Tommy Larson: 1+1 = 4 (Inspiring Your Volunteers Toward a Path of Replication)

Tommy Larson: 1+1 = 4 (Inspiring Your Volunteers Toward a Path of Replication)

For today’s first breakout, I hopped on over to the gym (after grabbing a snack) to hear from Tommy Larson about getting volunteers and keeping volunteers.

To begin, he asked the crowd, “How many volunteers does it take for you to pull off a weekend?”

Then, he asked “How much time does it take to secure these volunteers?”

After a few chuckles, Tommy acknowledge that it takes a lot of time to secure all the help needed for a normal children’s service on a Sunday morning.   He even shared that in the village of Uganda, he spoke to a Pastor’s wife who was having trouble finding adults to help with her program.  As a result, usually it is just her with a field full of 200 village children.  Wow!

So, it looks like trying to find volunteers is a global problem!

Let’s look at some of the words surrounding our volunteer process:

Definition of Recruit:

  • to raise (a force) by enlistment.
  • to renew or restore (the health, strength, etc.).
  • to furnish or replenish with a fresh supply; renew.

It sounds like, by these definitions that something is lacking and we need to recruit in order to fill the need.

Of course, we’ve all been there.

Tommy then asked the crowd, what are some of the ways that you’ve recruited?  Particularly, he was looking for “band-aid” solutions that were used in desperate moments.  Here’s what they said:

  • Rotating Parents (if your parents DO answer the call, make sure to appreciate them, maybe w/ a date night)
  • High school and middle schoolers
  • Pull in all possible family members (shamelessly)
  • Give them regular time off (to prevent burn-out)
  • Sign up sheets outside of the drop off zone (passive peer pressure)
  • Recruiting couples and pair the with a veteran couple for a season for mentoring
  • Using kids to recruit (sitting at a sign up table)
  • Encourage volunteers to bring friends to volunteer and then raffle off a prize
  • Promise people that they could meet their spouse while serving

After we discussed these options a bit, we turned our focus towards Replication.

Definition of Replication:

  • a copy
  • an echo

Tommy asked the crowd, “Who really poured into you and encouraged you to be a part of the ministry?”

  • Mom
  • Former Children’s Director
  • VBS director
  • Pastor
  • Music Director
  • 1st grade teacher

Tommy shared his story about working with a group of young boys for VBS and afterwards, the boys begged him to continue as their small group leader every Saturday night.  Then, other staff member and people came into his path to really mentor and inspire him to do well in Children’s Ministry.  And that’s the real key.

Who are we currently pouring into?

Is there someone in your church that you’re are intentionally raising up to replace you in some way?

The best way to do this is through modeling (side note: Brad Tate shared some great thoughts on this concept in this post).  We see this concept in the Bible in Titus, Ephesians, and in 1 Peter.  Lasting volunteers come from taking the time to walk alongside a newbie to really inspire them and guide them in this role.

Appreciation and Attentiveness

One of the best ways to retain volunteers is to make sure you appreciate them and be attentive to their gifts.  Don’t make people do things that they hate.  If someone is great at managing, but doesn’t especially like children in a small group, make them a shepherd of other volunteers.   It is their sole job to care for a small group of adults (5-10) by praying for them, sending them cards, sending check-up emails, gathering supplies, etc.   This creates an amazing culture among your volunteers and keeps people serving where they are gifted.

To close out his talk, Tommy shared a story about something Michelle did to replicate volunteers.  She began by telling her current volunteer team that she was going to have a dinner.  In a year.  And it was going to be beautiful and catered and super fancy.  However, the only way you can come to the dinner is by inviting and bringing that one person you’ve poured into during the course of this upcoming year.  At the end of the year, Michelle asked about who to send invitations to and she really held people accountable to only invite people who they had truly mentored.   At the actual dinner, people were able to share inspiring stories about who had poured into them and who they were now going to pour into.   It was amazing and really motivated the team to begin mentoring in the following year.

What About You?

What are ways you’ve found that are effective in retaining and replicating your volunteers?   Who mentored you?  Are you mentoring someone now?  Leave me a comment and tell me about it!

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