Leading Volunteers Part 1

“When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves—praise the Lord!” (Judges 5:1).

A humorous Chinese proverb says, “He who thinks he leads, but has no one following him is only taking a walk.” Leading and following sound like simple concepts, but they are incredibly complex. It’s beautiful when it works, but all too often leaders and followers don’t work well together. God appointed Deborah as a Judge to lead the Children of Israel through a desperate time. She wrote a song describing six types of people she recruited to join her army. Your board members and volunteers fall into these six categories. Here are the first three:

Followers Who Show Up (Judges 5:14-15)
Deborah praised five tribes who joined her and General Barak as they marched against the King of Sisera. Faithfulness is a prime quality for each volunteer – groundskeepers who mow the lawn, board members who set the strategic vision, and donors who give sacrificially. Showing up is 80 percent of volunteering. How can someone serve effectively if they only attend half the time? “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2). Do you honor the faithful volunteers who serve the Lord in your organization? A little appreciation will go a long way in motivating your team to keep fighting the good fight.

Followers Who Second-Guess (Judges 5:15-16)
Deborah chided the tribe of Reuben for “much searching of heart.” They must have labored over their decision to help Deborah because she mentions it twice. Indecision was their decision. Salespeople encounter buyers who question everything to find reasons for delaying their decision. No doubt, those who serve this type of customer want to scream, “Make a decision already!” Volunteer recruitment is similar. Asking questions about the job is healthy. You want volunteers to know and agree with your expectations. However, some people get stuck in “analysis paralysis” and never decide. Like Reuben, there is “much searching of heart.” When you encounter this person, it’s best just to move on to your next candidate.

Followers Who Go Sailing (Judges 5:17)
The tribes of Gilead, Dan, and Ashur were distracted with life. Deborah questioned, “Why did Dan linger by the ships and why did Asher remain on the coast?” Don’t get the image that these tribes were sailing along the French Riviera, rather they were focused on work. In the parable of the four types of soil, Jesus taught about the seed that fell among the thorns, “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Matt. 13:22). There are many cares of this world that distract volunteers from focusing on your ministry: kids, school, work, church, marriage, bills, health, in-laws, outlaws – the list goes on and on. Perhaps the biggest thorn is the deceitfulness of wealth. Some are too busy growing their business to devote any time to serve the Lord with you.

Think About This: Deborah couldn’t win the battle by herself. Neither can you. Ask God for discernment to recruit volunteer leaders who will follow.

Response: Father, please give us faithful ministry partners as we “strive together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27).

Ron Haas has served the Lord as a pastor, the vice president of advancement of a Bible college, a Christian foundation director, a board member and a fundraising consultant. He’s authored two books: Ask for a Fish – Bold Faith-Based Fundraising and Simply Share – Bold, Grace-Based Giving. He regularly presents fundraising workshops at ministry conferences and has written fundraising articles for At the Center magazine and Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes magazine.

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