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The Four Keys to Increasing Volunteer Engagement

How to Live in the Serving Sweet Spot

Every year millions of people volunteer with churches and not-for-profit organizations, hoping to make a meaningful difference. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 62.6 million people (24.9% of the U.S. population) volunteered through or for an organization at least once in a 12-month period. The most likely people to volunteer were 35-44 year-olds (28.9%), then 45-54 year-olds (28%), followed by teenagers 16-19 years-old (26.4%). The least likely to volunteer were 20-24 year-olds (18.4%).

Recently, a leader of a college campus ministry asked me what he should consider the most when recruiting volunteers: gifts, passions, or ministry needs. The short answer is, “Yes!” In fact, I would add a fourth. To increase volunteer engagement, I believe it’s helpful to consider the intersection between gifts, passions, time, and needs.

Serving Sweet Spot

Gifts are the combination of abilities, skills, and spiritual gifts that define how a volunteer can make their greatest contribution. Without the right gifts, the volunteer can’t help you, the organization, or the people served by the organization. And there are practical steps volunteers can take to confirm whether or not they have a gift. As leaders, when we ignore the gifting of a volunteer, we become self-serving rulers rather than people-empowering leaders. Gifting determines how the volunteer can help.

My Top Posts From 2015

At the end of each year, I post a list of my top read posts from that year. Below are my top posts written in 2015. Enjoy!

1. The 10 Price Tags of Growth

2. Four Dimensions of Jesus’ Personal Growth

3. Seven Reasons Our Prayers are Unanswered

4. How to Silence the Voices of Insignificance, Inadequacy, and Insults

5. The Four Stages in the Cycle of Pride

6. The Six Metrics of Church Health

7. Heart Failure: 7 Lessons One Year Later

8. Seven Great Assessment Tools to Use with Your Team

9. Four Reasons Leaders Can’t Execute

10. Ten Ways to Lead Up

Four Marks of Biblical Community

People often envision biblical community in a somewhat unrealistic way. Some picture a nice, clean package of happy smiles where Christians don’t have any problems. They envision a small group of religious perfectionists sitting in someone’s living room, talking about God while impressing each other with the size of their Bible brains. That’s not community. It’s a myth. The truth is, community is messy.

Author Heather Zempel observes, “Community is messy because it always involves people, and people are messy. It’s about people hauling their brokenness and baggage into your house and dumping it in your living room.”

People are messed up. I’m messed up, you’re messed up, and we all have problems. Whether it’s anger, greed, lust, gossip, relationships, laziness, jealousy, insecurity, or pride, our lives are marred by sin, dysfunction, and struggles. If you don’t think you have a problem…that’s your problem.

We drag these problems into our relationships. But here’s the good news: In community with other followers of Christ, we find acceptance, love, and ultimately life.

Modern research validates the value of community. Bert Uchino, professor at the Universities of Utah and North Carolina, gathered 148 studies of over 300,000 people. The research revealed that people who socialize regularly with family and friends live an average of 3.7 years longer than people who are less connected.

So what is community? The dictionary defines community as “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” What is the common interest we share in Biblical community? It’s our relationship with Jesus. It’s the cross of Christ.

In the New Testament, as the early church begins, the most incredible example of community comes to life. If you look closely at this community, you discover these four qualities that set it apart.

The Six Metrics of Church Health

We hear quite a bit these days about the importance of metrics in the local church. Statements like, “What get’s measured, matters” and “What gets measured gets done” are pretty common. I agree with both of those statements. That’s the factual side of metrics. There’s also an emotional side. The emotional side is usually tied to whatever the factual side reveals. Growing metrics produce emotional elation. Declining metrics depress us.

The 5 Metrics of Church Health-2

Because metrics are emotional, it’s easy to ignore them, justify them, or flat out stop measuring anything. We often spiritualize our response by saying things like, “I’m more concerned with quality than quantity,” or “Spiritual growth is more important than numerical growth.”

I’m guessing that numbers matter to God. If they didn’t, why are there so many of them in the Bible (even an entire book called, “Numbers”)? It’s the transformation behind those numbers that matters most. The problem with metrics is when we lose perspective of the bigger story.

Metrics can precipitate pride or drive feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, and insecurity. One day you’re up; the next you’re down. As emotional as metrics can be, I believe Bill Hybels’ axiom is true: “Facts are our friends.” Good or bad, facts help us understand reality and effectively lead through it.

Metrics! What do you measure? Is what you’re measuring the right thing? I’d like to offer six metrics that can help us get a better handle on church health. While these metrics may be incomplete, I believe they’re a good starting point.

The 10 Price Tags of Growth

Growth is expensive! Whether it’s personal, organizational, church, business – you name it – growth comes with a price tag. When we stop paying the price, growth is replaced by stagnation and decline, or worse, death. So what is the actual cost of growth? While “cost” could be measured a hundred different ways, I’d like to pinpoint ten common price tags of growth that usually surface personally and organizationally.

10 Price Tags of Growth

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1. Higher Pain Threshold

In his book, Leadership Pain, coach and consultant Sam Chand observes that anytime leadership doesn’t produce pain, you’re likely in a season of “unusual blessing,” or you’re really not making a difference. Chand notes:

Growth = Change
Change = Loss
Loss = Pain
Growth = Pain

Leadership is a pain magnet. It’s the price you pay to keep growing. Your inability to handle higher doses of pain will be the ceiling to your personal and organizational growth. Your pain threshold must increase concurrently with your organization’s growth. As Chand notes, “You’ll grow only to the threshold of your pain.”

You'll grow only to the threshold of your pain. Dr. Sam Chand Click To Tweet

The problem is that too many leaders are searching for problem-free solutions. They don’t exist. Anywhere! When you choose a solution, you simultaneously choose the pain and problems that accompany that solution.

When I decided to improve my writing skills, I had to endure the pain of a professional editor. After I received my first book’s manuscript back from my editor, I anxiously opened the file to look at his comments. What I found was disheartening to say the least. It looked like he bled over every square inch of my manuscript. But I had to make a decision: do I want to grow, or do I want to write content that nobody reads?

The same principle applies spiritually too. The biggest breakthroughs require the greatest battles. Jesus clearly articulated the price tag of a higher pain threshold in prayer and fasting as the key to winning the biggest battles (Matthew 17:21).

2. Intensive Coaching

Conferences are great at inspiring us to make changes, but they are horrible at actually producing those changes. That’s not their purpose. Events inspire change, process creates change, and habits sustain change. While an event might inspire us to do something new or different, a process of growth must follow the event so that change can ultimately become a new habit in our lives.

This type of change is often experienced through one-on-one coaching and mentoring. These intensive growth relationships help us gain wider perspective, identify better solutions, and make wiser decisions. Always remember that a good coach will help you take A.I.M. at your potential. They will provide Assessment, Insight, and Motivation.

Good coaches take AIM at your potential. They provide Assessment, Insight, & Motivation. Click To Tweet

I recently secured a one-on-one mentoring relationship with a high capacity leader to help me grow personally and as a pastor. Once per month I’ll meet with this leader, bring the agenda, and ask questions for two hours. The intensive nature of this coaching will offer fresh wisdom and perspective that I’ve been looking for.

Part of the price tag with one-on-one coaching and mentoring is the accountability to actually do what I learn. The goal isn’t to simply acquire more knowledge. That knowledge has to be translated into action. Otherwise, I’m wasting my time and my mentor’s time. Another part of this price tag is money…and that brings us to our third price tag.

3. Increased Investment

I’ve discovered something about growth: the more you grow, the harder it is to find coaches to help you go to a new level. Eventually, you have to own up to a simple but sobering fact: high capacity coaching costs money.

Several years ago I joined a one-year training center for small group pastors. It literally cost one-third of my entire ministry budget that year. Everything inside of me said, “You can’t afford to do this.”

But guess what? Four months after joining this training cohort, our small group ministry doubled in size. I was going to spend that money on something, but I’m convinced it wouldn’t have delivered the same results.

When you hear the words, “price tag,” you undoubtedly think of money. The same is true of personal and organizational growth. It requires an increased financial investment. While technology has made it easier – and cheaper – than ever to access information, tools, and best practices, there comes a time when you have to shell out cash to move from “here” to “there.”

Jesus described the price tag of increased investment like this: “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’” (Luke 14:28-30, NLT).

7 Reasons Our Prayers are “Unanswered”

Have you ever asked God for favor with a huge opportunity, but the opportunity came and went? Have you ever prayed for wisdom to make an important decision, but in the end you made the wrong decision? Have you ever sought God for His provision, but the gap between abundance and lack only grew wider?

7 Reasons Our Prayers Are Unanswered

Some prayers go unanswered. Actually, that’s not entirely true. Every prayer is answered, just not the way we’d like. We just don’t like to admit that sometimes God says “no.” In his book, Louder Than Words, Andy Stanley observed:

“Most of our prayers have to do with our health, our wealth, and our social life. And when we experience a setback or grow impatient, we say, ‘God, where are You?’”

But perhaps God’s not always the one to blame. Maybe our shortsighted perspective of prayer has caused us to pray wrong. As we look at Scripture, we discover several causes of unanswered prayer. Here are seven reasons our prayers often go unanswered.

1. We Don’t Ask

I know this sounds rather obvious, but it’s the place we must begin. James 4:2 says, “…you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.” Instead, we have a tendency to worry, whine, and work. We worry about what might happen, whine about what we don’t have, and work ourselves to death trying to fix our problems. We have to remember that 100% of the prayers not prayed will go unanswered.

2. We Ask with Wrong Motives

James, the brother of Jesus, continues with these words: “And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure” (James 4:3). It reminds me of the story of the elderly man who found a magic lamp on the beach. After picking it up and rubbing the lamp, a genie suddenly appeared and said, “Because you have freed me, I will grant you a wish.”

After a brief moment, the man said, “My brother and I had a fight 30 years ago and he hasn’t spoken to me since. I wish that he’ll finally forgive me.” There was a sudden thunderclap and the genie said, “Your wish has been granted.” Then, after a brief moment, the genie said, “Most men would have asked for wealth or fame. But you only wanted your brother’s forgiveness. Is it because you are old and dying?” “No way!” the man cried. “But my brother is, and he’s worth about $60 million.”

How many times do we do that with God? We treat him like a genie in a lamp, and we ask for things with a hidden agenda. How easy it is to forget that God weighs the motives of the heart, and our motives are never hidden from His sight.

My Top 10 Posts From 2014

At the end of each year, I post a list of my top read posts from that year. Below are my top 10 posts written in 2014. Enjoy!

1.  The Miracle of My Heart Failure

2.  Five Habits of Wealthy People That You Can Embrace

3.  Trading Your Career for a Calling

4.  Measuring the Future of Your Church

5.  10 Ways to Differentiate Between an Opportunity and a Distraction

6.  The 5 Inhibitors to Progress

7.  How to Trust God in the Unexpected

8.  Our Stories of the Unexpected

9.  How to Improve the Direction and Speed of Your Life

10. Tic-Tic-Tic: The Sound of God’s Faithfulness After My Heart Failure

And if you’re wondering what my top two articles of all time are, check them out here: