Keeping Watch


Risk Ownership

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Leaders who micromanage their volunteers are unintentionally
hurting them–and themselves. After all, if we can do it all by
ourselves, why do we need volunteers? The fact is, we do need
volunteers, and we need to let them take partial ownership of the
ministry. They’ll invest more deeply if they feel they have a stake
in the ministry. Just as in business, people who are personally
vested tend to put forth the best effort. They pay more attention
to details and the final product, which in your ministry’s case is
changed lives. So allow your volunteers to make decisions,
formulate plans, oversee events, and evaluate their results. Their
leadership potential will grow in the process.  

Risk Success and Satisfaction

Remember when you were little and your mom put a pile of some
strange-looking food in front of you and said, “Try it…you might
like it”? You cautiously tasted the food, usually under compulsion,
and braced yourself for sensory torture. On occasion, however, we
were all probably surprised to find that we really did like the
strange-looking food on our plates–and that small risk opened the
door to a lifetime of enjoyment.  

The same thing can happen when your volunteers “taste” new
ministry experiences. They just might like it and enjoy it for
years to come. Audrey hadn’t found a place to plug in and serve in
her church. She loved kids but didn’t feel led to teach. The
preschool coordinator asked her to help organize a resource room
and fill supply orders from teachers on a weekly basis. Audrey
cringed at the idea of adding another organizing job to her busy
life, but the coordinator was persuasive. Reluctantly, Audrey
“tasted” the job one week, found she liked it, and now enjoys great
satisfaction through her behind-the-scenes contribution to changing
kids’ lives. Your ministry can help people take a taste by offering
a variety of tasks they can try as they search for the right

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Risk Availability and Visibility

I enjoy home improvement projects. I get satisfaction from
completing a job on my own. I get very frustrated, however, when I
can’t find a tool or resource I need to get the job done. It’s like
knowing the answer to your dilemma is close at hand but not being
able to find it. That’s how volunteers feel when they need your
help, experience, and expertise but you aren’t available. Leaders
frustrate volunteers when they lessen volunteers’ effectiveness.
Leaders have to be available to those they lead. That means being
mentally present and approachable when team members need you.
Remember, if a leader expects volunteers to take risks, the leader
must be visible to volunteers while they’re in the field. In
Windberg’s painting, the does can see the buck the entire time
they’re taking the risk of stepping into the clearing. He is always
present and watchful.

Risk Learning

Most people enjoy learning new skills, especially if they’re
learning something that’ll help them get better at a job they love.
So part of leading your team involves teaching and training
volunteers skills that facilitate their success.

Find the best sources of training and information, and make them
available to your team. Lead the way in learning and personal
development. Read, ask questions, explore methods and ideas, and
network with other leaders-always. You should know more about your
area of ministry than anyone else in your church. But at the same
time, you should be open to ideas and suggestions from your

When leaders provide guidance, example, and protection, volunteers
will risk–and thrive–in their ministry roles. The peace that
comes from knowing they’re working under a watchful leader’s eye
allows them to focus on the goal of their ministry: guiding others
to the eternal safety of a relationship with Jesus. cm

Scott Meeks has 20 years’ ministry leadership experience and
is currently worship pastor at Evergreen Baptist Church in Bixby,


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