Vital Volunteers: Growing a Healthy Culture

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I can remember going to the doctor with a sore throat. The
doctor took a cotton swab, rubbed it along the back of my throat,
and then put the swab in a petri dish to grow a culture. The
culture indicated my current state of health and revealed what was
going on in my body — good or bad.

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If you took a “swab” of your children’s ministry and put it in a
petri dish, what would your culture reveal?

Simply put, culture is “the way we do things around here.” A
healthy ministry culture creates a place of trust and synergy that
should produce an abundance of fruit in ministry. There are five
ways to grow a healthy culture.

1. Select leaders by their callings. At Saddleback
Community Church in Lake Forest, California, we want people to
serve where God has called them — not where the greatest need is.
We may need a sixth-grade leader, but a new volunteer wants to
serve 4-year-olds. Respect people’s callings, help them discover
their gifts, and place them in areas where God intends for them to
serve.

2. Communicate well. Share information that’s positive,
negative, and constructive. Last year at our children’s Summer
Spectacular, we discovered that our registration process caused
parents frustration because of unbelievably long lines. After some
great constructive feedback, we were able to address the problems
before our next Summer Spectacular. The results produced a
successful event! Our church culture communicated that when we
speak up, all of us are smarter than one of us.

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3. Equip people. Show volunteers not only what needs to
be done but also how and why it needs to be done. A soccer player
understands the need to shoot the ball into the goal. Coaching the
player on the best shooting angles and pointing out why they work
develops a strong player. Equipping volunteers over time builds
future leaders.

4. Share your values. We have values that guide our
ministries and keep us focused on the right path. A common purpose
creates community among your leadership and volunteers. For
example, if outreach is something your ministry values and if your
volunteers reflect that value, it’ll become a positive part of your
ministry culture.

5. Remember when. You’ve developed a culture when you can
tell the “remember when” stories. When your leadership has walked
with the ministry and your volunteers for an extended season, the
“remember when” phenomenon develops. You have people who remember
ministry milestones, have celebrated the triumphs, and recall when
things didn’t work or flat-out bombed. They’ve taken the results in
the petri dish, good or bad, and worked to build a healthy
culture.

I’ve served in two churches over the last 13 years. My experience
is that a culture does not grow overnight (unless you have a sore
throat). It takes three years to pave the way, two more years to
gain trust, and at least one more year to increase your ministry’s
momentum. So don’t expect to grow a healthy culture quickly. As a
leader, you need to build trust with your volunteers. Assure them
that there won’t be a revolving door in your children’s ministry
leadership and that you’re committed for the long haul. A culture
takes time to grow, but with perseverance, your petri dish will
reveal a healthy ministry.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the
gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear
about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one
spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the
gospel.”-Philippians 1:27

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