Principles of Portability – #5 Volunteers are your most valuable asset
March 31, 2021

3 surprising key learnings from 26+ years of portability!

The first church plant I was a part of as a leader, I gave an outpouring of encouragement, handed out nice gifts of appreciation, and threw grand celebration meals/events. I certainly thought I was valuing the volunteer! But it wasn’t until the next plant, years later that I realized all that I and the church missed out on. The three key learnings below are provided to you as an early heads-up and save you from the same troubles I later experienced!

You likely already noticed the strong emphasis placed on the volunteers in all of PCI’s content. Guaranteeing volunteer success is something Portable Church adheres to very strongly in all of our system designs. As you go through the process of launching a portable church (congrats by the way!), you will be tempted, like I was, to make decisions primarily based on economic factors. This post is here to help dial you into a few of the fruitful ways to truly value and empower your volunteers! After all, if you don’t have engaged, motivated and excited volunteers, you won’t have a set-up team, making long term success that much more difficult! 

The  3 Keys

Key 1 – Language matters

Example pastor 1 – “Team, thank you for again coming out today! I know it is a major sacrifice getting up early, getting sweaty, missing breakfast with your family to be here today. But today is going to be awesome. We are going have our own building someday but until then I am thankful for what you do”

Example pastor 2 – “Team! How incredible that we are here again. As we set-up recognize our time as an act of worship and allow it to bring you closer to God. We are exactly where he wants us to be and because of you we GET to save thousands of dollars in building costs and put that toward reaching and engaging the broken parts of our city.”

Small language changes make a world of difference. Making volunteers know like the work they do is critical to changing people’s lives is significant.  The language you use plants seeds in the heads of your team. By helping them see the bigger vision and the major positives of the work they are doing, you will find a much healthier culture inside your church. Talking about a future building indicates you haven’t ‘arrived’ yet as a church. Letting them know “we have already arrived”, this is exactly where God wants us, keeps people happy with portability which is a benefit to you church in so many ways. 

Key 2 – Systems matter

The second key to success for your set up team is to give them all the right conditions, equipment, and direction to contribute and prevail in Kingdom work!  When your team knows you have set them up to win by giving them the right gear in a system, they come emotionally charged and ready to make a difference

An enormous emotional lift is provided to set up teams when they wake up on Sunday morning knowing they will be involved in a highly professional and efficient process preparing the place the community will come to clearly hear about Jesus!  When the equipment and gear is systematically transported, unloaded, moved in, set up, used, loaded out, and taken away quickly and safely, the satisfaction meter jumps wildly!  Systems win – Chaos crushes!

Plug and play equipment, every piece of gear intuitively in its place every time, all rolled in place in minutes, set up in an hour, and looking beautiful and professional are characteristics of a portable system that grows volunteer teams.  Even with the largest pieces of equipment like trusses or a full portable LED wall.

Waking up at 5:30 AM every Sunday, load in and load out that involves dozens of trips with tubs of equipment on two wheelers, the chaos of plugging in all the right cables in all the right holes, and the inefficiency of a box truck with a lift-gate would describe a system that emotionally cripples a set up team.

Within a well-designed system, executing becomes intuitive – coupled with the right purpose it becomes a source of joy.  Even large and seemingly unwieldly pieces of equipment can be added to the rotation when put in the right cases and set up by a trained team. 

Key 3 – Empowerment matters

We want to make sure your volunteers feel empowered – give them a feedback loop to share their insights and make sure Shepherding Methods are employed to encourage, affirm and uplift your volunteers. A little emotional care goes a long way in a portable environment! This is a very real and very important principle to consider. If your volunteers are easily burnt out, keeping momentum and excitement alive during this important transition for your church will become very difficult. We saw this happen during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Churches who were portable and didn’t have a strong volunteer base really struggled. And launching or re-launching your church or campus should be among the most exciting things your church has ever done, and keeping volunteer satisfaction and happiness at the forefront of your decision making will help keep it that way. Remember, we have “church” for one reason – to share the impact of Christ. And this reason must be maximized during your services. Caring for your volunteers ensures that their energy, their passion and their focus is on that mission too, and on the people coming through your doors every Sunday. The more you trust in their leadership, the greater benefit they will bring to your church.

With these 3 keys in place, this is where hindsight showed my major mistake. My second launch had a thoroughly thought out design in place that was set up in ¼ of the time with less people. But that wasn’t even the biggest impact I saw. The volunteers on this team became far more engaged with those coming through the door. They weren’t just setting up for church to happen, they were actually being The Church. Bam! That was a major eye opener as engaging people for Christ was the whole reason we planted. This simpler system plus the better engagement they got to have had the side benefit of an incredibly small percentage of volunteer burnout!

By putting these 3 major learnings in place at your church, you’ll still want to throw those epic celebrations for them and give out gifts, but you will find a whole different tone of celebration and acceptance. Most important you’ll also find your church body more connected to each other and more activated for ministry.

Where are you in this process? Give one of our launch coaches a call and let’s connect.

*This summary is taken from our e-book 6 Principles of Portability