The Volunteer Playbook | Nick Blevins

Bart Blair Leave a Comment

Pastor, coach and author Nick Blevins has a great new book, The Volunteer Playbook, and he shares with us what it’s all about and how it can help your church!

Podcast Notes

Get your copy of The Volunteer Playbook

Check out the Family Ministry Podcast

Ministry Boost

Podcast Transcription


Jason Hamrock: [00:00:07] Well, hey, Nick, welcome to the show. How are you doing, man?

Nick Blevins: [00:00:11] I’m doing well. I feel like we finally have the weather here in Maryland that you get most of the year in Arizona.

Jason Hamrock: [00:00:18] Oh, and we’re on the cusp of being really, really, really hot. So…

Nick Blevins: [00:00:22] Yeah, we don’t get that, which is fine with me. But I like, you know, I like the warmer weather, summer is my favorite season, so I’m doing well. It’s coming.

Jason Hamrock: [00:00:29] Tell our audience where you’re located.

Nick Blevins: [00:00:30] I’m at a church north of Baltimore, Maryland, and we live a little bit even north of that at Community Christian Church, where I’m the Next Gen Pastor, and we helped start this church as a church plant 17 years ago.

Jason Hamrock: [00:00:41] Really? Okay. I forgot about that, that’s awesome.

Nick Blevins: [00:00:45] I remember it, it’s like I mean, Bart understands this church planting. Like, I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember making children’s ministry check-in tags at 1 a.m. before the church launched in seven hours or whatever. And it also feels like it was 40 years ago, like, I feel like I’ve aged much more than 17 years from the process.

Jason Hamrock: [00:01:06] Oh, man. But those are fun times, right? Like great memories.

Nick Blevins: [00:01:09] They were, it was awesome.

Jason Hamrock: [00:01:10] Yeah, that’s awesome. Well, tell the audience a little bit more about your story, how you ended up where you are today.

Nick Blevins: [00:01:16] Yeah, so I grew up attending church ever since I was two. I never intended to work for a church. It probably didn’t help that I married the pastor’s daughter, you know, like, and she didn’t think she was marrying anybody that was gonna be a pastor either. So, like, both of us did not think that was going to be our life. But as I was graduating college, working for Northrop Grumman Mission Systems as a systems administrator, like, I thought that was going to be my life doing project management or something like that, and I did love that. But in the young adult years, I just had different opportunities to lead at my home church and loved that, I really enjoyed it. Still didn’t think I was going to work for a church, in fact, when this church that I’m a part of, we heard about it, we had been praying about new church plants in our area. We felt like we needed more new churches that would reach people who were far from God. And so when we heard about this church, we thought maybe this is an answered prayer. Let’s check it out.

Nick Blevins: [00:02:05] And it was, like we went to the information meeting. It was like, oh my gosh, this is what we’ve prayed for for a year and a half. And they needed a kids pastor, part-time. I thought I might be able to do that, you know, I’ve mostly done youth ministry stuff. And at the time, my youth pastor had become a pastor in the area and asked me about being his youth pastor. So that was the first time that I ever thought about that and I was very intrigued by it. The only exception, though, was like the church he was at was a healthier, but still somewhat traditional church, kind of like what I’d come from, and I really was looking to be a part of something that was maybe different, you know. But that was the first time I had the idea that maybe I would like working for a church. And now I look back, you know, and think, oh my gosh, I can’t believe that I would have done anything else. Like, it’s been amazing.

Jason Hamrock: [00:02:52] It’s amazing how God’s, you know, his plan for your life really does play out when you just, you know, you’re obedient and you say, yes.

Nick Blevins: [00:02:59] Yep. It’s one of those few times where I feel like, yep, I do think God was calling us to this, which is really cool.

Jason Hamrock: [00:03:04] Yeah. So you have all these years of working in the church, and it brings us to the topic of today that we want to talk about, and that is you wrote a book, and the title of the book is The Volunteer Playbook for Churches. And I got to tell you, listening to the book, I was shaking my head going, darn it, I wish I had this book when I was on staff at my church. Because I worked in a church, and I was in communications, right, that’s my background. And we didn’t have a playbook for how you find, you know, recruit, you know, find them, recruit them, train them, engage with them, keep them, volunteers. It’s just, hey, you know, connect with these people because they want to volunteer. And then you’re like, well, okay, you know, and I failed at it because I didn’t really have a playbook. So talk to us a little bit about, you know, why did you write it, and who do you think it’s going to help? And just kind of go into the details of this new book that you wrote?

Nick Blevins: [00:04:03] Yeah. It’s like ten years in the making. You know, I think good writers probably don’t take ten years to write a book, but when you’re not super disciplined like myself, it took ten years. So in some ways, it even changed probably a little bit in terms of its goal or purpose or whatever. Originally it was, kind of like you said, I wish I’d had that playbook, you know when I started out. Most, I feel like 90% of the book is stuff I’ve learned from other leaders, right, like very little of it is new from me. But I wanted to put it all in one resource so that someone like myself could use that to recruit and build. And really, the original idea was kind of, you know, volunteerism is impacted by so many things in the church.

Nick Blevins: [00:04:44] I mean, hundreds of factors impact volunteers and whether positively or negatively. And a lot of times we think it’s just one thing, like, we just need one more announcement, we just need one ministry fair drive in the lobby, or we just need whatever it is. And those things can be good, but that’s one thing among hundreds of factors. And so the idea originally was how can I help church leaders build a healthy volunteer culture like from the ground up? But over the years, I actually made a course first before it was ever a book, so I got to experience how people engage with the content, and how they applied it in their church. And I learned I need to prioritize recruitment on the front end, get that going, and then they’ll have some time to focus on the rest. And so that’s kind of what the book became, was here’s how to recruit, you know, build your team a little bit. Now we can go to work on the foundation. Now we can build a structure that will help your team thrive. And then at the end, there’s kind of like some bonus recruitment ideas. It’s kind of the things that probably people want to use most, like the quick, easy answers. I saved this for the end, you know, like, let’s build the good foundation first, then those will be more effective.

Bart Blair: [00:05:49] I was just going to say, you know, I feel like you’re right. People want to get to the how-to before they really get to the why. And one of the things that you do unpack quite a bit in the book is the concept of culture and values and those sorts of things. And I think that a lot of church leaders, and ministry leaders fail to realize that you’re not just recruiting people or inviting people to do a certain job or a certain task, but you’re inviting them into a team and into a culture. And the more time and energy and effort that you can put into investing in the culture that you have in your volunteer teams, the easier it is to actually get people to say yes because the people who are serving feel appreciated and they’re growing in their faith and they feel like they’re contributing to something that matters. Why don’t you speak into that just a little bit?

Nick Blevins: [00:06:38] Sure. Yeah, and I feel like, so in some ways that was the core of the book in the beginning was like, let’s get your mission established, your vision, your strategy, your culture. Now let’s talk about roles and the structure, again, like building it, like if you’re building a house from the ground up. But I knew like that’s kind of boring and also not urgent, you know like nobody’s looking that up and thinking, this is going to help me this week, you know what I mean? So I put it in there.

Nick Blevins: [00:07:00] And here’s what’s funny, guys, I had no idea, but it’s a self-published book. I do strongly believe that if I had gone with like a traditional publisher, they had to cut that whole thing out. You know, they’d have been like, you know, but and part of me thought about that, too. But it’s like, is it a different book? It’s not that much, so, you know, it’s in there. But what you said is true, though culture especially is so important. Like if you start recruiting a bunch of people, but the team isn’t healthy, well, they’re just not going to last long, right? They’re going to come on and come off. If you recruit a bunch of people, and maybe it’s like, healthy, but it’s like kind of disorganized or it’s not clear what the purpose is, again, people just won’t stay long. And so culture is absolutely huge. I say that it’s not the most important of mission, vision, strategy, and culture, but it’s the one you feel the most. So like, in some ways it almost is the most important because like, if I went to your church this Sunday in 15 minutes, I would have a sense of the culture like, is this fun, is it loose, is it welcoming, is it formal, is it informal? And like, I wouldn’t know anything about your mission, vision, or strategy, but in 15 minutes, I probably have a good sense of the culture. And I feel like it’s the same with volunteer culture, so simple things like volunteers that wear the same shirts, or volunteer room where they get snacks and drinks and candy and can rest, or huddles like where volunteers get together for 30 minutes before the service. Things like that can help establish that healthy volunteer culture, where people get in and they’re like, oh, this is great. Like, I can’t believe I, you know, wasn’t part of this before. I mean and the, you know, the perfect scenario is where it’s so good people talk about it, you know what I mean? Like outside, you know, to other people that don’t serve yet, and then it just helps build. But if it’s bad, it’s all bad. You know what I mean? Like, if your culture’s not good, even the good things don’t seem good, right? Like it could be working fine, but the culture makes it feel worse.

Jason Hamrock: [00:08:48] So if I’m serving in a church and there is an unhealthy culture. What do I do about that?

Nick Blevins: [00:08:58] Good question, well, and there are probably levels to that. Like if the church culture is unhealthy, not just your ministry volunteer, and if the church culture is unhealthy, I do think it starts at the top. Like how do we help the church establish a new healthy culture? But what I think the actually the plan is, I’m going to say the plan, there’s a lot of things you can do, but what I would do, would be the same. The only difference is, am I doing it church-wide, or just within my ministry, within my volunteers? But I love the idea of establishing culture statements or values, as long as they’re not, like, boring or as, as Pat Lencioni would say, permission to play. Like, don’t use values like, people may hate that I say this, but as a church, don’t say we value the Bible and Jesus and prayer and evangelism. Like Patrick Lencioni would say, those are permission to play, you’re a church, and you should value those things. I like values that like, you know, I worked with a church where one of them was we give ministry away. Meaning we empower others to lead and decide and give ministry away. Or one of our church’s values is we’re not just consumers, we’re contributors. So we want to have this value that we don’t just come here to get, we also come here to give. Another one of ours is we own our own faith journey. Again, just trying to get people to get that.

Nick Blevins: [00:10:12] So I think if you can come up, like, Elevation Church is a church that has the code. I’m working with a church now, they have something they call house rules, and they’ve got seven of those. And you can, you know, come up with whatever you want. But like that church that has the house rules, for example, you can really sense it. Like I’ve read them before I ever got there, they have them on the wall, you know, in the one building at their one campus that I was at. And man, the pastor exhibits it completely, the staff, and you can just feel it. And it’s like and I think culture is ultimately the people, right? So like that’s going to happen whether you’re intentional or not, it’s just how we do things here is kind of how I say it. But you can if you can establish some statements and some values like they did, and repeat them over and over again, then you can kind of create the one you want.

Nick Blevins: [00:11:01] But the other part of the equation that’s much more complicated is you have to get rid of unhealthy parts of the culture, which sometimes means people, firing volunteers, or staff, which is not fun, nobody wants to talk about that. But like a healthy culture can’t happen if there are huge toxic portions of it, you know, that that we haven’t addressed. But I think most churches, fortunately, aren’t there they’re in the we just haven’t been clear about it, so it’s kind of become whatever it is. So if you can get clear about it, you know, establish some phrases, you know, and repeat them and use them regularly, celebrate when it happens, you’ll start to create the culture you want.

Jason Hamrock: [00:11:35] Yeah, Yeah. And I think that’s so true, especially when you recognize that there are certain ministries and people in those ministries, the staff people who are, the temptation is I’ll just do it myself, and I’m just going to program, program, program. And I was always fighting back going, no, you can’t do that, you got to hand it off and expect it to be maybe not as professional as you would like it to be, but it’s way more authentic. And in some churches, some people just have a hard time grasping it because I think they think it’s like, well, it’s job security. I got to have a really powerful program. And it’s, yeah, I don’t know about that. So yeah, otherwise, you’re going against what you’re saying in the book.

Nick Blevins: [00:12:20] Yeah. We said, I mean you’re speaking to like something that our staff has said, and I don’t remember if it’s our executive pastor or our lead pastor that first phrased this, but it’s really good. His idea was like, you’re leading volunteers, and you’re giving authority away, tasks, responsibilities. You have to be okay, that it’s going to be 80% at first, and if you can just get 80%, give it away. And the 80% is hard for a lot of us, especially people listening to this podcast. A lot of people listen to this podcast, create things, and they have, you know what I mean? And so there’s like, this, oh, 80%, I mean, 80% feels like a lot worse than what it sounds when we say it out loud. And I’ve witnessed it, you know, we’ve had our large group on our kid’s stage be 80% and it’s like, this feels like 40%, you know what I mean? And then over time, you just gotta remember we were 40% or whatever it once, you know, so you just got to get over time they learn, they develop, and now and my thing is I feel like a lot of times it can become 120% like it can get better than it was when we did it. But you just got to be patient, be willing to start. And I do think there’s some kind of floor, I don’t know if 80% is the right number. Like, yeah, don’t give it to somebody who’s not gifted at it at all. But you know, if they’re just like we were and they just need to grow, hand that thing off to a volunteer, help them develop and you know, it’ll get back to 100% or more. You just got to be okay with the 80% for a little while.

Jason Hamrock: [00:13:40] It’s a tough one.

Bart Blair: [00:13:41] Yeah, I think you got to assume, you know, if we just look at biblical principles about empowerment, I don’t think that the Apostle Paul was concerned about Timothy only being 80% the pastor he was, right? Like the Apostle Paul is the Apostle Paul and Timothy is not, right?

Nick Blevins: [00:13:56] Good luck. Good luck, Timothy.

Bart Blair: [00:13:57] Yeah. Yeah. So I think there are a couple of things at play when you have a strong culture of empowerment, which is that you also have to bring in a culture of improvement. So, people who are being empowered to do something, they’re given the reins and the opportunity to lead, to exercise their gifts and their talents, that’s great. But you also need to have a healthy culture of evaluation and a healthy culture of improvement. And, you know, Jason and I have the opportunity to sit alongside churches that are working to improve their church communications all the time. And, you know, you don’t improve if you don’t evaluate. And as ministry leaders, we know that one of the things that we’re called to do is equip the saints of the work for the ministry, and that’s not all just spiritual stuff. In the space of church comms and creativity, it is a matter of empowering people who have gifts and talents in the area of copywriting, of photography, of videography, of video editing, of songwriting, of, you know, social media, content creation, whatever the case might be. There are so many different places that, you know, Nick, you and I were talking offline before we started recording. And Jason, you and I have had a handful of conversations about this with other podcast guests, is that church communications leaders simply should do a better job of building teams of volunteers in their church to perform the work of the ministry. And it shouldn’t all fall on the shoulders and the pressure of that comms director. But Nick, you’re right on the money, the people that are listening to this podcast, the people that we sit across, zoom calls from day in, day out, they’re all really high achievers, they want to do things really, really well with excellence. And it’s partly because of the way that God has wired them, and part of it is because they want to serve their leaders well. Right? And they feel like if I don’t deliver 100% all the time, I’m not serving my leaders well. So I’ll get off that soapbox there. Yeah, you’re right, it is, it’s a stressful way to live, isn’t it?

Jason Hamrock: [00:16:06] Yeah, I did it for years, it’s hard.

Nick Blevins: [00:16:06] I’m putting you all on the spot. Out of ten comms directors, how many of them use volunteers well?

Jason Hamrock: [00:16:13] Oh, just guessing, maybe one.

Nick Blevins: [00:16:16] Maybe one? That’s what I thought. And part of that, right, part of that is probably because, unlike kids ministry, we always say kids ministry, you have to be some level of a good leader because you can’t be in every room, like, it’s just impossible. Student Ministry, depending on the size, you actually could have a room of 60 students, keep them in one big room, and you could handle it with, like, four volunteers. Not lead it well, but you can handle it, and that’s a lot of churches. Comms is like almost another level, because you’re creating things that many people consume, but one person could…You could almost and again, I don’t think it’s good, but you could almost get by with just you, never using a volunteer. And that’s probably not good for the church, but you can get it done, right?

Jason Hamrock: [00:16:49] You could. And actually anything operation-wise, right, accounting, HR, or IT, or anything on that side of the house. That’s why I said, when I was on that side of the house, I never had a playbook. So I’m just like, darn it, I wish I would have had this playbook. And I’m telling you, comm directors, you need to get this book because there is talent in your congregation that God has gifted and you’re not tapping into it. I’m telling you, it’s just it’s stressful to stay at that high level all the time. It’s much easier to keep it down to 80%. By the way, most people don’t even recognize or notice it. None of the kids notice. You know, it used to be better back when you guys had your program in, and now that you got volunteers doing it, I don’t know if like this says the fourth grader. Never, ever, ever, right, they don’t care about that. So come down a little bit and be realistic.

Nick Blevins: [00:17:43] Yeah. And I would imagine, I mean, like, I was thinking about what you said, that there’s all this untapped potential in terms of gifts and skills that don’t get used if you’re not leveraging volunteers on that side of the house. And we’ve seen it in our church, where it’s benefited other ministries. So, for example, with our church, we’re not the size where every ministry can get the talent and skill of our comms and graphics and all of that. But because of volunteers, they kind of do, on the social media side, even on the graphics side. One of our volunteers actually moved out of state, you know, she lived here in Maryland and was part of our church for the longest time. She leads our kid’s social media. She does all that, and she moved to Nashville. And I don’t know how long this is going to last, but she still does our kid’s social media as a volunteer. And she’s very particular about it, like, I don’t think she could ever hand it off at 80%, guys, she’s very particular about it. But it’s great because like her percentage is, I mean she took it from our 20 and, you know, raised it to 120 or something like that. Yeah, but that’s an example of some people love that, and don’t even know, I mean she’s probably not even spending two hours a week. And you know, at one point I gave her the freedom when she was leaving, it’s like, you know, you might probably want to do this for whatever church you’re going to be a part of there. But she’s like, no, I want to keep it for now. Like, I’m not fighting it because it’s amazing, so if you want to do it. But that’s an example of, like, if we weren’t using volunteers, what would happen is it just wouldn’t even happen, we wouldn’t have separate kids social that was well done, and all those things and volunteers have made that possible.

Jason Hamrock: [00:19:05] You know, there’s something else that I think is important. When I was on staff at my church, we kind of went from you’re a member, to, and we kind of scratched that word because it felt exclusive, we said, you’re an owner. You’re an owner of this church. And that’s true, right? Because the church is a body of believers, and because we give to it, we’re an owner of it. And so that really levels the playing field from staff to volunteers, we’re all equal. And when you can mentally go there with, this is just my observation, when you mentally go there, that empowers people that they’re an owner of it. And they’re going to bring more than just, oh, I don’t have to, I’m a volunteer, I choose not to show up today. Yeah, well, then you’re failing the business that you own, right? And so that’s just a kind of a cool way to look at it.

Nick Blevins: [00:19:53] Yeah, that’s like the think like an owner, not a renter. You know, it’s like one of those phrases that it’s in another book, I believe, that’s great about volunteers. And, you know, actually, one of our staff values is to think like an owner for that same reason. Because like it’d be easy as a staff person in whatever department to overlook something. Whereas if you thought like an owner, you wouldn’t overlook anything, like, you’d care about that piece of trash.

Nick Blevins: [00:20:13] Do you all know who Jeff Henderson is? He used to be one of the campus pastors of North Point and he’s written some great books. One time when I got to interview Jeff Henderson for my podcast, we were walking, they’re doing construction in the building there to expand the student space. And we’re walking, we’re going to do this interview at the Gwinnett Church building, and we’re walking from one place to the other. And Jeff, you know, leans over and picks like up a mint wrapper off the ground. And I happen to know from knowing Jeff a little bit, and other people that know him, that that’s just who he is, like, he’s talked about that kind of thing. But it was fun for me to see it in action. Like Jeff was the owner, I mean, he was the pastor of that campus, but he would do that even if he was the lowest level, so to speak, the employee in the whole organization, because he always thought like an owner, you know, and I think that’s important. And here’s the thing, I guess, a lot of owners do do everything which is not great, but a good owner doesn’t. Right? And so, to think like an owner is also how can I empower volunteers?

Bart Blair: [00:21:05] Dave Ramsey uses the term treadmill operator for the owner who does everything. When you’re a treadmill operator, you’re on a treadmill and that thing runs and you can never get off. And you leave the treadmill when you actually have the opportunity to begin empowering other people to do some of the things that you do training, equipping, and think the same thing is true in ministry, right? If you’re the one doing all the work all the time, it’s like being on a treadmill because Sunday is always coming. There hasn’t been a week yet since our calendar was invented that we just skip to Sunday. You know, we skip a February 29th every, you know, every four years in a row.

Nick Blevins: [00:21:45] Every three out of four years.

Bart Blair: [00:21:45] Yeah, right. Yeah, three out of four years. But we don’t skip Sundays, even if it falls on a Sunday, they just move the day, and it’s still a Sunday. Right? So there’s the, you know, the tyranny of the urgent, and I think there’s just a lot of wisdom in what you’re saying there. Nick. I want to push into something else in the book. I’m just going to say, I’ve only read the first half. I’ve already recommended it to about 28 different people.

Nick Blevins: [00:22:12] I appreciate it.

Bart Blair: [00:22:12] Just because here’s why I think people need to get the book, because it is really, really practical. You do, you obviously lead the children’s ministry, and family ministries in your church. But what our listeners don’t know, because you didn’t mention this earlier, is that you also oversee the digital strategies in your church. And so that’s actually how we know each other because we meet regularly and talk about your digital strategies as a church. So you have your head and your your hands around a lot of different things. The first half of the book, which I’m about maybe 60% of the way through, so far is really practical in terms of establishing a culture, recruitment, and ways that we’re getting volunteers to serve on our team. I haven’t read the last 40% of the book yet, so maybe I’m going somewhere with it that you don’t go, but I want to ask you this question. If I have volunteers that I’m leading, if I have a team, how do I effectively shepherd and lead that team so I don’t lose that team? Or are we going to get there in the book?

Nick Blevins: [00:23:16] Oh, that’s good. Not really.

Bart Blair: [00:23:18] No? Okay.

Bart Blair: [00:23:19] It’s because, and well, two reasons. One, I would say that a lot of things in the book are designed so that if you can build this healthy system and strategy, people aren’t going to leave because a lot of these elements go into that. But the other reason is because some friends of mine, Darren Kaiser and Christine Kreischer, wrote a great book called Stop Recruiting, Start Retaining all about volunteer retention. And so part of me felt like there’s a great resource out there on that, which I know that’s a thing where it’s like, you should always write a book, even if there’s one out there. But in my mind, I thought that could have been like another 2 or 3 chapters. But I was like why do that when there’s a better resource? But we could certainly talk about it.

Nick Blevins: [00:23:54] I think, because some parts of the book certainly do get into that, I think a lot of times you lose people because of a bad culture. And we talked about that, an unhealthy culture. I think unclear expectations are another way we lose people. You know, like, hey, we said the role was this and then it turned out to be huge and it was this. Or we said the role was this, and it’s not that it’s a bigger role, but you’re not sure what’s supposed to be happening here and so every week you leave feeling like you lost, like, that didn’t feel like a good day. You know what I mean, whatever that ministry is, like, you’re missing deadlines on the comms side, or something’s not working right, nobody likes that feeling. You know, it’d be like if you were the preacher, and every preacher knows you got messages where you are like, that was a dud, you know? And then and of course, with preaching, it’s funny because sometimes it’s like that changed somebody’s life, you know? But you don’t want that every Sunday. No team wants to leave feeling like, did we do well? Did that work? That felt like a failure. So I think healthy culture, clear expectations.

Nick Blevins: [00:24:50] But then the other element that is talked about in the book, but not in a large capacity is probably care. You know are we, and the structure section of the book actually gets at that, it’s the idea that if you have more than ten volunteers, you probably need a structure where some volunteers are leading other volunteers. And I’ll tell you one story is an example of this. We’ve had that for years because I’ve learned that from some great mentors like Jim Wideman. We didn’t have it in the beginning, but a few years in, we started putting in a structure of volunteer coaches who led other volunteers. And it was great, it was so helpful. You know, we were able to have 150 volunteers and, you know, they didn’t all report to one person, you know what I mean? They reported to coaches, who reported to a director, and then those volunteer directors reported to me. Well, years down the road, we’ve got multiple staff in kids at this point. We’ve got this volunteer kid room, which is a popular thing in some children’s ministries where if you’re a volunteer and your kid’s there for two services, they can go to the volunteer kid room for the other service, and it’s just fun. Like, they go to the kid’s ministry in one service, and they go to that kid room. Well, we’ve had different volunteers lead in there because it was kind of like an additional item which comms directors understand this, like a lot of the volunteers you have, where do they fit cleanly? You know, it’s going to be tough, like could that be video, and that could be social media. So like, how do they all work together? Well, that didn’t fit cleanly under any of our coaches. Because our coaches were small group leader coaches or large group leader coaches, there was no such thing as a volunteer kid’s room coach, you know what I mean? So what happened was the staff person was leading that team directly. Well, like you would expect, they got lots of things going on. And so they weren’t leading that group of volunteers really well, they weren’t meeting with them one on one like they’re supposed to. And that’s not just their fault, that’s just how all of us do because it feels lower on the priority. Anyway, our short-term solution was, let’s go ahead and put that person under the coach who leads in elementary at that service, it’s not clean, but at least they’ll have somebody to care for them. During the first two weeks, the coach does a great job, has a one-on-one, meets with her, and finds out that her dad had just passed away two weeks earlier. Nobody knew. Nobody knew, partially because she’s introverted, and she just wasn’t one of the things she was going to go tell people. Partially because she hadn’t really established a great relationship maybe with the other leaders in the room, but mainly because nobody was there to care and know. And so putting him in that position and him using his strengths, and meeting with her, was so needed and that could have totally gotten missed, and it probably has been missed in other ways. So I think that that care, and it doesn’t have to be you, that’s the difference. Like if you’re the comms director and you’ve got lots of volunteers, which obviously probably isn’t most comms directors, but as you build it, be thinking about how am I meeting with people one on one, not about comms. How are you doing? What’s going on in your life? How’s your son’s soccer team doing? You know, what’s how’s your relationship with God? What are you praying about lately? Like those kinds of things, the way I say it is like, refill the tank, you know, for people that helps them stick for the long haul. So I think those are some ideas.

Jason Hamrock: [00:27:55] That’s so good. What percentage should…Well, that’s pretty mean, so for children’s ministries, and student ministries, what percentage of their time should be spent on focusing on the volunteers?

Nick Blevins: [00:28:09] Oh, good question, I would say 80. Like, I would go high, real high. Like, I don’t think it’s that high actually, for most people because if you think like you take a children’s ministry for example. Now there are different versions, I mean, if your church is 5000, that’s different than if you’re 500. But if you’re a church of 500, 100 kids, you’re the children’s pastor, maybe you’ve got 40, 50 volunteers or something like that. And some people, see the numbers are funny to share because somebody’s listening going, I wish I had that many volunteers, and somebody else is going, I got double that number of volunteers. Like, it all depends on how often they serve. But I think a lot of kids pastors, if they looked at their week, would be like, this chunk of time is meetings, which I understand some of that is not our decision. this chunk of time is prepping the curriculum, this chunk of time is scheduling volunteers, this chunk of time is getting the large group thing ready, and this chunk of time is working on an event. And I think in reality, volunteers get 5%.

Jason Hamrock: [00:29:01] Yeah, they get squashed out.

Nick Blevins: [00:29:01] They get an email, you know, you talk to them a little bit when you see them. And I think, this might sound pie in the sky, 80% might be high just because of the other things you have to do that aren’t your decision, meetings, and things like that. but 50 to 60 for sure. You know, and then here’s where it gets even more healthy, I think. but also complicated is if you were the children’s pastor in a church of 100 don’t spend 50% of your time with 50 volunteers. Spend 40% of your time with ten volunteers that are like your leaders, and then let them spend time with the rest. Right? And then you still have time with all of them, but it’s you know, this isn’t new, this is kind of like Jesus using 12 disciples and 3 that he focused on more, and then there was a bunch of followers after that. Or Exodus 18, right, Moses learns from his father-in-law how to have leaders of tens instead of fifties and hundreds. So I feel like it’s a biblical principle, it’s kind of been, it’s not been hijacked, but it’s more popular in the business world, you know, to have structure and things like that. But I feel like it’s a biblical thing, and most staff don’t spend enough time investing in leading and volunteers, and we spend too much time doing. And I’m sure that’s true in comms, too.

Nick Blevins: [00:30:14] And I’m guilty of that. Like when I took that over in our world, my first thought wasn’t who do I need to get? You know, my first thought was, what do I want this to become? What do we need to change or tweak? But quickly, especially with what’s on my plate, it was like, oh, no, oh no, I need some help. I need some help, you know?

Jason Hamrock: [00:30:33] Yeah. And you also notice that possibly that stellar volunteer could be the next elder. So just…

Nick Blevins: [00:30:42] Oh yeah, totally. We have, we have multiple, I mean real quick off the top of my head, 40% probably of our staff came from internal. And well, actually that’s not true, all but one of our staff was hired from within the church, but 40% of them were like volunteers who became leaders and then coaches and then became staff. So, yeah, and some of them are, one of them is an elder now.

Jason Hamrock: [00:31:05] That was me.

Nick Blevins: [00:31:07] Yeah, and that’s just healthy, right? It’s just biblical.

Bart Blair: [00:31:11] It is, and it’s one of those things that really helps your church maintain a healthy culture because you’re hiring people, and you’re bringing people on to staff who already know and get your culture. One of the things that I was going to just kind of point out, we’re going to land the plane here in just a minute, But as you were talking about that investment in the volunteers on that personal level, I think, you know, we’re in 2023, three years ago we were in the middle of the COVID pandemic at this time. And in many conversations that I had with church members, and church leaders, one of the things that was really highlighted in the pandemic was the fact that many ministry leaders were not personally invested in the people that served with them, because as soon as they stopped showing up to do the ministry, the relationships were kind of completely gone. Like all of a sudden people are watching church from their couch at home, and the staff is putting on whatever they’re putting on the video on Facebook or YouTube or, you know, church online platform. And all of a sudden these volunteers who had been there every single week were like invisible. And I think that as a leader, that’s got to be a gut check.

Bart Blair: [00:32:25] I know I was guilty of this when I first went into ministry. I went from a corporate job into ministry, and I was so focused on getting the job done that I often neglected the people. I prioritized the production over the people. And I, I got called out for it once, and it changed a lot for me. It was a very, very humbling moment. I will never forget it, when this guy that I was leading his wife said to me, you prioritize the production over people. And I was like, holy smokes, that’s the most harsh thing anybody has ever said to me, but it’s 100% true. And I had to yeah, I had to wear it, and it, you know, it changed a lot for me in terms of my approach to ministry and the way that I lead people and build teams. Now, not saying that I’m perfect by any stretch of the imagination and I’m not the hero of the story, but that was a moment of complete humility or humbling or shame. I can’t tell you, I felt I felt shame in that moment.

Nick Blevins: [00:33:31] Well, it’s like a tension to manage too, because it’s not, you know, terrible production, and we’re great at caring for volunteers. It’s also, you know what I mean? Like, it’s a tension, you got to manage and find the just right. And then there’s, you know, let’s just be honest, there are volunteers where it’s like because of what’s going on in their life, they are a ministry more than being able to help you as a ministry. And we all have been there, we’re all ministries, you know, at some point and most of our life. And so there are also times where it’s like, oh yeah, this isn’t actually working. This is like going back to the culture thing we mentioned, like you on the team right now, not healthy for this team and for you. So could somebody could look from the outside and say you’re prioritizing the production or the ministry over the volunteer, and that’s not necessarily true, so it’s just that tough tension to manage. But you’re right, I would say far more often we have leaned on the production, producing content, whatever it is’s side, and people have taken a back seat. And it’s always those people that are volunteers that, you know, we should be closest to, it should get some of the best of our time. A lot of times they don’t, we just take them for granted, that’s probably the way I would say it, and that’s not a good thing.

Jason Hamrock: [00:34:35] Well, we better wrap this up, Nick, just real quick. How can people get their hands on this book?

Nick Blevins: [00:34:41] If they go to, it just redirects to a page on my site, that’s probably the best way. I mean, you get it on Amazon and you can, you know, print, digital, audible, I think you said you were listening to it. Recording that for Audible by the way was very challenging technically, even for a podcaster like myself who thought I was set, you know, had the gear and the whole thing. But it’s out there and actually, if you get the Kindle version, you can get a free version of the audio. So like you just want a two-for-one that way. But the reason I say volunteer is because there are other resources I give away. It is supposed to be like if you get the book, you get them, but I don’t know how to check that, so they’re just all there. So even if you don’t buy the book, you can get some of those free resources that go with each chapter.

Bart Blair: [00:35:23] All right. Yeah, I do want to mention that that is actually part of my own personal promo as I’ve been selling the book for you, and hopefully, a few people have bought a copy, is that you do you have a lot of resources on the website that you refer to in the book? One of the ones that stood out to me was volunteer job descriptions, right? Like, just some sample job descriptions and other things, so some really great resources for you there. Nick, in addition to serving in your local church and having written a book, you have a podcast, and you have some other ministry stuff that you do. Can you just kind of give us a quick flyby on some of that?

Nick Blevins: [00:35:58] Sure. Yeah, I host The Family Ministry podcast. It’s been, I think, seven years now.

Jason Hamrock: [00:36:04] Wow.

Nick Blevins: [00:36:07] The number of episodes doesn’t equal seven years times 52 or whatever, but that’s been fun. The Kids Ministry, the Student Ministry, and Family Ministry overall. Like I get to, like it kind of goes against the idea that you should have a real focused audience on your podcast. But I love it, so that’s like my world, so I love that we get to talk teenagers one week and preschool and then parents and, you know, and bounce around. And then we started a company called Ministry Boost about five years ago, this course was the beginning actually of Ministry Boost, it was the first course before it was ever a book because it was easier to make a course than it was to make a book, by the way. And, we have 30 courses, a bunch of resource bundles, and some of the resources, like when you get some of the resources in the book, you’re actually using our course platform to get access to some of that. And it’s kind of funny because the book, one of my business partners that owns Ministry Boost with me was talking, he and I were talking about it, there are probably like seven courses represented in the book. You know, like there are certain chapters where that’s a course by itself, and that’s a course by itself, and then there’s like those four chapters another course. And so that’s been kind of fun, you know, to see them be courses, but then also the book. And now I’ve created a new course called Volunteer Leadership that kind of gets at whatever remaining content wasn’t already a course. And people learn in different ways, so I’m just excited. I was really excited about the book because I feel like, you know, courses cost more money, that’s one way people learn. But a lot of people love to learn through books, it’s cheaper, and has a better reach. And I just want as many church leaders as possible to be able to build healthy volunteer teams. So I’m excited that it’s out there finally after ten years.

Jason Hamrock: [00:37:42] Well, thank you, my friend. I appreciate you and your ministry and helping so many people, and keep up the good work, right, don’t let up at all.

Nick Blevins: [00:37:52] Yeah, well, hopefully, maybe if I’m going to write another book it will not take ten years. Thank you for what you all do, I’m a big evangelist for Missional Marketing, I talk about you to everybody. Especially. I mean, there are so many churches that are not leveraging digital. Some are, like, not well at all, but some are, like, I would say with social media or their website, but then there’s that whole other world that you guys helped with that you have done tremendous work for us for. Actually, you guys will like this story, this is funny. At my end-of-year review last year, one of the questions we asked, so I had to answer this question to my pastor, you know, what is your biggest contribution to the church in the last year? My answer was helping our digital strategy reach more people online through our website and get more visitors. And I said I hesitated to put this because it’s hard to measure. Like, you guys know, you can measure the clicks on the website and all that, but it’s hard to know exactly how many of these people showed up or watched online or whatever. But you can measure some things, and so in my mind, you helped us really grow that, and we did see some success from it. We get people all the time now, how’d you find us? Google, your website, you know, like that is growing. Like, invited from another person is still probably the biggest, but man one shrinking while the other one’s growing. And so anyway he thought that was funny because he just doesn’t live in this world, he thought for sure I’d have picked something else on the list. But I was like, hey, maybe it’s not, but like if it’s working even a fraction of what I think it is, you’re talking about that many more people through the doors every week as we’re trying to help people find their way back to God. I don’t think there is anything, you know, that’s been more significant last year. But for someone like him that doesn’t live in that world, he just thought that was kind of funny. Like, are you sure? Are you sure? I don’t know, it wasn’t like this over here, you know, something more tangible or whatever? And I’m like, I don’t think so. I think, I don’t know, but if this is working a little bit like I think it is, this might have been the biggest factor. And of course, you guys were a huge part of it. So thanks.

Jason Hamrock: [00:39:42] Well, thank you, and you’re welcome. Yeah, it’s our pleasure.

Bart Blair: [00:39:47] Speaking of being an evangelist for Missional Marketing, if you’re listening to this podcast or you’re watching on our YouTube channel, we’d love for you to give us a thumbs up on YouTube, and leave us a comment. And if you haven’t left a rating or review wherever your favorite podcasting platform is, make sure that you do that. You know how the algorithms of the interwebs work, and that will help more people find the content. So share it with somebody, maybe you need to share it with your pastor or your executive pastor or other volunteer leaders or ministry leaders in your church. We appreciate Nick, and we appreciate those of you who have tuned in to this week’s episode, and with that, we’re out of here.

Nick Blevins: [00:40:24] Thanks, guys.

Free Church Growth Tools

Deliver More Google Search Traffic to Your Church Website

Lady pointing across her body
Use This First! arrow pointing to the first tool
Map rolled at the edges with a local pin
Local SEO Report
Grant certificate
Google Grant Eligibility Checker
Outreach to young people
Millennial Content Analyzer Tool
SEO magnifying glass
Keyword Analyzer Tool
Monitor with graph showing improvement
Homepage SEO Audit Report
Broken monitor
Website Downtime Alerts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *