Building Confidence in Volunteers

Lisa Habisreutinger —  August 12, 2010

The end of June marked the end of my first year as leader of a bi-weekly team at Kids’ Zone, my church’s Sunday morning children’s program. It was my first experience in leading volunteers, and I had my doubts about my ability to handle this new challenge. After the first few weeks, I realized a few things. The first was that I was not the only one with doubts – my team also felt unsure about their abilities. The second was that their doubts were partly my fault. In my excitement over my new “job,” my efforts to “prove” myself, and my unfamiliarity with the people on my team, I’d started out by doing it all pretty much on my own. I ran games, led worship, taught the lesson, set up and cleaned up by myself. I’d done nothing to build up my team’s confidence or abilities, but let them believe that I was the only one who could minister to the kids. Big mistake.

So, I decided to change how we did things. We met together for lunch after church one Sunday and talked about a plan for the next series. We talked about what everyone enjoyed doing, hated doing, could do and couldn’t do. We brainstormed our activities, stories and games and divided up the responsibilities. What a difference this made! Over the rest of the year, I watched everyone become more confident in their role and abilities. Ministry to the kids began to flourish.

As we worked and grew together as a team this year, I learned many lessons about building confidence in my volunteers. My mentor also opened my eyes to several important points. Here is some of what I learned:

• I don’t need to have total control over every detail, but should let each person take some responsibility. If they don’t try, they’ll never succeed or overcome their fears.

• Offer advice and the tools needed to do the job, without micromanaging, remembering that…

• My way is not the only way or even the right way. In some cases, there is no “right” way. Someone else’s way may actually be better than my way.

• Our differences make us a stronger team. We all have different functions in the body of Christ. Each person can contribute something that no one else can. Meeting together can help facilitate this.

• I must admit and learn from my mistakes and weaknesses. Leaders are not perfect and I should not perpetuate this myth. My imperfections can encourage others who feel they’re not “good enough” to do something.

• When a team member makes a mistake or needs to improve, offer constructive criticism, but only combined with encouragement and praise for what they’ve done well.

• As each person develops in their area of responsibility, let them know they’re growing.

• The strengths of each person should always be considered – don’t set anyone up for failure.

• Make an effort to get to know team members outside of ministry. Guidance is better received and more meaningful when given by someone who truly knows and cares for you.

• Pray for each person. This may seem obvious, but how quickly we get busy with other things!

Several months ago, one of my volunteers shared her nervousness about praying with kids at the altar. I told her that I find it difficult as well, as I am not good at coming up with things to say on the spot. I encouraged her to join in whenever she felt ready, and left it at that. Last Sunday, she bravely came to the front when the leaders were called up for prayer time. What an awesome moment.

Lisa Habisreutinger

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Lisa works part-time as webmaster/graphic designer/jill-of-all-trades at a non-profit organization. She also attends classes part-time at Masters’ College and Seminary in Ontario, where she is working on her Bachelor of Religious Education degree. Lisa volunteers in the children’s and youth ministry departments at Bethel Gospel Tabernacle in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

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