How to Turn Volunteers Into Leaders

Not all your volunteers will become leaders. In fact, most volunteers do not want to lead, they just want to follow.

Followers are people who want to follow. They don’t want to make decisions. They want someone to tell them what to do and they will do it.

Leaders are people who want to lead.

They have opinions that are different than yours. They don’t want to follow. They want to lead.

You will reach more people for Christ if you focus your energy on leading leaders.

There are risks, but if you want to grow as a leader, then increase your influence with other leaders. Great leaders know how to work with other leaders.

I love this quote from Andy Stanley:

“If you’re a leader and leaders work for you, they think they can do a better job than you. They just do. (Just like you do.) And that’s not wrong, that’s just leadership.”

Insecure leaders push other leaders away. They actually create an environment that screams, “There is only room for one leader here.”

They make statements like:
“The buck stops here.”
“I’m the boss.”
“It’s my way or the highway.”

The key to turning volunteers into leaders is to create a leadership culture in your ministry. Leaders naturally gravitate to leadership cultures.

Here are five steps for creating a leadership culture in your ministry.

1) See yourself as a resource to your leaders.

When I shared my vision for Super Church Curriculum with my Pastor, he looked at me and said, “One of my jobs as pastor is to be a resource to you – to help you fulfill your vision.”

I could not believe what I was hearing. I had never heard a pastor talk like that. Didn’t he hire me to help him? Yes, your leaders are there to help you, but you are also there to help them.

2) Be quick to hear.

Create environments where you take time to listen to your leaders. You can do this one on one or as a group. One way I have done this is to meet with all my leaders at a local Starbucks for a brain-storming session. I listen to their ideas. When someone shares a good idea, I put it into action.

The most motivating thing you can do for one of your leaders is to take one of their ideas and run with it.

3) Be slow to speak.

If you want to lead leaders, then you will have to do more listening and less talking. If you put someone in charge of a meeting, never jump in the middle of it. You can probably communicate it better than them, but that doesn’t mean that you should.

It is empowering to a leader when you can sit in a meeting that they are leading and keep your mouth shut.

It reinforces their leadership and communicates to everyone else that you trust them. My leaders make me look good, because I make them look good.

4) Be slow to anger.

Anger pushes people away. It is a poor motivational tool.

5) Create a system of self-evaluation.

It is best if you train your leaders to critique themselves. I do this by having a meeting with my leaders after every weekend. In this meeting we ask three questions.

• What are we doing right?
• What are we doing wrong?
• How can we do it better?

I am looking for them to critique themselves. I find that they are more likely to make changes if they think of it themselves. There is a built-in accountability when my leaders say the words themselves. Without some kind of self-evaluation, leaders will not grow.

If you follow the words of the Apostle James, you will be well on your way to leading leaders.

“Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath.”

What about you? How do you turn your volunteers into leaders?

Mark Harper

Pastor, Filmmaker and Coach, Mark Harper has over 30 years of experience in the local church. He is the creator of the Super Church 2.0 Curriculum, which is used in over 5,000 churches worldwide. The focus of Mark’s ministry is helping leaders build strong churches and helping parents build strong families.
Not only has Mark served in the local church as pastor, associate pastor, and family ministry pastor but he is also a certified coach with the John Maxwell Team.
Mark Harper

3 thoughts on “How to Turn Volunteers Into Leaders

  1. Harris says:

    i appreciate this lesson and i do believe these five keys will help our children church volunteers be the best keaders ever. thanks

  2. Kelly Presson says:

    Mark,
    Really enjoyed this article. I intend to apply these reminders to my own life and use it to teach others. Great stuff.

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