6 Steps for Turning a Volunteer Group Into a Team

If you're leading in children's ministry, you've quickly discovered that it's critical to have volunteers.  And whether you've inherited a group of volunteers or you're in the midst of building a group of volunteers, it's important to realize the difference between a group of volunteers and a volunteer team.

A group of volunteers may not be working in unison.  A volunteer team has an aligned vision.

A group of volunteers may have different values.  A volunteer team operates from a set of common core values.

A group of volunteers may not trust each other.  A volunteer team has each other's backs.

A group of volunteers does ministry together.  A volunteer team does ministry and life together.

A group of volunteers cares about themselves.  A volunteer team cares about each other.

A group of volunteers may have scattered conversations.  A volunteer team has clear communication.

A group of volunteers has conflict.  A volunteer team has conflict, but works through it together.

A group of volunteers may have a lack of responsibility.  A volunteer team holds each other accountable.

A group of volunteers may experience competition.  A volunteer team experiences collaboration.

So how can you turn a group of volunteers into a volunteer team?  Here are 6 steps you can take to see it happen.

Step 1 - Shift the language.  Be intentional about using team language.  Use "we" instead of "them."  Use "us" instead of "they."  Use "our" instead of "their."  You will be surprised how this simple shift will help you begin building a team spirit.  

Step 2 - Rally everyone behind a common vision.  A group of volunteers will naturally default to competing visions.  The nursery will have a vision.  The preschool will have a vision.  The greeters will have a vision.  The elementary will have a vision.  The pre-teen area will have a vision.  While it's good for groups of volunteers to "own" their part of the ministry, it is just as important that they see how it fits into the larger context of the ministry and have one vision they are aligned with.  It's up to you, as the leader, to articulate the vision and rally everyone to it.

Step 3 - Pray together.  Each weekend, gather everyone together for prayer before they start serving.  As you share prayer requests and spend time praying for each other and for the ministry, you will see it bring transformation.

Step 4 - Play together.  Take volunteers on some fun activities together outside of their serving time.  You will find this bonds them together and deepens their relationships.   

Step 5 - Do team building activities on a regular basis.  When you do volunteer training, include a team building activity.  I have several very effective ones in my book "The Formula for Building Great Volunteer Teams" which is available at this link

Step 6 - Celebrate together.  Celebrating the wins together will bond your volunteers as a team.  When one part of your volunteer team has a win, have everyone celebrate together.  This will help them see that a win for one is a win for all.

If you can help your volunteers see that what they are part of is bigger than the part they play, they will move from being a group to being a team.  And there is no limit to what a team of volunteers can accomplish together!  Michael Jordan articulated it well when he said, "great players win games...great teams win championships."