How to Create a Core Volunteer Team

Carl Barnhill

In order to see growth in your ministry, you have to raise up leaders. The days of you being a one-man-show have to be long gone. You must work yourself out of as many jobs as you possibly can.

One major step in doing this is developing a core group of volunteer leaders that are responsible for bit-sized pieces of your ministry.


At Newspring, we formed a core group of 10 leaders that led teams that had ownership and responsibility in regard to new volunteers, the execution of a Sunday and building our volunteer culture. One of these leaders, as a joke, even gave this core team the nickname the “G10”, after the “G8” world leader summits. The name stuck and we even made a “G10” logo and had T-Shirts made.


So where do you start?
Here is a 9-step strategy for creating a dynamic Core Volunteer Team:

1. Create a Team Org Chart first.


You want to establish the structure of your team before you have names attached. This allows for you to build your ministry around a solid structure and not around people (that could move or leave your ministry unexpectedly).

2. Create Job Descriptions for each Team Leader.
Have clear expectations and goals for each leadership position. Don’t make it seem like a 40 hour per week job, but do give clear direction as to the vision behind this role. It doesn’t even have to be long. The simpler and more practical you can make these, the better. Also, leave a lot to their freedom and creativity. For example, for an Events Team Leader my only major expectations was to have one small monthly event and one large quarterly event. That was about it. It didn’t really matter to me what we did or when, I just wanted to see people on our team hang out together.


You can download a few of my FREE Team Leader job descriptions here:

3. Pray and seek advice about who should fill each leadership role.
This is important. Once you have your structure in place, ask your staff co-workers who they think, from your Production team, might be good for the roles you want to fill. Chances are, you’re probably going to come up with some of the same names. Also, spend some time praying about these names. Ask God if they are right to take on a leadership role on your team. Think through it. Ask yourself, will this person help us multiply and grow? Would they also help develop leaders? Can I trust them to get stuff done or will I have to spend time hand-holding?

4. Meet with each leader one-on-one to pitch the role to them.
Plan a lunch or a meeting with each potential leader to cast vision and pitch to them taking a core position on your team. This is a great opportunity to take an intern or other young leader with you to watch you as you do this. Be sure to cast vision as to what the role is. Go through your job description and expectations for what you’re asking of them. Ask them to pray about serving in the role. Give them a time you’d like to know their answer by. Be faithful to follow up with them.

5. Meet with your core leaders regularly.
Once you have all your leaders in their roles, bring them together to meet on a regular basis. I suggest about once a month at first and then move to once every two months or once a quarter. Let these meetings be a time where you cast vision and be there only to help. Let them come up with ideas, let them lead the meetings, let them lead their teams how they want. You just steer the ship. This group should be self sufficient. Don’t let them be dependent on you or you’re missing the point of raising up leaders.

6. Show them how you do it. 
Have them observe you in action doing the part of your ministry that you are passing off to them. During this time, tell them why you do certain things. Tell them why you say certain things. Cast vision as to the meaning behind why this part of the team exists and why it’s important. Be careful not to give them a list of rules or make it where it has to be done how you do it. Give them freedom to make it their own. You’re passing the baton to them, don’t have such a firm grasp that they can’t run with it. Give it up. Let them flourish in their role and you be there to support and help them.

7. Be with them the first few times on a task.
When passing pieces of your ministry off to your leaders, be present the first few times you let them do it. Be there as a coach and as a massive encouragement for them. Give them pointers and specific things they can do better.

8. Empower them. 
After you’re with them the first few times on a task, let them do it! Leave them alone! If you’re there every time, they will use you as a crutch and won’t feel the weight of their role. Also, just you’re with your prescence, people look to you as their leader. Get out of the room! Leave.


Another note here is once you delegate, give your leader the authority and don’t undermine it. Meaning, if you have a leader in place, and someone comes and asks you a question that pertains to that area, most of the time, you need to divert their attention to your leader. For example, if someone were to ask me, “Carl, how are we executing this piece of the service today?” I could answer them, but it’s more powerful for the team if I diverted that question to our Video Producer. So my response would be, “Matthew is the Video Producer today, that’s a great question to ask him.” You can even give a wink. It’s okay if they know what you’re doing.

9. Challenge them to multiple themselves.
From the initial pitch for taking a leadership role on your team, you should challenge your leaders to multiply themselves. I would even consider keeping your core team fairly small. I had 10. My plan was to keep this number at 10 and rotate people in and out every six months or so. This kept my sphere of influence small enough that I could spend more time with less people. This also allows volunteer leaders to not get to a place of entitlement. Cast the vision early that you want them to raise up someone to take their place. Keep after them- if you’re not seeing someone under their wing that they are pouring into, you need to challenge and give them goals to do so.

So a couple of themes in this strategy that I want to make sure you see:
1. The point of raising up leaders and forming your Core Team is to give away pieces of your ministry. Give them authority, empower them, and let them go. You can always come in and steer the team a different direction if you see something going off-course. After all, it’s not really your ministry, it’s God’s. He has entrusted you with this team. You should constantly be working yourself out of a job. You must leave a legacy where the ministry is not dependent on you. It should grow and flourish without you.
2. Create a culture of multiplication. Train your team to pour into each other, to teach each other, to raise up young leaders, to multiply themselves. If each of your leaders know that it’s not about them, it’s about creating opportunities for other people, you’re going to see massive growth on your team.

This strategy works. I’ve seen volunteer numbers double and triple at the churches I’ve served by using these simple techniques. You can do this!


What other techniques or strategies have you used when creating your Core Volunteer Team?

About Carl Barnhill

Owner, Church Visuals

Carl Barnhill is a creative entrepreneur, motion designer and author. He is the Owner Church Visuals, a company that helps Ministry Leaders visually communicate the Gospel. He is the host of the Your Visuals Matter Podcast. You can find him in Columbia, South Carolina with his wife, Katie and two sons, Jacob and Wesley.

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