Your ministry team is most likely made up of many people doing a lot of very different things at very different levels. There’s your full-time staff, which pastors and leads ministry; your volunteers, who give a couple hours a month doing everything from high-level administration to setting up coffee stations; and a wide variety of people in between. Keeping your ministry team working together, connected, and on the same page can be a challenge. And disconnect can lead to ineffectiveness, wasted time, and even a decrease in willingness of people to be involved.
Here are three steps you can take to help everyone work together to accomplish your mission.
Step 1. Get everyone using the same database.
The first step and one of the most important aspects of getting your ministry team on the same page is making sure they are all working from the same database. This is important for several reasons:
- Information changes take place all the time, especially contact information. If volunteers are working on their own spreadsheets or different databases and programs, then a lot of time and energy will be spent getting new or updated data to and from everyone else. When your team all uses the same database everyone immediately has updated information.
- Participation by church members is more easily updated. If teachers use separate databases or spreadsheets, one of the most painful parts of the Sunday School ministry will be grade school promotion. If everyone is on the same database then you can simply “promote” all students to the next grade and the teacher’s rosters will automatically be up to date. It’s even easier if volunteers can do things like take attendance, add visitors, and access or update data on their own mobile devices.
- Communication between volunteers concerning those they are ministering to will happen more often and more securely if they are all sharing the right database. Things like confidential notes, scheduled appointments, visitor follow-up and more can happen a lot more smoothly and efficiently.
You may be concerned about the prospect of your newest volunteer having access to the same database as your full-time treasurer or pastor. And the truth is, without the right security features, this could open the door for potential issues. After all, pastors keep highly confidential notes on counseling, and treasurers need a secure place to enter private giving information. Good church software will allow you to employ numerous layers of security so you can ensure that each person only has access to the data, features, and even specific areas of the software program they need to fulfill their role.
You also need the ability to create a security profile, and quickly assign that profile to anyone in that role. For example, you may establish security settings for your full-time secretaries that allows them to access to your entire system, and then another security profile for part-time administrative volunteers that only allows them to view, edit, or delete specific areas of information.
Finally, you should be able to view who accessed your database and when. This creates an audit trail and increases accountability. Find church software that gives you the ability to view detailed history of not only database access, but also actions performed.
Step 2. Hold quarterly meetings or trainings.
Getting your ministry team together on a semi-regular basis is another important aspect of connecting the team. No matter how much technology advances, nothing can replace face-to-face meetings in the same room. You will not only help unify your volunteers and leaders, but you will have the opportunity for vital two-way communication with your team. There are a couple things you want to keep in mind as you schedule and prepare for these meetings.
- Invite your ministry team to the meeting with plenty of advanced notice. Many if not most of the members of your ministry team probably also have another job, family, and maybe even other organizations at which they volunteer. While they care greatly about your ministry and want to be involved, you’re going to need to help them to make that happen. Give them enough advanced notice to plan ahead and rearrange their schedule if necessary to attend. The only issue with advanced notice is that it allows people more time to forget the date and time of your meeting. Solve this problem by sending a couple reminders. Schedule a simple email campaign that sends out an email a few days before and the day of the meeting, or even schedule a text message to go out to the whole team a couple hours beforehand.
- Make the meetings valuable. No one wants to go to meetings that don’t seem important, or that don’t seem to accomplish anything. Define a challenge or goal, then define how each member or segment of your ministry can work together to address that challenge or reach that goal. Then assign practical, actionable, and specific steps to each member so that everyone walks away knowing what they need to do.
- After the meeting, have effective follow-up. Make sure ministry team leaders follow up on the assigned tasks, assist and delegate where necessary, and possibly even have smaller, more focused follow-up meetings.
Step 3. Send a Monthly volunteer update
Your ministry, no matter the size, has a variety of goals that may include everything from coordinating outreaches to your community, feeding and clothing the poor, helping recovering addicts, discipleship, fundraising for a new building and more. A monthly communication (whether it’s an email or a letter) to volunteers helps keep people on the same page and engaged with your ministry.
You can remind people of your overall vision, keep them up to date on changes, and help them see the impact their volunteering is having on the lives of others. And let them know where you see your ministry headed next. You can even identify areas for others to get more involved, and share new challenges and prayer requests.
You send out communications every day. But if they aren’t effective or engaging, they may get ignored due to the business of life, or lost in overstuffed inboxes and mailboxes. You need to make your communications more effective. Do this by:
- Sending the right email to the right people. When it comes to effective email communication, you want to stay in touch often enough to stay on top of people’s minds, but not too often that they start ignoring what you send. Create groups based on specific ministry interests and skills, attendance at past events, and age and gender just to name a few examples. Send messages that are relevant to everyone to your entire ministry, and then send additional, more ministry-focused updates (like updates on the youth group, seniors group, food pantry) to those in your ministry-specific groups.
- Painting big pictures to keep volunteers engaged. It’s a great time for vision casting. Write a couple fresh sentences where you remind your volunteers of why the ministry exists, talk about the overall vision/mission, etc. In other words, share your excitement and get them excited!
- Sharing and explaining new or anticipated changes. Change is always a-foot. People resist change until they see the benefit. Take time to explain changes that are taking place, give the reasoning behind the changes, and give volunteers a chance to respond or express concerns. Addressing these concerns proactively is always better than addressing them after the fact.
- Telling stories. Stories engage, are easy to remember, and demonstrate an idea in a way that helps people understand. Plus, people share stories with others. Each month tell a story on how someone’s life was impacted by the ministry. This will help to remind everyone why all the work and effort is worth it, help to spur your volunteers on to doing more for the ministry, and ultimately help your team to continue striving to work together.