Volunteers are the heartbeat of a local church. Think about it. If all of them left tomorrow there would be nothing. Who'd teach classes? Who'd turn the lights off? WHO WOULD MAKE THE COFFEE!
Seriously though, the people we bring into leadership positions and responsibilities as volunteers are (in many ways) as important as who we bring in as vocational staff. Volunteer leaders have more face time with our churches than we do, they're more relationally connected than we are, they're ingrained into the culture of the church. Those are things that most vocational leaders struggle with.
I've always advocated for bringing FAT people into leadership roles. People who are Faithful, Available, and Teachable. If you can get those, you can do a lot with volunteer leader development.
But who should you never recruit into leadership? I think there are four types
1) The Yes Man - Pastors don't need cheerleaders. If you're in ministry and you need people to tell you how awesome you are, as John Crist would say, "check your heart." Yes Men make poor volunteer leaders because they'll never disagree or give constructive feedback. I'm so thankful for the times that our volunteers and leadership team have stopped me from doing some stupid idea I had.
2) The Critic - The Critic is the opposite of The Yes Man, in that The Critic is always going to point out flaws, problems, and generally give "suggestions." Pastors, you know what I'm talking about. The Critic makes a poor leader because they're usually not on board with the vision, and they're generally toxic people to be around because they constantly find the negative.
3) The Divider - The Divider is also known to his family as The Pot Stirrer. The Divider is a poor leader because he's not going to be a unifier. He's going to work to divide people. Paul's greatest concern in the New Testament was for the purity of the church (theological & ethical), but his second greatest concern was for the unity of the church. Dividers end up creating factions, cliques, and in-groups.
4) The Gossiper - Gossip is a cancer in any organization. Famously, Dave Ramsey has a policy of firing gossips because it's so toxic. Gossips make poor leaders because they're not trustworthy. One of the hardest things of leadership is the value of discretion. Sometimes things are discussed privately, or are brainstormed, or are discussed with a level of vulnerability. That means that leaders who participate in long-range planning, vision, or the needed sensitivity of ministry must be reliable and trustworthy. Churches can and should be transparent as much as possible. But by nature of some aspects of ministry and organizational leadership, sometimes information is protected. The Gossiper talks a lot, and in doing so creates confusion, stirs up trouble, and creates factions.
Who else would make a poor leader in the local church?
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.