It's Time To Grow: Leadership Strategies for Church Growth

Growing individuals is integral to growing your church. Motivated volunteers are the essential key to your church’s success. Do you understand what motivates your volunteers? 

Pastors and leaders have a significant and challenging role as they seek to motivate volunteers to contribute enthusiastically and effectively to the mission of the church. The apostle Paul describes this role as: 

“To equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (Ephesians 4:12) 

An essential factor in this role is that you the leader focus on growing the individuals who have volunteered to work with you. You must see and respond to the individual in the midst of the congregation. 

Jesus Grows Individuals 

In John 21:15-19, we see Jesus talking with Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. They are eating breakfast along with six other disciples of Jesus. Peter and the other disciples had been fishing overnight. Early in the morning Jesus appeared on the shore and called out to the disciples in the boat. When Peter realised it was Jesus he jumped from the boat and swam ashore. 

When they had finished eating Jesus three times asked Peter whether he loved him. Three times Peter responded affirmatively and Jesus told him to feed and care for his sheep. Jesus was referring to Peter’s responsibility to look after the members of the early church. 

The threefold questioning of Peter’s love for Jesus is powerfully evocative. It brings to mind the threefold denial of Jesus by Peter. It calls us to consider the nature of love and commitment to one another. We feel empathy with Peter’s frailty and we are inspired by Jesus’ restoration of Peter to the position of caring for the Christian believers. 

Jesus restores Peter to the relationship and position he had before he denied Jesus three times. Peter rises above his failure to lead and pastor the church. Jesus inspires Peter by expressing confidence in his ability to rise to the challenge. 

We see Jesus as a leader who focuses on the individual. He helps the individual to grow and overcome personal shortcomings and failures. He is sensitive to individual needs and willing to provide individual attention. He is a role model for all church leaders. 

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) 

Your Leadership Grows Individuals 

Many of the members of your church want to make the church great. They are motivated and competent. They are willing to give of their time, effort, and resources to help others and grow the church. They want to participate in the life of the church and they want to contribute to its mission. They believe in the church’s message and values. They want to enhance the well-being of others, and contribute to justice, fairness, and social good. 

The style of your leadership is critical to maintaining the motivation and voluntary contribution of the individuals who make up your church. Leadership is the process of you influencing others to achieve worthwhile goals. You will succeed in leading your church because you are able to effectively motivate the individuals who volunteer to serve. They will respond positively to you as you engage with them emotionally and inspire them to higher levels of motivation and morality. This happens when you lead by example, inspire with vision, stimulate creativity, and value each of them as individuals. 

Let’s focus on you the leader demonstrating that you are truly concerned with the desires and needs of volunteers and that you care about their individual development. In effect, you are helping the volunteers in your church to grow into their potential in Jesus Christ. 

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) 

How to Grow Individuals 

You will inspire and grow the individuals who volunteer in your church as you pay attention to their unique gifts, talents and needs, and as you coach and mentor them to improve their performance and achieve their potential. They will recognise that you are respecting their unique dignity and interests, and that you are not treating them as means to an end. As a consequence, they will develop to successively higher levels of potential and achievement through your leadership. 

Each and every volunteer working with you has needs for achievement and growth. They each want to demonstrate that they can successfully contribute to the church. They want to be effective and to make a positive difference in the lives of those they minister to. They want to know that you trust them and that you believe they can perform their role. Volunteers want to be able to say: 

  • “My Pastor trusts me”; 

  • “My Pastor believes I can successfully perform my role”; 

  • “I have freedom to demonstrate my own initiative and ability”; 

  • “I am making a positive difference in the lives of those I minister to” 

The volunteers in your church also have a need to develop close friendships and to experience the love and care of others. They want to love and care for others, and to be loved and cared for in return. They want you to recognise them as individuals with specific and personal needs. They want to know that they are important to you. Volunteers want to be able to say: 

  • “I feel loved and valued”; 

  • “I have close and supportive friendships”; 

  • “My Pastor cares for me”; 

  • “I am experiencing personal growth and wholeness”. 

You will grow the volunteers in your church when you: 

  1. Pay attention to individuals; 

  2. Communicate with individuals; 

  3. Mentor individuals; 

  4. Delegate to individuals. 

You can implement these four principles and grow the volunteers in your church. There are simple and practical behaviours that you can begin to practice today. 

1. Pay Attention to Individuals 

You will inspire and motivate your volunteers when you pay special attention to each individual. They each want you to recognise them as individuals with specific needs and desires. They want you to be aware of their needs for achievement and growth. Your attitude and behaviour should demonstrate that you acknowledge and accept each individual and that you are committed to their personal growth. You can intentionally provide individual encouragement and help each volunteer to grow to full potential and achieve higher standards. 

You can pay attention to individuals by: 

  • Learning their names and the names of their family members; 

  • Remembering their family details and their hobbies and interests; 

  • Recognising and valuing their diverse backgrounds, values, and perspectives; 

  • Praying for and with them personally; 

  • Giving personal attention, advice, support, and encouragement; 

  • Avoiding treating everyone the same or playing favourites; 

  • Showing genuine concern for each individual’s personal development; 

  • Recognising and responding to their personal challenges and problems; 

  • Encouraging them to set personal development goals; 

  • Expressing personal appreciation for their commitment and contribution. 

Volunteers are inspired when they see that you are concerned for their individual well-being. They feel more accepted and valued. They experience enhanced self-image and greater personal security. They experience fulfilment of their unique individual needs. As a result they have heightened motivation to contribute in volunteer service and to achieve higher standards. 

2. Communicate with Individuals 

Your volunteers will develop stronger allegiance and commitment to you when you develop and maintain one to one contact with each of them. They want to know what is happening in the church and how it affects them. They want to know that you value their opinions and that you listen to them. You can encourage two way communication so that they know their opinions are heard and valued. You can satisfy their desire for information and keep them informed about what is happening and why. 

You can communicate with individuals by: 

  • Using informal as well as formal communication; 

  • Interacting with them as they perform their roles; 

  • Engaging in individual conversations with them; 

  • Encouraging a two way exchange of ideas; 

  • Asking for their opinions and ideas; 

  • Answering their questions; 

  • Keeping them informed; 

  • Being aware of their personal concerns; 

  • Listening to them carefully and attentively; 

  • Remembering previous conversations and suggestions. 

Volunteers are inspired when they know they are being heard. They feel involved and valued. They sense your personal interest in them and their knowledge. They experience fulfilment of their desires for information and fate control. They experience a greater sense of ownership and personal responsibility. As a result they have heightened motivation to contribute creative ideas and to help the church in its mission. 

3. Mentor Individuals 

Your volunteers will grow in motivation and achievement when you help each one as a mentor and a coach. As a mentor you use your greater knowledge and experience to guide individual volunteers in their personal development. As a coach you provide instruction and help them to develop their skills. Your volunteers want to learn from you and want you to help them become more effective and fruitful in their volunteer roles. 

You can mentor individuals by: 

  • Being patient and supportive; 

  • Encouraging them in their devotional and spiritual life; 

  • Watching out for signs of personal stress and distress; 

  • Pointing out weaknesses constructively; 

  • Helping them identify ways to improve performance; 

  • Providing personal development advice and counselling; 

  • Helping them make adjustments to solve their problems; 

  • Guiding them in decision making; 

  • Teaching them necessary skills and facilitating skill development; 

  • Creating new learning opportunities and a supportive environment. 

Volunteers are inspired when you are available when needed and when you encourage them in self-development. They respond with enthusiasm when you mentor and coach them. They experience enhanced self-confidence and increased personal security. As a result they have a heightened sense of their own competence and greater commitment to serving in the church. 

4. Delegate to Individuals 

Your volunteers will grow in confidence and autonomy when you delegate responsibilities to them based on their individual competence and maturity. They want to know that you trust them to successfully perform their role. They want to demonstrate their competence in achieving the assigned tasks and desired outcomes. 

You can delegate to individuals by: 

  • Paying attention to the particular development needs of each individual; 

  • Delegating tasks and projects as a means of developing each individual; 

  • Specifying responsibilities and reporting requirements clearly; 

  • Providing them with adequate authority to do the job; 

  • Granting them autonomy and trusting them to accomplish assigned tasks; 

  • Monitoring progress in appropriate and supportive ways; 

  • Avoiding constant interfering; 

  • Providing direction and support when requested; 

  • Turning mistakes into learning experiences; 

  • Building their confidence. 

Volunteers are inspired when you delegate to them tasks on the basis of individual needs and abilities. They experience a sense of ownership and personal responsibility. Their feelings of personal control and competence are enhanced. As a result they have a heightened motivation to perform their roles with excellence and enthusiasm. 

Result

The result of you the leader focussing on growing the individual volunteers in your church is that they will experience enhanced commitment to you personally and a heightened motivation to achieve their designated tasks and to put in extra effort to contribute to the church. They will perform beyond your expectations as they respond to your concern for them. 

“Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8) 


I lead to grow individuals when I:

 
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Reflection 

Think about your capacity to be a leader who grows individuals and rate yourself from 1 (never) to 5 (always) on these behaviours. The higher your score the more likely it is that you are leading to grow individuals! 

Action 

  1. If you rated yourself as 3 or less in any of these areas, have another look at some of the practical suggestions mentioned above. Choose 2 or 3 of these and set yourself a goal of putting them into practice over the next 4 weeks. 

  2. What is one thing you will do today to improve how you grow the individuals in your church? 


Bel Litchfield