, of course.

Brady Shearer: And we did an episode of Pro Church Daily number 70 on personal responsibility and why it’s just better for your default state to always be taking responsibility for everything, but you can also recognize that it takes two to tango, and there’s another person in this dance of volunteering, and as much as you implement these ideas for motivation that we’re going to talk about, there’s only so much that you control. So don’t beat yourself up too much.

Sandy Skills: Yeah, and I mean, isn’t that what we all want? People in our church to volunteer who are motivated so we don’t have to drag them along? But they want to go where we’re going too. And that they’re reliable so that when we actually hand that job over to them, we know that we can rely on them to do it, and do it well. And this is like … These are the people that church leaders dream of to volunteer in their church, but I think that there is a way to model this and actually create motivated and reliable volunteers who otherwise may be not volunteering at all. And this is how.

Brady Shearer: When you send out that planning center invite, you want the confirms.

Sandy Skills: You want it real bad.

Brady Shearer: Not the decline. Motivation idea number one. Tell your volunteers exactly what you want them to do. So example, if you’re looking for kids volunteers, don’t say something like, “We’re looking for kids volunteers who can give of their time.” What you do want to say is something like, “We’re looking for five kids volunteers who can volunteer for one Sunday each month from 10:30 AM until noon in this specific classroom.” And the reason this motivation tactic is so powerful is that the way that you should not be doing this, where you just say, “Looking for kids volunteers who can give of their time,” that’s a very open-ended request with a lot of ambiguity. And there’s this fear and reservation with people who have maybe given before and felt like they were taken advantage of where they’re like, “If I just sign up, I’m going to be doing this every week forever and then I’ll never be able to get out.”

Sandy Skills: Yeah, it leaves room for assumption, for the here when they’re sitting in the congregation, they hear you say that on Sunday and like you said, maybe they’ve been burned before in a church and if you ask an ambiguous ask like that, they have room to assume, “Oh maybe it’s going to be like it was before. Maybe I’m going to be serving every week.” But if you’re explicit with what you’re requiring of them, like you said in this example, once a month from 10:30 to noon in this room, this is what we’re looking for, then someone can hear that and say, “Yeah, I can do that. I can give of myself once a month, sacrifice one week a month and volunteer in this room. I can do that.” And you’re going to see more next steps taken at that call to action than if you were just to have the open-ended ask, “We’re looking for help.”

Brady Shearer: And this is a lesson I’ve learned from the team at Pro Church Tools, because almost everyone has come to me at one point and been like, “We’re changing so much, and it’s kind of the life of a startup, kind of the life of a church.” And the more that I can be specific and explicit about their roles and responsibilities and tasks, the more they feel, “Okay, I can prepare for that, I know what’s coming, and I can tackle it.” If I’m just saying, “Hey, one day you’re doing this, one day you’re doing that,” it’s difficult to thrive because of that unknown and mystery. Motivation idea number two, demonstrate your own sacrifice. I think one thing that we have going for us here at Pro Church tools is that you’re never going to be able to outwork me.

Sandy Skills: That’s true.

Brady Shearer: No one who works here is working more, longer, or harder than I am. And that makes sense. I’m the one that owns the company. So I’m liable, but I’m also the one that reaps the rewards when things go well. And so similarly, you need to demonstrate your own sacrifice. So if you’re asking someone to do a thankless task, like clean the toilets, what you want to do is be like Alex at his church, he is the one that cleans the toilets I think more than anybody else. And so when Alex comes to you and says, “Hey, would you mind stacking chairs? Or would you mind tearing down or setting up?” Everyone knows that he’s the one cleaning the toilets, and so he’s demonstrating his sacrifice and so he’s going to get buy-in from others.

Sandy Skills: So good.

Brady Shearer: Motivation … So good like you enjoy that part of your job?

Sandy Skills: And this is another conversation for another time, but I really do. I didn’t enjoy it when I first got into it, but now that I’m in pastoral ministry, I can look back and see that I would not have the capacity to love the people in my church the same way I do now if I didn’t clean their toilets first. Another conversation for another day.

Brady Shearer: That’s why the reverend is a legend. Motivation idea number three, acknowledge jobs well done. Another thing that I’ve learned, because I expect things to be done, and when they’re done, I go, “Yes, you did them.”

Sandy Skills: You did your job.

Brady Shearer: I’ve had to learn and continue to learn when someone does something, I need to acknowledge them and say, “Great job.”

Sandy Skills: Yeah, celebrate it.

Brady Shearer: “You are contributing, thank you so much.” An easy thing that you can do reaps big benefits when you do it.

Sandy Skills: For sure.

Brady Shearer: Motivation idea number four, focus on progress and goals. Churches can learn from this so much. You know that saying where like, “Sunday is just a day away.” It’s Friday now, but Sunday is coming.

Sandy Skills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: That’s used in the resurrection weekend as a glorious thing, but for those that serve in church, it is also somewhat terrifying because Sunday is always way sooner than you expect.

Sandy Skills: Yeah, it really is.

Brady Shearer: And if you’re not focusing your team of volunteers on an actual goal, it’s very difficult to motivate because nothing is being worked towards and it’s just always the same thing, same thing, same thing. Why am I tearing down and setting up every single week? Why am I cleaning these toilets? Why am I stacking chairs? Why am I running sound? Why am I getting up at 6:00 o’clock to arrive at the church at 6:00 o’clock to do run through and sound check? You need to get people … Like here’s what we’re working towards. This month, this quarter, and this year. And I think we do this pretty well at Pro Church Tools. We take our goals, we write them on our chalkboard wall, everyone sees them, and every single month I say, “This is what we did well. This is what we didn’t.” And so there’s this kind of idea that we’re all moving towards something, and so you need to set this for your volunteers. It’s so much easier to get buy-in when everyone knows you’re working towards something together.

Sandy Skills: Yeah, and if you don’t set specific goals, you can’t track progress.

Brady Shearer: Also true.

Sandy Skills: So you’ll never know if you have forward motion, and if you can’t track forward motion, and everyone can’t feel it, it’s just, like you said, it just feels like you’re treading water. “It’s Sunday again, it was just Sunday, and I’m still tired from last Sunday. I’m tired from the work week. It’s Sunday and we’ve got to set up, tear down, and do it all again next week.” It just feels like treading water.

Brady Shearer: It’s monotonous.

Sandy Skills: Yeah. But to be able to see that forward motion because you set a goal is so helpful for the health of your team.

Brady Shearer: Motivation idea number five, admit mistakes. Similarly to praising people and acknowledging a job well done, or even just a job done, you as the leader need to be quick to admit your own mistakes, no matter how small they may be. I have found that empathy and motivation go hand in hand. And so you can create empathy, not purposefully, but it’s a byproduct of just being willing to admit your own failures, being a little bit self-deprecating. It’s so much easier to follow somebody who feels like they’re not that high on themselves. They don’t think of themselves as like this big deal. And so be willing and ready and quick to admit your own mistakes.

Sandy Skills: Of course.

Brady Shearer: Motivation idea number six, the most important one, build a compelling narrative. People want to be a part of something awesome. We want to be a part of something bigger and better than ourselves. The church is in the fabric of what we do, set up to create a compelling narrative. We say we’ve got the greatest story of all time, and yet we can’t get motivated and reliable volunteers? There’s a disconnect there. So at Pro Church tools, it’s I think easy to get behind what we do because we’re like, “We’re living through the biggest communication shift in 500 years, and we’re helping churches share the greatest message of all time in a way that’s completely foreign to them.”

Sandy Skills: I can get on board with that.

Brady Shearer: It’s a sense of like purpose, and like, “Wow, we’re doing something of true value.” And you want to instill that into everything you do as a church as well. Why do you do what you do? It’s not just to get through another Sunday. And you’ve got to build this compelling narrative and cast this vision, because the first five things that we share are mostly tactics. And they will work. But there’s a certain lifespan to them. They can only work so well. The most powerful thing that you can do is create and cast this compelling narrative, because we all want to know that we’re a part of something bigger than us, contributing to something that’s going to have eternal impact. If you’re a real estate agent, it’s a lot more difficult to do this than if you are a church. But anyone can craft a compelling narrative. That’s what marketing is for. We actually have a great foundation to do it. Now all we need is to actually do it.

Sandy Skills: There you go.

Brady Shearer: Featured resource we wanted to highlight this episode of Pro Church Daily is the two part church announcements formula. You can find the link for that in the show notes. It’s the ultimate guide on everything you need to know about church announcements. And that’ll do it for this episode of Pro Church Daily, we’ll see you next time.

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