Transitions: What To Do With People?

For the second time I’ve made a major transition in ministry, which brought me from Las Vegas to Corona, CA. One of the things that people rarely talk about and they don’t teach in college is what to do with volunteers who are currently serving.

In a perfect world, every volunteer would line up behind the leader and say, “I’ll do whatever it is you need” and actually mean it. I find that people say that because they want to be that person, but when reality hits that things are actually changing and it involves them hesitation, fear and maybe resentment sets in.

Here are a few ways that I have dealt with volunteers during transition:

1. I move slowly. I spend quite a few weeks observing volunteers. I watch how they interact with children, parents and leaders. I observe their gift mix. I take notes on what I see are their strengths and weaknesses. Coming from the outside gives me fresh eyes and perspective.

2. I meet with volunteers individually. I take volunteers out for a meal or invite them to my office and talk about them. I want to know what they’re passionate about. I want to know what caused them to stay through the transition. I use this time to put together more pieces of the puzzle and see what kind of chemistry we could have together.

3. I meet with volunteers corporately and explain that things are changing. I don’t focus on the past. I paint a vision for the future. I’ll explain that God did some cool things in the past, but He has positioned us for even better things in the future. Patience, flexibility and support is what I ask from my volunteers. I let them know that we’ll experiment with some things until we find out what works best for this church.

4. When I finally do make a decision on what we’re doing, I lay out the vision very clearly. I explain why we are going to do what we’re going to do. After I have decided that it’s time for me to place people. This is when I go through my notes and figure out where I think people will thrive and what I think is best for the ministry.

5. I meet with these people individually and ask them if they’d serve in “this” capacity. Most of the time they say, “yes.” Sometimes I’ll have someone refuse. Depending how they refuse depends how I respond. If it’s disrespectful or I get a sense that they do not like change and will not change then I thank them for their service and will try to plug them into another department. If they’re just struggling a little with doing something different I coach and encourage them through it.

There are so many different responses and ways to do it. These are just a couple. In the end, I thank the Holy Spirit for preparing me in season and out of season and giving me the words to say when I need them.


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