I once heard a pastor friend of mine describe the difference between Apple and PC as this. Using an Apple product is like driving an automatic car, it’s what most of the population needs. Using a PC is like driving a stick shift, it does much more but is more complicated that what the majority of people need.
When speaking of volunteer management, what you really need is simple ministry, not easy ministry. Don’t mistake simple ministry for being easy and don’t mistake easy ministry for being simple. There’s a stark difference.
I’d like to share with you the difference between simple ministry and easy ministry. The difference is stark but still easy to miss.
Normally, ministry isn’t simple or easy, it’s just hard, it’s difficult. Ministry doesn’t get easier—for ministry leaders or for volunteers. Technology gets easier to use but ministry stays tough.
No one said ministry would be easy, right? Ministry certainly wasn’t easy for Old Testament Prophets like Moses, Daniel, or Elijah. Ministry wasn’t easy for John the Baptist, Peter, or Paul. It wasn’t easy for Jesus.
Ministry isn’t easy. It probably never will be.
If it was easy, everyone would do it, everyone could do it.
Simple vs Easy
Easy and simple are not the same thing. There’s a big difference.
Easy means something doesn’t take work. Simple means something is not complex or easy to understand.
The most simple things are the most powerful. When the iPhone was first released, people wondered why there wasn’t a USB port. After all, USB is used across all kinds of devices. Including a USB port and all the other features contained in different phones at the time would have made the iPhone incredibly complex. Easy to connect and easy to adapt, but incredibly complex to use well.
On the other hand, keeping it simple means it loses flexibility. Just like an automatic car has limited capacities compared to a stick shift car. Simple ministry is losing flexibility but making it a better experience for the majority of people.
Easy is not having an application process for prospective volunteers. Simple is having an application process that’s communicated upfront and relevant to the role the volunteer is applying to. See the difference?
Here are three steps you can take toward making your ministry simple.
Simple Ministry Means Fewer Things
Fewer things means not only fewer actual things to own, but more importantly, it means fewer programs to manage. An abundance of programs is one of the most dangerous things a ministry can do. It’s not long before a ministry starts cannibalizing itself of resources and starts to compete with itself.
Simple Ministry Means Strategic Communications
Put together a focus group of your volunteers, not just the hardcore ones, but a slice of all of your volunteers. How often do they want to be communicated to? In what ways? What do they want to know about your church? Then, take a day with your staff team and plan out what communication should look like.
Don’t just look at your email or newsletter communication, look at how processes and physical things communicate. What are you communicating with the way your entrance looks? Is it welcoming? What are you communicating with your student ministry names? Is it confusing? What are you communicating with your volunteer onboarding process? Do you value volunteers?
If you need improvement in your church’s communication strategy, start by reading this post by Tony Morgan.
Simple Ministry Means Prioritizing Ruthlessly
Don’t you like to say no? Let me put it this way, don’t you like to say yes? In my current role, I’ve had the opportunity to hire dozens of individuals for seasonal jobs. A coworker asked me if it’s difficult saying no to someone. It’s actually not, but only because I have my eyes on the bigger prize. Saying no to someone who should not be in the role means that I get to say yes to someone who should be. You need to understand the opportunity cost of your decisions.
Saying no to those extra programs means that you get to say yes to those ministries that are in alignment with your organization’s objectives. Keep that in mind as you prioritize ruthlessly.
There are plenty of volunteers who want to serve. Keep them around and keep them equipped well by making ministry simple, not easy.