The Business of Church – Volunteers

We meet with churches everyday and ask several of the same questions.  Resoundingly, we tend to receive the same answers leading us to the same conclusions.  When you remove the sacred from the church, you’re left with a business.  While there are far too many aspects of this concept to sum up in this post, I will try to unpack one main aspect here.

For a church to operate effectively, it must be managed like a business.

We have learned in many cases that pastors often do not have the best attention to detail.  While each pastor has their own skill sets and talents, one common trait we find lacking is their ability to manage the details.  They are focused more on the big picture, which is exactly where they need to keep their focus.

How then can churches be managed more like a business?  There really are only a couple options.  It is obvious that like everyone else, pastors only have a set amount of time in a day.  They have lives and families.  In order to accomplish the necessary tasks, they must delegate some of the responsibilities.  This creates an interesting dichotomy.

On one hand, the church is often full of willing and competent volunteers.  In most cases, this is great and the best solution.  However, volunteers come with a burden.  When you rely on a volunteer, you are relying on someone that you cannot control.  We often say that volunteers are a two-edged sword.  They are great in that often you get remarkable skills for little cost, however, volunteers can be difficult to manage.  Add the church aspect to it and this management task becomes overwhelming.  I am really talking about a few certain obstacles that often come when utilizing volunteers.  They are:

You are relying on their time commitment. Often, their schedule will dictate when things can get done.  If something is pressing, you may be waiting.

They may be willing, but not in the right position. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard the story of a volunteer who was very willing to work in a role, and relished the chance, yet they were not suited or qualified for the given role.  This leads to an uncomfortable confrontation when that person has to be told they would be a better fit in another role.  This is especially difficult if they fully believe they are qualified where they are at.
Volunteers can quickly create their ‘kingdoms’. How often have you had a volunteer that became very controlling over their specific area?  I am not talking about good control, where things are getting done, but rather the un-healthy kind where they are unwilling to bend, accommodate or relinquish anything.

What is the Solution?

Fixes to this problem are not simple.  They often create tension.  However, finding solutions is the only way to grow an effective church.

Some ideas we have:
– Perform a volunteer evaluation before assigning responsibility.  By putting together a system that each person goes through, you will be sure you are placing the right people in the right places and prevent a future problem.

– Have set time frames for serving.  This won’t work in all areas, but for leadership teams, boards and committees, put in place a 3 year time commitment.  After their term is up, the person must be off the team for a set time, typically one year.  This will prevent strongholds from being developed and allow fresh ideas to constantly be available.

– Outsource the tasks that can become strongholds.  Often this is the books.  We have developed a unique system for keeping the churches accounting operations.  By utilizing this system, the bookkeeper of the church is more of a data input person.  Our church experts handle and process the transactions and provide timely, detailed reports.

Whatever you choose, managing the church is crucial.  Volunteers are crucial.  Maintaining a tension free environment will also yield dividends in many ways to the church.

For more information on how to manage your volunteers effectively, email us and we’ll be glad to help.