There are a few things that are almost always certain in a majority of churches:

  • There’s never enough money.
  • There’s never enough volunteers.
  • You’re always short on full-time staff.

In fact, if you are currently full-time staff in a church, you are in the minority. The reality is that many churches, including mine, are led by fewer than 1 full-time staff member and are made up of mostly of part-time and volunteer staff.

In the church I lead, we have 1 full-time staff member, 2 part-time staff members, and 8 volunteer staff members. We determine who is considered a staff member by the metric that if we had unlimited resources, would we hire this person full-time or part-time.

Leading a mostly volunteer and part-time staff is different in many ways than leading a full-time staff. There are difficulties leading all three categories, but leading staff members that have other means of employment and “day jobs” is a whole different set of challenges. We can look at these challenges as restrictions or we can leverage the restrictions, learn to lead through these challenges, and embrace the power and benefits of part-time and volunteer staff.

Over the last 7 years, I have had the opportunity to see our church grow past several growth barriers with only 1 or less full-time staff member. Your church can grow with part-time and volunteer staff, so don’t buy into the lie that you have to have the staff of the giga-church to grow past 200.

Your church can grow with a majority of volunteer staff if you consider these best practices.

Remember That You Live In Different Worlds

If you are full-time, you have one job. You get to think about the church for at least 8 hours a day (likely more). You can answer emails, go to meetings, work on the church more than you have to work in the church, and you likely get to be home with your family more often. Your volunteer and part-time staff live in a different world.

If your volunteer or part-time staff are being paid by another employer and have a “day job”, they do not get the same luxuries as you do to work on the church as much as you do, or go to meetings and week long conferences. So before you lose your lid over a volunteer staff member who can’t make that noon meeting, remember that you do not live in the same world.

Give Them a Clear Job Description

Much of the frustrations in leading part-time and volunteer staff I hear from other church leaders could be alleviated by simply giving each person a clear job description. This is not just a best practice for full-time staff, but should be a best practice for all staff and volunteers.

Give short and clear job descriptions so that each staff member knows what is expected, who to report to and how much time they are expected to put in at a minimum each week.

Be Flexible

I believe each of these practices are vital to leading a healthy group of volunteer and part-time staff members, but this one is crucial. You have to be flexible because again, you live in different worlds.

It makes no sense to have a staff meeting each Monday at 10 am when over half of your team works other jobs and can not always be off. To lead a team well, be flexible and to the best of your ability, work around their schedules as much as possible. Don’t let one or two people dictate the schedule, but if everyone works an 8-5 job, your best opportunity for meetings and such will be in the evenings and weekends.

And when someone can’t make it to a meeting, attend a conference, or work on a Saturday, be understanding, especially if it’s a rare occurrence for a person to miss something. Understand they may work a job to provide for their family and the evenings is when they get to see their family. Understand they want to go see their kids perform and play sports, or someone in the family gets sick and they need to pick up the slack, or that they can’t always take what few vacation days they have to go to Catalyst.

If you will remain flexible, you’ll get a lot more mileage out of your team.

Provide “Perks”

If you can not compensate to the degree you want for a staff member, find ways to give perks. Surprise them randomly with gift cards to their favorite place to eat or shop, movie tickets for date night, or hook them up with your church swag that everyone else has to pay for. You can also pay as much of conference trips as you can afford, provide gym memberships, cell phone compensation, or just have a pizza delivered to their house one evening.

Little perks can go a long way.

Although challenges exist, volunteer and part-time staff can be very vital parts to your church if you lead them well and consider them a valuable resource that deserves the same time, attention and care as any full-time staff member.

Invest in and lead your volunteer and part-time staff well, and your church will be healthier than it has ever been.