Healthy relationships, functional systems, continual flexibility and consistent equipping are essential elements when building a volunteer environment.  However, if you fail to include development as a part of your volunteer plan, you will still feel the breeze of an open back door.  Larry Osborne put it best in his book Sticky Church, “If left alone, the back door never closes itself.  We have to intentionally slam it shut.”  Development is the final key that helps ensure a high retention rate with volunteers on your team.

The beauty of a healthy volunteer environment is seeing two things happen at once.  First – volunteers are able to produce great results for the organization; they help make a winning team.  Second – volunteers experience some level of lasting impact internally; the individual is changed for the better.  We as leaders must tend to the work of building individuals and building teams.

A mentor and friend of mine, Miles Welch, put it this way, “Volunteers can show up on an org chart under a name, but the person developing them is the person who is really leading them.”  When you do the hard work of developing people, you build a bond that is not easily broken…you are create a long-term volunteer.

Here are 3 things to keep in mind when it comes to development:

Development Adds Value to the Person – As leaders, our role is to help the team and organization rise.  Development first adds value to the person, without immediate payoff for the organization.  We have the ability to add value or extract value from volunteers.  Extracting value is when are satisfied only with people showing up and doing what they are told.  Adding value is when we help people find the place where they can be fully engaged and unleash their full potential.  Learn to play the long-game…adding value to the person will, in time, add great value to the team.

Development is Transformational in nature – Equipping (as covered in my previous post) is transactional in nature – handing over the tools to get the job done.  Development is transformational in nature – it creates personal growth within the individual.  Development is unique because it is hard to see in a moment or a meeting yet it is impossible to miss over time.  The evidence of development is transformation…that a person actually changes (for the better)!

Develop people for Advancement – The heart of development is to help people reach their full potential.  Part of the journey involves helping people find their place of maximized effectiveness for the Kingdom.  We want to help people find their perfect place to serve – even if it is not on our team.  Develop people for advancement whether that advancement means greater responsibility on your team or a transition to a new area.  Yes, you will end up sending out some great volunteers – but you will also find yourself raising up champions for your team along the way.