Increasing Your Volunteer Power


Most Christian leaders today are convinced of the need to empower their volunteers.  This idea of unleashing people is foundational to all ministry – from Jesus’ goal of shaping his disciples into “fishers of men” (MT 4:18) to Paul’s teaching that leaders are to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12).

The pressing question for most leaders is not so much what? or why? but how?  As you seek to motivate, mobilise, and manage your volunteer leaders, here’s a checklist of five potential empowerment snags and how you might address them.

In the following stages, Where are you strong? Where do you need improvement? For each topic, ask yourself, “Am I…?

  • Casting Vision? According to one famous preacher, “People will not cast away their dearest pleasures upon a drowsy request of someone who does not seem to mean what he says.”  Henrietta Mears, pioneering Christian educator, said that “small dreams never inflame the minds of men.” In short, a leader must communicate a clear, definable, energetic picture of the future, and show how it applies to what God wants to do in a ministry.  If volunteers are not enthusiastic about becoming involved, it may be due to the absence of a strong, compelling passion on the part of the leader.
  • Specifying the Action Steps? A visionary leader is more than a person who can paint a picture of what the future can be. Such a leader will know what needs to be done in order to get there, and will have the ability to lead in that direction.  This action plan will specify the specific steps to the proposed future.
  • Securing Commitment?  As Peter Drucker, father of the modern management science movement, says, “The first task of the leader is to make sure that everybody sees the mission, hears it, and lives it.” A leader, therefore, will need to go beyond his or her ability to create a general sense of motivation or excitement.  Rather, he or she must mobilise others to commit themselves to a specific vision. One way to do so is to “manage by touch,” such as telling stories about the volunteer leaders. These success stories can be communicated with or without mentioning specific people by name.  Similarly, compliments and positive, sincere praise go a long way. Casting a vision is not about control; it is the art of making success stories out of people while helping them grow in their walk. The key is to legitimise, honor, and compliment, by making heroes and role models of those who are contributing to the vision in an exemplary way.
  • Overcoming Obstacles to the Vision?  Every leader, whether paid or volunteer, encounters obstacles. The more you can anticipate such barriers, create strategies to deal with them, and protect the volunteer leader from unnecessary discouragement, the more likely you are to ultimately achieve whatever vision you are pursuing.
  • Managing Conflicts Caused by the Vision? Conflict, though inevitable, is not necessarily wrong. Conflict can, however, be successfully managed without succumbing to it. The visionary leader can reduce and best handle conflict, when presenting ideas that involve innovation and change, by showing great sensitivity to the cultural nuances of the volunteers. Managed conflict also follows the principle of “seeking to understand before being misunderstood,” such as talking through potential conflicts prior to the advent of the mission, and guiding volunteer leaders in how to be gracious in the face of criticism.

The accomplishment of a vision does not occur by accident.  When a leader is convinced of what is to happen, the success of that vision will be in direct proportion to how volunteer leaders are motivated, mobilized, and managed at each stage of the process.

Colin Noyes.

Colin Noyes is the Director of ResourceZone International. He has thirty years of ministry experience as a pastor, college lecturer and consultant/coach to consultants, denominational leaders and local church pastors. He is a recognized authority in areas like coaching, leadership development, team building, church health and growth and multiplication movements. He can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Colin Noyes

Colin Noyes is a Brisbane (Australia) based coach and consultant with extensive experience in the areas of organisational health and growth, change management, leadership development, recruiting/staff development and coaching. Read more

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