Thoughts on Volunteer to Leader Dialogue

Doug Fields recently blogged on his site His thoughts on being a volunteer and reflecting on a leader who needs staffing vs a leader cultivating other leaders.  The following paragraph caught my mind and heart:

The question I like to ask leaders-of-leaders is, “If I could wave a wand and get you 10 leaders, how would you keep them?” This is a very important question for leaders! It’s not unusual for a leader to be strong in the finding and weak in the caring.  (Doug’s Post)

Four years ago I left my first paid  youth ministry position as Director of Christian Education at Galilee Baptist Church in Gorham, ME.   I had a strong team, one I’d take with me anywhere, and they grew with me as I cut my teeth on leadership.   For the last four years I’ve been a volunteer to a good youth pastor.  Along with principles Andy Stanley’s Choosing to Cheat, I’ll briefly share some thoughts:


  • One of Andy’s points in Choosing to Cheat is leaving your partner with stones.  They may seem small individually, but they add up.  This point goes both ways, when either asking for help or giving it, do you hand things off at the last second, sending the other person into a scramble or do you give them enough lead time to be able to take ownership and flourish in their position.
  • YP’s handing off things at the last minute seem unprofessional, you don’t want to follow them.  Volunteers who back off commitments at the last minute leave their team high and dry. Both leave the other holding a bag that they may not be able to carry.  I think it may happen occasionally when one needs to do a quick handoff, however, these quickly add up.


  • The job of the leader is to cast a vision, in casting a vision, the leader needs to gain buy-in from those who are under him by casting a believable vision.
  • Vision needs to be cast in increments long enough to effect change.  There is a prophetic voice in the heart of leadership, and that voice needs to move the congregation towards Christ.
  • Changing your purposes every few weeks and casting a new vision every corner demonstrates only one thing which is that you are lost.
  • As a volunteer I’ve seen this, and as a leader I need to keep this paramount and not change things for the sake of change.

Follow Through

  • As a leader, I’ve been guilty of not having my act together.  Putting the pieces of a puzzle together is hard, sometimes you run out of time, especially when you are a volunteer leader with many commitments.  Having lived this for years, I understand this very difficult. However, it is essential through for leaders and volunteers to follow through on their commitments.
  • I’ve been parts of teams where follow through was a major issue.  I’ve watched organizations crumble because there was a mutual air of not helping and following through with ones commitments.   Letting your yes be yes and no be no is huge.
  • Breaking follow through should be the exception not the rule.
  • This is not an excuse for one not to be a volunteer or leader, but to pick a few things and do them well rather than pick many things and do them poorly.
  • Follow through (and lack thereof), to me is the biggest tell of a leader.  You can tell who you want to follow and who you want on your team by the amount of follow through.

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