01 Jun Managing 6 Types Of Volunteers
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. Peter Drucker noted, “Managing professionals is similar to managing volunteers because they both want the same thing: interesting, meaningful work that is a good use of their time.”
Deborah faced the same challenges today’s leaders face—building a team you can trust. God appointed her as a Judge to lead the Children of Israel through a desperate time. Deborah understood the value of alignment, “When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves—praise the Lord!” (Judges 5:1). She wrote a song about six types of people she recruited to join her army. Your board members and volunteers fall into these six categories.
VOLUNTEERS WHO SHOW UP (JUDGES 5:14-15)
Woody Allen is credited with the quote, “Showing up is 80 percent of life.” 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 and shovel snow, 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). The Apostle Paul recognized faithfulness in several of his co-workers: Timothy, Tychicus, Epaphras, Onesimus and the faithful brothers and sisters in Ephesus and Colossae. Do you honor the faithful volunteers who serve the Lord in your organization? Just a little appreciation will go a long way in motivating your team to keep fighting the good fight.
VOLUNTEERS WHO SECOND-GUESS (JUDGES 5:15-16)
Deborah called out the tribe of Reuben for “much searching of heart.” They must have labored over their decision to help Deborah because she mentions it twice. In the end they couldn’t make a decision; indecision was their decision. Salespeople can easily read buying signals of potential customers. One type of buyer questions everything to find reasons for delaying their decision. To delay is to deny. Possibly, the buyer knows they will say “no,” but don’t want to say it, so they string along the conversation.
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 description is healthy. You want your 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.
VOLUNTEERS 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 lounging on 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 of concerns goes on and on. Perhaps the biggest thorn is the deceitfulness of wealth. Some are too busy climbing the corporate ladder or growing their small business to devote any time serving the Lord with you.
VOLUNTEERS WHO STAND STRONG (JUDGES 5:18)
Thankfully, Deborah had a few tribes who not only showed up for work but excelled. “The people of Zebulun risked their very lives; so did Naphtali on the terraced fields” (Judges 5:18). It’s rare to find followers who will risk their lives for your organization. King David relied on his thirty mighty warriors. On one occasion, he faced the Philistines near Bethlehem and commented how much he longed for a drink of water from the well in his hometown. Three of his elite soldiers heard his words and devised a black ops mission to break through the Philistine lines just to retrieve some water for David. David was so moved by their bravery to risk their lives for him that he offered the water to the Lord in worship.
Paul wrote a stellar recommendation to the church in Philippi about Epaphroditus, “welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me” (Phil. 2:29-30). Every organization needs people who are willing to risk life and limb to advance its cause.
VOLUNTEERS WHO ARE NO SHOWS (JUDGES 5:23)
It would be wonderful if everyone in your army was a Zebulun or Naphtali, but unfortunately that’s not the case. In Deborah’s victory song, she wrote a scathing rebuke against some volunteers who didn’t even show up. “Curse Meroz,’ said the angel of the Lord. ‘Curse its people bitterly, because they did not come to help the Lord, to help the Lord against the mighty’” (Judges 5:23). You’ve probably cursed a few people under your breath who said they were coming but didn’t. This is the only time Meroz is mentioned in the Bible and the only thing we know about them is they didn’t help — not the way you want to be remembered for eternity.
Solomon warns about putting your confidence in someone who cannot be trusted, “Depending on an unreliable person in a crisis is like trying to chew with a loose tooth or walk with a crippled foot” (Prov. 25:19, GNT).
VOLUNTEERS WHO DRIVE A STAKE IN THE GROUND (JUDGES 5:24-27)
Deborah won the battle through the efforts of an unlikely hero. Jael wasn’t a skilled archer or a mighty warrior, she was just a willing volunteer who used what she had to make an impact. The King of Sisera fled the battlefield and came to Jael’s tent looking for a place to hide and rest. Jael welcomed him in, gave him some warm milk to help him sleep, and proceeded to drive a tent stake through his skull into the ground. What a powerful scene! We focus on this incredible victory but forget that it took a lot of courage and grit for Jael to take matters into her own hands. Every organization needs a few core people who believe so passionately in the mission and vision that they will do anything and everything within their power to advance its cause.
Your ministry needs a Jael fighting for you. You need volunteers — groundskeepers to board members — who will look creatively at your problems, work toward solutions, and push through all the obstacles to victory. Most of all, you need donors who believe in your cause and give sacrificially to promote your mission and vision. You are writing lyrics to your ministry song every day. Years from now what people sing about your organization will be based upon the quality of team members you recruit today. Recruit volunteers who will nail it!
Peter Drucker, “Management’s New Paradigms” Forbes Oct 5, 1998, 152-177.
Featured article post submitted by Ron Haas.
Ron 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.