Team Lessons From the Fab Five

Watching the United States women’s gymnastic team compete in the Olympics last week reminded me what a high-capacity team looks like!

1. Each one of the Fab Five is an accomplished athlete in her own right. At various points in the competition, one woman’s particular skill would lead the team. But, for the most part, they each brought what they had for the good of the whole.

2. They truly encouraged each other. Early on, it seemed the hugs were perfunctory, but as the competition continued, those hugs became more genuine.  “You can do this,” was heard more than once in the face of faltering self-confidence. A particularly poignant moment was when the camera focused on Jordyn Wieber cheering on Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman in the all-around—the competition from which Jordyn had been unfairly (in my opinion) eliminated.

3. Aly was brave enough to take out what wasn’t working. As she was practicing for the floor exercise, one particular move kept causing Aly problems. She just couldn’t quite make it work, so she took it out. Aly’s routine was less impressive, but she didn’t insist on being the star. The team would have paid the price if she had insisted on trying to impress the judges with a move that was simply not coming together for her.

4. Even after some less-than-stellar performances, not one of those young women gave up. They kept the main thing, the main thing: doing their best to win. They didn’t quit and, in the end, they brought home the Gold!

5. God receives the glory. During an interview after winning the all-around, Gabby said, “I give all the glory to God. The glory goes up and the gold comes down!”

Similarly, high-capacity ministry teams:

  • value the unique gifts and contribution of each individual
  • work together for the good of the whole
  • offer mutual encouragement
  • are willing to let go of things that don’t work
  • don’t attract glory-seekers
  • focus on what needs to be accomplished
  • give God all the glory!

Can your team bring home the Gold?

Recruitment Tactics

I’m quite frustrated by the use of the term “recruit”—and all variations of said term—in conjunction with volunteer management. (Listen carefully and you will hear the sound of my soapbox hitting the ground!) I cringe when I hear leaders talk about “recruiting” new volunteers, especially when spoken with an air of desperation.Why am I irritated by this silly little word, you ask? Because it evokes a strong memory.

When each one of my three children entered their junior year of high school, we would receive at least three calls a week from well-meaning recruiting officers who represented each of the four branches of the armed services. Now, please don’t misunderstand! I am very grateful for the selfless service of our military men and women, and respect their commitment to defending our nation’s freedom. My irritation was over the fact that these recruiters not only interrupted our family meals (why did they always call at dinnertime?), but they seemed insistent on trying to “recruit” my children prematurely. I felt they were taking advantage of their innocence by trying to convince my kids to commit to something they didn’t fully understand.

Today I was compelled today to look up the word “recruit” in the dictionary. I wondered if perhaps I was being too narrow-minded about the definition and needed enlightening. I found it interesting that Webster’s Dictionary defines “recruit”—in both verb and noun forms—first and primarily in the context of the military. Maybe I’m not so narrow-minded after all!

“…trying to convince them to commit to something they didn’t fully understand.” Does that grab your attention? Prick your conscience? Are you using recruitment tactics? I hate to admit it, but I have. I’ve experienced the desperation of needing a body to fill a ministry slot, of coaxing someone to do something when I know they don’t fully understand what they are committing to… whether that understanding relates to the purpose of the ministry, the time involved, or the skills needed to accomplish the task.

A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog titled No-Show Volunteer Syndrome. According to my handy blog stats report, that post garnered more attention than the others combined! If you are struggling with this problem, you need to know that there are more reasons for it than devaluing a serving opportunity, which was addressed in that post. Using recruitment tactics is a common cause of AWOL volunteers. Once a volunteer realizes that they’ve committed to a ministry that they aren’t passionate about, a task for which they are not gifted,  a service that saps their precious time and energy, they simply don’t show up. They quickly reason that, in spite of the recruitment tactics they succumbed to, church is not the military and  there will be no court martial!

So, does terminology really matter? It does when it evokes a memory that triggers an automatic defense! What, then, is the alternative to “recruitment,” regarding both terminology and practice? I’ll address this in my next post, so stay tuned… In the meantime, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject of no-show volunteers!

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No-Show Volunteer Syndrome

I had a conversation recently with a ministry leader who was frustrated with one of her volunteers.

“Sue showed up at church Sunday morning and I happened to run into her just as she was entering the sanctuary. I had just come from the toddler room where the teacher was panicking because she didn’t have a helper. Do you know who was on the schedule to serve? Sue! When I asked her why she wasn’t in the classroom serving, she replied, ‘Oh, is it my turn to serve?’ Doesn’t she look at the schedule I provide? What’s the problem with these volunteers that don’t take their commitment seriously? It’s not rocket science; in fact, anyone can do it!”

Do you contend with “no-show volunteer syndrome?” Sometimes managing volunteers can feel suspiciously like trying to herd cats! Volunteers, by definition, don’t get paid. Yet, we live in a culture where the paycheck wields power. So what leverage do we have to ensure that volunteers honor their commitment?

The root of this particular leader’s problem may be found in her attitude towards the ministry role. Her comment that “anyone can do it” devalues the service… which often leads volunteers to think that if anyone can do it, someone else will do it (even if subconsciously).

When we as ministry leaders take the time to connect the purpose of the serving role to a specific desired outcome, it shows the volunteer exactly how they fit into the bigger picture. Connecting ministry to mission increases serving value.

A workshop presenter at an equipping conference I attended several years ago gave this example:

“One of our serving opportunities includes washing windows. This ministry is very important, but not for the reason you may think. What about the person who comes into our church on Sunday who has a thing about smudged windows? Rather than hearing the message, she is distracted by the dirty window and her compulsion to clean it. Keeping those windows smudge-free is a ministry to that woman and others like her, eliminating a potential distraction from full participation in the worship service.”

Want to break the “no-show volunteer syndrome?” Make the connection between each of your serving opportunities and the desired outcome. See each service as ministry that is vital to the church’s mission, then cast that vision for your volunteers… and keep re-casting it as often as necessary until they see it, too!