Leading Volunteers

Here are some things to keep in mind when money isn't a factor.

Since many of us who serve in ministry end up leading volunteers, the editors at Gifted for Leadership wanted to find out how leading volunteers differed from leading paid staff. So we asked Nancy Beach, a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church as well as a GFL editorial advisor, who has vast experience in leading staff, volunteers, and the staff who lead volunteers.

Gifted for Leadership: What is the difference between leading a group of volunteers and leading paid staff?

Nancy Beach: My very first reaction is there aren't a lot of differences. I think many times we think that, because people aren't getting paid, they're automatically motivated differently or that they need to be led differently. But what I've observed over the last several years is that in church work, the staff isn't in it for the money anyway—they are motivated by someone who is leading them toward a cause.

And I think the vision of what you're trying to do and why has to be really clear for both volunteers and staff.

So it's about getting people excited about your vision, whether they're paid or unpaid?

Yes. But then the other thing that's so clear to me is that both volunteers and staff people, if they're really going to make it—go the distance and hang with you for a long time—it's going to be because of another need being fulfilled, which I think is community.

I think it's so important for both volunteers and staff to feel somebody knows them, knows their life outside of the church, and cares about their personal struggles and their family and health and things like that. So I've just been very intentional about that.

How so?

Volunteers can feel used and sort of ...

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