5 Things I Learned From Visiting Lifepoint Church On a Sunday @VisitLifepoint

lifepointA couple weeks ago I shared two posts about what I had learned from time spent with two churches (Connexus | Browncroft). My time spent with both of them was during the week with their staff, not on a Sunday experiencing their services.

Last month I visited Lifepoint Church, a multisite church in Virginia, on Sunday morning to learn from them. Lifepoint started just 10 years ago and now average over 4000 people each weekend in attendance. My primary focus was learning from their children’s ministry, but I also wanted to learn anything and everything about how they operate. It was a great experience and here are just 5 of the things I learned.

Smart, Healthy, Growing Churches Learn From Other Churches

During my visit I asked tons of questions of course, and a few times I learned about other churches Lifepoint is learning from. As a multisite church of 3 locations that wants to regularly launch new campuses and improve how they do it, they’re learning from another church that has over 10 locations. They also learn from another church they have a relationship with and are very similar to in terms of strategy. Our staff is expected to visit 2 churches a year and I think it is one of the best ways we can get better as leaders and as churches.

Values Are Powerful In Shaping Culture

Lifepoint has 12 values as a church. Now, 12 is a lot. I wouldn’t be surprised if staff couldn’t name all 12. But, during my visit I observed a couple volunteer circle ups and they talked about one of the values, something they do each month. The value they talked about that month was we give ministry away. It’s a great value talking about the importance of empowering volunteers to get involved and own ministry themselves.

Language shapes culture. That’s true in people groups and in organizations. Having defined language and a system for teaching it allows them to create the culture they desire. Whether or not people memorize all the values is probably not that important.

Churches Can Be Far More Volunteer-Driven Than We Think

I first heard of Lifepoint a number of years ago when Tony Morgan blogged about their unusually high percentage of people volunteering and unusually low ratio of staff to attenders. Those two work hand in hand obviously, and I saw that in action. They ask BIG of volunteers and empower them accordingly. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say they have volunteer roles where 10 hours/week is the expectation. I personally believe a huge part of their rapid growth is tied to how much they empower volunteers and give ministry away.

We Can Cast Vision Through Repetition In Messages

Pastor Daniel used multiple phrases in his message that were clearly communicating the vision of what they want Lifepoint to be. Just last week I watched their 10-year celebration service online and he used one of those same phrases again. I suspect they’re used often, and like the values, they help cast a vision for who they want to be as a church.

Great Systems Create Great Consistency

Lifepoint has strong systems. They believe in what Andy Stanley says, that “systems create behaviors”. I asked a lot of questions about how they do different things and most of them came back to a system and most of those systems were managed by volunteers. I plan to write more about systems here soon and I was reminded of what great systems can do for an organization.

Those were just 5 of the things I learned from Lifepoint. They have excellent leadership, an awesome staff, a kingdom mindset, a generous nature and a bright future.

What church have you visited and learned from recently?

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The Not So Obvious Benefit of Growing Your Volunteer Base

In the previous post I listed some obvious benefits to growing your volunteer base. We have all experienced most of those benefits and many of us are hoping to grow the team right now because we know the potential for what could be. However, there’s another benefit to growing your volunteer base that was not so obvious to me.

Adding Volunteers Can Boost Your Attendance

volunteermathShocking, I know. Maybe you’re like me though, and you have always been so focused on the other benefits of adding volunteers that you never thought about this connection. Using different metrics to monitor the health of your church is critical, and one metric most churches uses is % of adults/students serving. Let’s say you have 300 adults and students serving on ministry teams and 600 adults and students attending on average, you would have 50% (300/600) of your adults and students serving, which is pretty good.

But, here’s another way to look at, and I believe this comes from Sam Chand, but I heard it 3rd or 4th hand, so don’t hold me to that.

First, take your average attendance divided by your volunteer number. So, in our previous case, let’s say it’s a church that averages 950 in attendance total (with kids) has 300 volunteers. The equation is:

950 (attendance) / 300 (volunteers) = 3.17 

That 3.17 is your number. It can change slightly, but for the most part it will stay the same. Reason being, if you add volunteers, usually the church grows and that number holds true. So, let’s say you add 100 volunteers (yay!).

950 (attendance) / 400 (volunteers) = 2.375

But, you typically won’t stay that way long because your real number (3.17) represents your ministry capacity (my phrase)What often happens is, your church grows to your ministry capacity again. So, after we dust off some simple algebra, the equation becomes:

3.17 (your number) x 400 (your volunteers) = 1,268 (your new ministry capacity)

Adding 100 volunteers can help your church grow from 950 to 1,268. Now, of course there are plethora of other factors involved and our volunteer base is not the only thing that can limit growth.

Three Things Volunteers Do More

In talking with Tony Morgan about this, he commented on how it makes perfect sense because volunteers do 3 things more:

  • They attend more frequently
  • They invite more
  • They give more

Two of those directly impact attendance. It makes complete sense, but I felt like I learned something completely new when I heard it. Thanks to Carl Kuhl for passing this on to me.

Have you seen this play out in your church or ministry?

The Obvious Benefits of Growing Your Volunteer Base

Too Many Volunteers?

One time I was at a ministry conference, sitting in a breakout on volunteers, and there was an interesting moment. Most people in the room were looking for ways to grow their volunteer base, but one guy raised his hand and basically said he had too many volunteers and needed help assimilating him. Then…

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In that moment, you could feel 90% of the room giving him the “mean face” as I say my son does when he’s making faces. That guy became unpopular real quick, and it was like he had no idea the room was ready cast him out.

For Everyone Else

356For the rest of us, we all would love to see our volunteer base grow. We’d love to grow the volunteer teams at our church by 10%, 25%, or maybe even 50% or more. Here are some obvious benefits from growing your volunteer base:

  • More people to serve and minister to people in your church, and new people you see each week.
  • More people to handle the workload, allowing people who are doing too much to scale back.
  • New volunteers benefit from the spiritual growth that comes from serving.
  • New volunteers benefit from the connection that can take place with those they serve with.
  • The ability to work on new projects, ideas, or events because more people are available.
  • The ability to work “on it”, instead of just in it, with more volunteers available to shoulder the load.
  • More people who are “owners”, and not just “renters”, and help carry the vision of your church. (For more on that reference and idea, buy this book when it releases.)
  • More people who open themselves to be used by God and discover their gifts and purpose in the process.

There are a ton of benefits to growing your volunteer base, and I’m sure I missed a ton here. But, there’s one that seemed obvious, yet wasn’t to me at first. I’ll share that in the next post.

What benefits of growing the volunteer team am I missing?

How to Create a “Can’t Miss” Feel at Your Training Events

This post is part of a series on 7 Keys to an Effective Volunteer Training System.

trThe best way to have strong participation in volunteer trainings is to make the events themselves have a “can’t miss” feel to them. It’s easy to talk about, but hard to create.

Encourage & Support

Everyone wants to feel encouraged and supported. Ministry is hard, and we think we’re encouraging our team enough, we can always do more. One part of supporting volunteers at trainings is to provide helpful content. We can also encourage by sharing stories of “wins” and give them a glimpse of the stories we hear (and should actively collect). Training events are a great time to appreciate volunteers as well. Here’s a link to 100 Almost Free Ways to Appreciate Volunteers.

Have Fun

Who doesn’t like to have fun? Different people define fun differently (particularly introverts and extroverts), but it’s important to have as much fun as you can any time you gather volunteers. Play games, give away prizes, create funny awards to give out, play a funny video, whatever you can come up with to help people laugh and have a good time.

Share Important Information

We ask some important questions whenever we’re communicating something important. Two of them are:

Who needs to know this?
When do they need to know this?

In most situations you want to communicate important information through specific channels, going from most invested people to everyone during a service. Sharing important information at a volunteer training (before it’s public) helps create the “can’t miss” feel you’re looking for. People love to be “in the know”, and serving earns them the right to hear about things before everyone else does.

Foster Connection

Nothing helps people stick like relationships. Hopefully our volunteers have that relational connection on the teams they serve on. But, the reality of ministry is that many positions are so focused on kids and students there is hardly any time to connect with other leaders. Training events can and should provide some time for those connections to happen.

I hope your training events have a can’t “miss feel” to them and it leads people to show up in droves. I also hope you’ll share some tips for how you train volunteers.

What is part of the “can’t miss” feel culture of your volunteer trainings?

4 Tips for Making Volunteer Trainings Easy to Attend

This post is part of a series on 7 Keys to an Effective Volunteer Training System.

buttonAs ministry leaders, it’s important to serve our volunteer teams by providing helpful training on a regular basis. In an effort to get as many people as possible to attend, we’ve learned some tips to help make it easier for them. For the most part, these tips apply to large-scale trainings where an entire ministry department (preschool), or an entire ministry are invited. Smaller trainings don’t have as many barriers.

Here are 4 tips to make volunteer trainings easier to attend.

Provide Childcare

This one is tough, I know. Children’s ministry and childcare are 2 different things, but often times your church uses some of the same people for both. It’s difficult to provide childcare, and even more difficult the larger your volunteer base is. In our case, for many events we provide childcare by paying the people who provide it. This adds to the cost of doing a volunteer training event, but it’s well worth it. Our participation is significantly higher when we provide childcare.

Feed Them

This one also costs money, but is extremely important. In order to do the fourth tip on this list, we’re typically meeting at a time when people would eat lunch or dinner. Feeding them makes it easier to attend and provides a great time of connection at the beginning of the event. We budget for this as often as we can, and we have been really creative in the past calling on people to help provide food if needed.

Pick the Date Strategically

Another way we can make it easy for volunteers to attend training is to choose a date strategically. Pick a date that is far enough out for people to plan around and doesn’t conflict with anything else on the calendar. We like to choose dates where there is nothing for 2 weeks on either side we might also be asking some of them to be part of. We also try to pick dates that don’t conflict with the school calendar or sports schedules.

Meet at a Convenient Time

Choosing a time that is easy for people is also critical. Every context can be different, and we learned from trying different times. In our case, there were multiple effective times and it all depended on the day and focus. The four times that work well for us include:

  • Lunch on Sunday – We have typically only done this when we’ve had 2 services, so an already long day isn’t even longer.
  • During a service – We have only done this when we have 3 or more services, and these are much shorter and just within ministry teams.
  • Weeknight – This is probably our most popular option, and it has worked well.
  • Friday night – This is one we’ve rarely used, and only when we invite spouses as well and it’s all about vision / fun / encouragement.

We follow those 4 tips when we schedule volunteer training events in order to help make them easy to attend.

What’s your guide for scheduling training events?