How to implement changes without losing volunteers
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Have you ever announced a change to your volunteers that didn't go over too well? Have they ever resisted implementing a new system or process and you couldn't quite figure out why?
I'll let you in on a little secret: The issue probably wasn't the change itself. The issue was probably in how the change was rolled out.
If most of your volunteers have been serving for a year or more, they are ingrained in the current process. They've developed habits and know what to expect each week. When you announce a change — even one that should make their work easier and their service better — you're creating uncertainty.
In his book, "Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend," Andy Stanley states: "Every church has its way of doing things. And for the most part, it works. Consequently, change is rarely perceived as a solution. In most cases, change feels like an interruption."
"The way things are done at your church is so deeply ingrained that you will meet resistance at every turn," Stanley writes. "The catalyst for introducing and facilitating change in the local church is a God-honoring, mouthwatering, unambiguously clear vision."
How do you go from "we need to change" to actually implementing the changes without scaring off your volunteers? Here are a few tips:
Step 1: Get buy-in from your volunteer leaders
Raise the concerns you're seeking to resolve with your volunteer leaders. Don't mention the changes right away. Discuss the issues and ask for their ideas on how to address them. Their input could alter what changes you make so listen carefully.
After you've heard their input, ask for their feedback on how you're looking to address these issues. Do they think your approach will resolve those concerns? Do they have any suggestions? If so, adjust your approach accordingly.
Explain the reasoning behind the changes along with the benefits of each. This is where casting a compelling vision comes into play. Get their feedback and ask how they think their teams will react. Request their assistance in rolling out the changes and addressing their teams concerns.
Step 2: Announce the changes at a volunteer meeting
If your volunteer leaders think some of the changes could be controversial, discuss those individually with people they think may have a harder time accepting the changes. Otherwise, announce the new processes/structure at a volunteer meeting.
Explain the reasons for the changes and open it up for questions. Provide a one-page handout that provides instructions for the new ways of doing things. Enlist your volunteer leaders to help answer questions and implement the changes.
Step 3: Follow up with an email reiterating the changes
The prominent message here should be the vision behind the changes with a bullet-pointed list of the new processes or structure.
Send the email 2-3 days before the first service where you're going to implement the changes. That gives volunteers a chance to read it and digest the information before they arrive.
Step 4: Discuss the changes at your next volunteer meeting
Reiterate the reasons why you're changing, and ask volunteers to talk with you or their volunteer team leader if they have any questions/concerns. Don't be too rigid about how they implement the changes that first week.
Follow up with your volunteer leaders after the first Sunday to find out how their teams felt about the changes and how implementing them went that day.
Now, I realize that this sounds like a lot of work. It would be nice if you could announce a change and everyone adjusted immediately. However, that's not human nature. Even good changes can be disruptive, so you need to give people (especially volunteers) some time to see the benefits and emotionally process the new way of doing things.
Remember: You're working with volunteers who are donating their time. You have to motivate them with a clear vision and a compelling reason to change. Even the most faithful volunteer will become discouraged and may quit if you change too much too quickly.
Use wisdom and listen carefully to your volunteer leaders. They want to support you and will if they understand and have time to buy into the vision. Help them help you.
Have you made any big changes with your volunteer program? If so, how did you communicate and implement those changes?
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