What’s Your Model?

What's your ministry model?What really matters is how fast you can effectively train and empower volunteers.

Can your ministry scale this and do it effectively at the same time?  This is the major challenge any movement faces in being effective in their mission.

We need models that will…

  • Scale effectively without employees – models must focus on the mobilization and empowerment of a labor force that has many extremely small and concentrated amounts of time to commit.  Is there room in your model for someone who has two hours a week to give their all for your cause?  Don’t confuse amount of time one can commit with alignment with the cause.
  • Have a marginal cost that approaches zero –  this means that the cost (human or financial) of adding one more volunteer is essentially negligible.  As the number of participants in your movements grows, average cost keeps decreasing to almost zero. Can small mini-movements be spawn off from your main one without staff involvement or financial burden?

It’s not about how many staff you have.

It’s not about how much money you have.

We need to stop squalling about staffing levels and funding levels and get to the hard work of dreaming up (and implementing) agile ministry models. Be the one who develops a model that is worth putting staff and money towards.

[Image courtesy of pinoteross]

  • http://www.timcasteel.com/ Tim Casteel

    GREAT post Russ.

    In this post are you mostly talking about volunteers from the community? I also think almost everything you wrote applies to students. I think a great indicator of ministry success is “how fast you can effectively train and empower students”.

    I’ve recently been thinking about this issue quite a bit. Our ministry size has tripled in the last few years while our staff team has dwindled from 10 to 4. And unlike churches, where money and more staff would always accompany growth, in college ministry especially you need to, as you said, “Scale effectively without employees and money”.

    We have done very little with involving volunteers mostly because we can’t figure out how to make room for “someone who has two hours a week to give their all for your cause”. Any solutions that you have seen work?

    For us, empowering student leaders has allowed us to scale effectively.

  • http://www.doublederivative.ca Russ Martin

    Tim, good questions.

    First to clarify. I am using the word volunteer, because it’s more generic in a organization that does more than just work with students. However, in the context of this post, volunteer = student = non-staff member.

    Some of the things I’m thinking about, are how do we train students on non-staffed campuses. Is there a website they can go to that gives them video-based training, connects them with a mentor (perhaps another student) so that they can launch a movement on their campus?

    What about the super busy pre-med student who can’t make Bible study, but wants to do an outreach in their sphere of influence. Is it possible for them to connect in to the content the rest of the movement is going through or to get podcasts of your weekly meeting or do some online training? What if they have success stories to share or need resources? How do they access this without involving staff at a minimal cost. I really like what they’re doing at UCF with the Together on Mission FB app.

    In terms of engaging volunteers (non-students), in a student movement, I’ve seen great uses of alumni to help put on fundraisers, campus fun nights, retreats etc… I even know one alumni (former staff) who coordinates a weekly meeting for a campus.

    I think there are lots of opportunities if we think a little differently about the problem of raising up labourers than we normally do.

    What are your ideas?

    • http://www.timcasteel.com/ Tim Casteel

      Good clarification re: students/volunteers.

      I like your thinking – but I don’t have any ideas! Our model on our campus is definitely very time intensive. We ask them to attend from 6-10pm every Tuesday night (for training and weekly meeting). Lead a Bible Study and be in a study. Be discipled and disciple a few students. For us, it’s worked. But I know we’re missing out on some very motivated leaders who are already incredibly busy and can’t commit. Like you said, “Don’t confuse amount of time one can commit with alignment with the cause.”

      BUT – it’s really hard to gauge alignment with the aforementioned pre-med student who is not involved in anything with Cru but wants to lead an outreach. Can you trust them? I’m all for taking risks on people but have also been burned by shady leaders.

      I like the idea of online training.

      • http://www.brianbarela.com/ Brian Barela

        hey tim wrestled w the same thing at chico state. the bottom line tension for me was alignment.

        i love what russ is saying about resourcing and connecting students who have little time but lots of energy or motivation to grow spiritually.

        i have a hard time figuring out what to do with volunteers who want to lead but have little time.

        i do think the virtual space is the most open for innovation in this area. volunteers could be great online connectors–adding people as friends on facebook and inviting them to join the fan page.

        setting up lists of frosh/soph/etc and reaching out to those who seem disconnected.

        this is a great post russ. i hope more leaders weigh in!

  • Tom Virtue

    Seems like you’re describing the classic catalytic picture here Russ. While leading a catalytic team there was a lot of freedom. One of the freedoms was a change in mindset where I had made a mental decision that we weren’t going to be dependent on how many people were assigned to our team. Our commitment was to trust in God’s ability to raise up personnel and financial resources in a variety of ways, not just trusting the placement process, funding from national, region, or whoever. There was incredible freedom in that and it released a lot more creativity in thinking about seeking the resources that God wanted to provide.
    If seems like building a model like you’re talking about would have to have a variety of approaches of mobilizing people, because not everyone will “fit into” one structure that we might create. If we want to “plant movements everywhere” on a campus or in a city we’ll have to have multiple ways of creating leadership teams or selecting leadership who can build a movement. If we don’t have a few different possibilities clear in our mind of how to “train and empower” our eyes won’t see the people who come across our path and could be the key people to unlock a whole subculture of a campus.

    • http://www.brianbarela.com/ Brian Barela

      great thoughts tom! definitely saw all those things you are talking about when i was helping out your team part time as a student.

    • http://www.doublederivative.ca Russ Martin

      Great thoughts Tim. In one sense this is Catalytic, but in another sense it’s just a movement. I haven’t been around long enough to understand all the organizational context for Catalytic, but I really like the thinking you describe of how you vowed not to depend on a staff team.

  • andrea

    love this thread– how can i get it to my friends that are not on facebook?

    • http://www.brianbarela.com/ Brian Barela

      copy and paste the link and email it is the best.

      printing it out might be cumbersome.

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