We’ve all heard of the 80/20 rule in churches. 20% of the people do 80% of the work. And, it’s always the same 20% until they get burned out and you have a turnover of the next upcoming 20%. But, in real honesty its more like 15% that does 80% of the work. Why is it so hard for church leaders to recruit and maintain strong and passionate volunteers?
I don’t have all the answers to that question, but I do have one thought to throw out there. When you recruit volunteers, are you recruiting so you can delegate tasks that you don’t want to do yourself or are you trying to delegate authority so a volunteer leader can grow and develop an area of needed ministry? There’s a big difference between the two.
Let me be real blunt with some church staff volunteer recruiters I know in church world, if your only delegating tasks, your average time period of keeping a faithful volunteer will be around three to six months, if that! When you recruit task-driven volunteers, you train people to follow, not lead. When you delegate authority, you train people to lead, not follow.
When a volunteer steps back and disengages themselves in your ministry, it’s not because they don’t have a heart to serve. And, it’s not because they don’t love to be involved or called into the ministry.
Here is the reason: They are burnt out being a follower. Everyone is called to lead and think like a leader. Volunteers should be leading. They should lead by thinking, coaching, acting and moving in delegated authority so they can use their primary gifts and talents to grow an area of ministry whether for the local church or an non-profit organization.
Here is another side note: I have seen this in churches time after time again. If you have volunteers who are more educated and have more experience in business/ leadership development, coaching, and ministry than your own church staff, then your time span in keeping sharp volunteers will definitely be shorter than you realize. If your staff’s leadership lid is low and your volunteer caliber is high, it will be just a matter of time until your church will only be ran by appointed staff with very little volunteer support. Or, you will have a high volunteer turnover around every six months. People will not follow incompetence, I don’t care how long a person has been on staff or how “anointed” they are. If volunteers can’t grow spiritually and in their leadership abilities under your appointed staff personnel, then they will not stay to support your cause in giving of their time.
I encourage you to read Ed Stetzer blog on The Biggest Sin in Your Church. He points out other important information that church leaders need to know about why the 80/20 stays at 80/20 or even drops to 80/15.