People are our purpose, not a resource. Unfortunately, it’s easy to lose track of that important truth. The reality is, as leaders, we are on a constant journey of development. And part of that development is continuing to learn how to love and appreciate our volunteers.

So here are five things that you can do to make your volunteers, the people that God has placed under your leadership, feel valued.

1. Recognize that talent isn’t your top priority, heart is.

This is #1 on the list because it’s #1 in our calling as a ministry leader. Your team’s ability to learn both the lead and rhythm guitar parts probably blows your mind. Playing in the pocket and sticking to the click is a big deal to you. Your family of artists is incredibly talented and I know that you appreciate their attention to detail and passion for your corporate worship experiences.

But none of it matters unless they are deeply and passionately chasing after the heart of God.

The truth is that our relationship with Christ is directly proportionate to our ability to lead others. If input = output, then my number one desire, as a leader, is that their heart is in the right place, because when it is we shine the light of Christ both on and off the stage. Leading worship happens more off the stage than on.

Leading worship happens more off the stage than on.

When I affirm one of our team members, I seldom start by saying, “Dude, killer fill on that second bridge” or “Way to rock that mix.” And although these are great things to say on a regular basis (if they’re true), I lean toward affirming their heart. “Can I tell you how much I love the way that you serve and lead our church? If you haven’t heard that from me, I just want you to know how special that is. Thank you for _____.”

2. Coach instead of correct.

If you find yourself spending lots of time telling people what they’re doing wrong, you need to know that you’re making a huge leadership mistake.

  • Coaching takes people on a journey and through a process (and shows that you value both)
  • Correcting tells people where they’re wrong
  • Coaching communicates intentionality
  • Correcting communicates out of reaction
  • Coaching gives you a chance to let people know that you’ve been there and have learned
  • Correcting is more like shouting the steps from an IKEA instruction manual
  • Coaching is teaching
  • Correcting is telling
  • Coaching gives you a chance to cast vision
  • Correcting reminds everyone that you’re in charge

When we’re leading people, let’s remember one thing: coaching > correcting. Every time.

Coaching > correcting. Every time.

3. Help them see the good in situations.

My wife sometimes has to remind me, especially when it comes to ministry, to see the glass as half full. That’s a hard thing to do when you’re in the weeds. So let me break it down for you a little bit.

Pretend you’re one of your own volunteers. I might approach volunteers at my church like this:

You know those in ear monitors you get to wear every week? Those aren’t standard issue at every church.
Drummers, how well does your entire kit fit in your car? Because chances are, if you were serving somewhere else, you’d be hauling it back and forth… a lot.
That digital console is pretty rad isn’t it? It’s great being able to save scenes and route audio from a screen vs. patching hard lines…
We are blessed beyond measure and more than we often see. I never want us to lose sight of all that God has done and will continue to do in this place and through this team. It’s not our stuff. It’s God’s stuff.

Your team needs to know how much of a privilege and honor it is to do what we get to do and the resources they have.

4. Slow down and see them.

There are times when I won’t get home until after everyone is in bed; and Rachel will have left me a note asking if I’ll unload the dishwasher before I come to bed. Seriously? Do you know how hard it is to unload a dishwasher and not wake anyone up? So I have no choice but to do it slower than I normally would (like MacGyver disarming a bomb). Because of this, I tend to notice things I normally wouldn’t:

The detail in some of our dishes
The curves of our coffee mugs
The way good silverware sits nicely on top of each other
The way that no two pieces of Sicilian ceramic bowls are identical

I would have never noticed any of that had I not been forced to slow down.

So often we go about our days in routine. Everything is in rhythm and the rhythm is fast. But what if we slowed down? The same thing applies to the people we serve and lead. I get it, the weekend is a whirlwind going 100 mph, from setup to sound check to rehearsals… Sometimes you’re so busy you forget to eat, and by time everyone goes home, you remembered that you didn’t truly really connect with anyone. But it’s so important to make time and do it.

5. Be intentional.

Our family just moved into our first house a month ago, and with two small kids (Emery is 6 and Ashland is 2) you can imagine that they wanted to help. One day, as I was moving boxes from the basement of our rental to the garage, Emery decided she wanted to help. After about 4 trips from the basement to the garage, she began to get in the way. As I exited the house with boxes in hand, Emery tried to keep up. I asked politely over my shoulder, “Emery, why are you following me?”

And then my 6 year old dropped a wisdom bomb. “Daddy, I’m not following you… I’m just behind you.”

I spent the next 5 minutes in the garage trying to understand the weight of those nine words.  I think sometimes we can get so wrapped up in this thing called leadership that we forget to intentionally lead people the way they need to be led. I think that a lot of times we mistakenly assume that the individuals God has placed in our care are following us when, in reality, they are not.

Sometimes we forget to intentionally lead people the way they need to be led.

They are behind us somewhere waiting for us to not only to speak up…but also to speak in.

Let’s lean in to those that God has entrusted to us.

Leadership is seldom easy, and I find that I’m always learning. I never want that desire to leave me. As much as I love pouring into this community of artists and creative leaders, I need these five things to be constants in my own life and ministry. My hope and prayer is that if you’re feeling stuck, that you could begin to implement some of what you see here.