3 Steps to Building a High-Performance Volunteer Team

3 Steps to Building a High-Performance Volunteer Team

Did you hear?

Mark Miller, Vice President for Organizational Effectiveness at Chick-fil-A, has shared the company’s secret recipe for building high-performance teams.

And here’s the good news:
It’s probably not as complicated as you think it is!

Miller says, “High-performance teams focus on talent, skills, and community” (The Secret of Teams, 75).

That’s it. It’s not complicated.


If you’re going to grow your team of volunteers, then you should focus on recruiting talented people, helping them develop the skills they need, and building a community in which they know and care for each other.

3 Steps to Building a High-Performance Volunteer Team

1. Recruit Talented People

Hold the bar high. You want people who want to be around students. Sometimes you meet people who you just know would be a good fit on the team and they have an “it” quality that would resonate with students. Recruit those people.

Don’t rely on bulletin updates or announcements made from the stage. Go after the people you think could help your ministry thrive. Oftentimes, they’re just waiting to be asked.

Here’s a pitch that I’ve used lots of times with great success:
“I think you’d be great at working with students. They would love you! Would you be interested in meeting for lunch one day to talk about what that might look like?”

That line has scored me dozens of high-quality volunteers who weren’t already serving anywhere else.

2. Develop Their Skills

To begin with, every volunteer should be clear about their role and their goal. They should be able to answer these two questions:

What am I supposed to be doing? (role)
What does success look like? (goal)

Beyond those two questions, you want to make sure your volunteers have the tools necessary to do what you’re asking them to do.

A few years ago, the Gallup Organization combed through over 1 million employee interviews from previous decades to find out what drives employee satisfaction and engagement. Twelve things stood out, but having the right tools topped the list:

“Of the 12 Elements, whether a person has the materials and equipment needed to do his work well is the strongest indicator of job stress. The data show there are few things more frustrating than to want to make a difference at work, and then to be held back by inadequate resources” (Rodd Wagner and James Harter, 12: The Elements of Great Managing).

Don’t frustrate your volunteers. Give them the roles, goals, tools, and training that they need in order to do a good job.

3. Build Community

At the end of the day, we’re all just people. We all want to do good work with good people and have a good time together. Think about how you can create shared memories with your volunteer team:

* Do a cookout at your house. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Tell everyone to bring their own meat and you’ll grill it.
* Meet for a night of bowling and make up crazy nicknames for each other.
* Send birthday cards.
* Ask about their kids.

Get to know your volunteers and let them get to know you. I remember two couples that were on my team. They didn’t know each other before they started working with students, but they met and hit it off. Pretty soon they had lined up a double date to get dinner and see a movie. They became close friends, and they’re still committed volunteers today.

Think of creative ways to show appreciation too. You have to keep in mind that people have their own jobs and their own lives. There are a lot of other places they could be and a lot of other things they could be doing. But they’re there. With you. Volunteering. Show them some appreciation.

* Give them a gift card to Starbucks.
* Send them their favorite candy, just because.
* Take a student over to their house and wash their car.

Whatever it takes, let them know that you value them.

Your Move

To make the biggest difference with students, you need to surround yourself with high-caliber volunteers who are consistently involved.

Recruit them.
Develop them.
Appreciate them.

Those personal touches will help you build a high-performance volunteer team that makes doing youth ministry a lot more fun and a lot more effective.

Books Mentioned in This Post

Mark Miller - High-Performance Teams 12 - The Elements of Great Managing

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Trevor Hamaker (DMin, McAfee School of Theology) is an author, adjunct professor, and youth ministry coach. He helps youth pastors see their potential, develop their skills, and reach their goals.

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