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Home » Church Leadership, Featured, Volunteer Management, Volunteer Training

Leadership Development in Service Teams

Submitted by James Higginbotham on November 12, 2007 – 7:38 pmNo Comment

Bootstrapping Your Service Team

Starting a new service team is often an easy step – you see a need and you fill it. The problem that most leaders face isn’t starting, but successfully bootstrapping a service team for handling future growth. There will always be something new that is needed or something old that requires repair. However, there may not always be someone available to lend a hand, often forcing the leader into a Balance or Burnout situation. Here are some tips for getting started with the right foundation:

  1. Always take someone with you – this is often the step most ignored by new leaders, causing a leader to constantly do more to the downfall of their health and family. I’ve been there – it isn’t a fun place to be in
  2. Find solutions that are easiest to train and build subgroups – when faced with a need, how can you best solve the problem such that almost anyone could lend you a hand? Service teams, especially those of a technical nature, often try to find the most complex solutions to a simple problem, thereby limiting the number of people that could jump in and lend a hand
  3. Be prepared to say no – sometimes you have to say no, which means as the leader you must make some tough decisions about what you will and will not do. This is especially critical in the early days, as it sets expectations with those around you for what you will do in the future.

Building Leaders

After bootstrapping your service team, it is time to develop your future leaders. During the bootstrapping process, you have spent some time working alongside others. You should now have a short list of those that are potential leaders within your team. I’ve posted my experience with this approach in the past. Begin crafting a path for them to grow as future leaders by using some of the ideas below:

  1. Use the Staircase Method to identify simple jobs that just about anyone can handle
  2. Begin to backfill your new leaders with new team members, having them train the newer members
  3. As they begin to train, give them an opportunity to start leading the team, with your guidance.

Pass It On

As your apprentice leaders begin to lead small sub-teams, you will begin to realize where they need training and what areas come naturally. Begin to develop these leaders, guiding them up the “stairs” of training. Keep in mind that some may not be able to grow and mature as fast as others may – that is to be expected! The point of the Staircase Method is to help you find those that have the ability to grow as a leader and those that don’t.

Without this approach, those not able to lead would have been put in a much higher position through their talent alone, causing more harm than good. This methodology helps you to properly work with and identify, over a longer period of time, who is developing as a strong leader. Keep in mind these tips, to help your ministry to continue to grow:

  1. Locate apprentices for all of your team leads, to provide backup in case they become unavailable
  2. Teach your leaders how to transition their leadership to their apprentices, passing on what they have learned
  3. Give these leaders more authority over time, first over larger sub-teams, then over multiple sub-teams
  4. Having spent time with your leaders as they have developed, create a short list of apprentices for your team leadership role
  5. Mentor and transition your leadership role to an appropriate leader that is excelling in your leadership training plan.

I used this approach to create three sub-teams for IT/technology team I was leading. I made sure to meet with those leaders regularly, spending time building a relationship while mentoring them in their team leadership. This allowed me to move from leadership of a volunteer IT team into a new calling at my church within months, not years (or never).

Using this model for developing service teams, you should see yourself growing out of the “doing” and into true leadership, developing leaders of smaller groups along the way. In the end, you should be in the process of developing replacements for your leadership, freeing you up to start new service teams or simply to make you more available to service in the capacity you most desire.

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