Building a Staff with No Budget

This guest post was written by Josh Denhart.

Before I transitioned to my current role, I was a Children’s Pastor with a large, paid Children’s Ministry staff working with me. However, I didn’t start that job with a large, paid staff. I systematically developed a process by which key volunteers were transitioned into paid staff roles.

So how did I do it?

I began by learning how to pastor.

Paul makes an astounding statement about pastors in Ephesians 4:11-12:

 “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”

A pastor’s job, according to the Scriptures, is to equip the saints for the work of service–or, in other words, to build up the body of Christ. Below, I’ve laid out some principles I learned along the way…

Start with the Faithful

Jesus said, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much (Luke 16:11).” Begin by identifying the faithful, diligent, and godly people you already have in your midst. If these people have been faithful, even in small things, the Bible says that they will be faithful if given more.

Personally share with those “faithful few” what you see in them that sets them apart. “You are clearly qualified, highly committed and able to do great things in the Kingdom of God. My job as a pastor is to equip you for works of service. I envision you as a key decision-maker and an empowered leader who oversees major portions of this ministry. Will you pray about joining me in this way?”

Create Now What You Want In 5 Years

Begin to treat this volunteer leadership team as if it was the exact full-time staff team you dream of having someday. Establish structures, rhythms, and personal habits (for yourself as well as the volunteers), as if you currently have a large, paid staff team. Conduct weekly staff meetings, quarterly off-site meetings, and once-a-year mini retreats, as if these “faithful few” were full-time staff.

Share Your Progress and Share About Your “Top-Tier Leader”

Tell your church leadership how you have been leading your volunteers. “Initially, I identified the most qualified, committed and faithful individuals already serving in our ministry and invited them to go deeper. I took my role as a pastor (according to Ephesians 4:11-12) to heart. I have been empowering lay leaders to oversee major portions of ministry. One individual stands out from the group as a ‘top-tier leader’ and shows great ministry potential. Will you help me take his/her leadership to the next level?”

Ministry Support Plan (Secret Code Word: Money)

You’re now asking your church for funds to carry on the leadership development you have already begun. You yourself have proven that you’ve been faithful with little, and that you will be faithful with more. Your initial monetary ask isn’t for salaries, but rather for conferences, lunches and resources. This might be an unprecedented ask. Come to this meeting with exact dollar figures in three incremental categories:

#1 – The Big Dream

  • Conferences: National conference, hotel, travel & food for multiple volunteers
  • Lunches: Expense account for weekly lunches with multiple volunteers
  • Resources: A library of leadership books/videos/podcasts for multiple volunteers

#2 – What You’ll Be Happy With

  • Conferences: Regional conference, hotel & travel with your “top-tier leader”
  • Lunches: Expense account for monthly lunches with your “top-tier leader”
  • Resources: One leadership book for all higher-level volunteers

#3 – The Bare Minimum

  • Conferences: DVD of a national conference’s keynote speakers
  • Lunches: Expense account for quarterly lunches with “top-tier leader”
  • Resources: One leadership book for all higher-level volunteers to share

Leadership Conferences

Through interactions with the “faithful few”, you have identified one “top-tier leader” who has a particular acumen for ministry. Take this individual to a large Children’s Ministry conference or regional gathering. A conference will do wonders for your relational bonding with this volunteer and will solidify your commitment to this individual’s growth, leadership, and spiritual wellness.

The Power of a Lunch

A weekly one-on-one lunch is a great way to bond with your “top-tier leader.” You can discuss many things at a deeper level, like: leadership principles, the kids in your ministry, ways to grow in teaching, and even your own personal lives. Share with this budding leader the “why” behind everything you do in ministry. Give them appropriate “insider information” and allow them to be a part of the decision-making process for your ministry.

Invest in Quality Training Resources

Take your team through Ryan Frank’s short and practical book, 10 Things Your Professors Did Not Teach You About Children’s Ministry (or another similar children’s ministry how-to book). Read one chapter a week, and have your team come prepared to discuss new strategies they can implement as a result of what they’ve read. Jump in and start deeper discussions about leadership and best practices.

Build Your Staff

I followed the exact strategy I laid out in this article. I took my “top-tier leader” to lunch every Monday for 2 ½ years. We traveled to a national conference. He began leading and expanding our ministry to a level of excellence that I was incapable of achieving alone. We built the ministry around his gifts, passion, and abilities. After five years of leading the 5th & 6th-grade ministry, this “top-tier leader” moved away. He was leaving behind a ministry that was so healthy and vibrant that it necessitated a staff person to fill the gap.

Do you dream of having a qualified, committed, and passionate ministry staff team?  Don’t wait for budget approval to start building this team! Visit www.leadvolunteers.com, and let’s dive deeper into developing a plan for your specific ministry context so that you can WIN at leading volunteers!

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