Leading Happy

Where Leadership and Happiness Collide

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The Power of Volunteer Feedback

All volunteer leaders, whether church, nonprofit, or business, dread the call, text, or email from a volunteer explaining they need a break and thus are stepping down. Nothing puts the week in chaos like locating a new volunteer and shuffling tasks to make it until one is found.  Plus, many of us are close to our volunteers and it hurts to see them go, even if it is for a short time. We invest in them, pray with them, do life with them, and then we get the news something has come up and now we are left dealing with the loss in more ways than one.

After reading Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Shelia Heen, I have become much more interested and intentional in finding out what my leaders and volunteers are thing and feeling before it becomes so overwhelming they have no other options than to quit. I have heard it said, it takes less time, money, and energy to invest in volunteers you already have than acquiring new volunteers. Nevertheless, we invest so much in finding new ones, we may neglect our best asset, our current volunteers.

Therefore, here are THREE opportunities to gain valuable feedback from your volunteer team before getting the dreaded “need a break” conversation.


When it comes to our personal health, physicians have a baseline of what is adequate for our age, race, height, etc. This baseline is utilized to help us gain better health. Obviously, each of us is unique so the baseline is simply a starting point. With volunteers, establishing a baseline of what is going well, what is not so great, and overall improvement is vital.

Creating a survey that all volunteers fill out regularly helps you monitor their health as well as the organization’s health. Surveys can easily be made in Google Docs or through companies like Surveymonkey or Constant Contact. Each organization is different and will establish certain baselines matching the company’s mission, vision, values, and strategies.

To make sure the feedback is coming in regularly, chose different groups to solicit at different times. For example, if you have 6 teams, survey each group every other month, so every other month you are getting some type of feedback. This helps your organization also make quarterly tweaks instead of waiting each year to try and make changes. In our rapidly changing and overly connected culture, change must happen regularly to keep up and stay relevant. This becomes especially true of events your organization or church put on regularly/yearly.


I know this one seems so basic when we are discussing feedback. Yet, so many events come and go and solid, constructive feedback is never gained. Even when it is gained, it is often filed away and not acted upon. So here are a few thoughts here.

First, event when two events are very different, the feedback from one can make the other better. Maybe the past event had great feedback on the check in process, so the next event can apply the feedback and make their process that much better. Too often, this info can be kept to only one team, when there is dysfunction in the organization. Make sure to have feedback shared with all teams involved and build a culture of trust and sharing (although that topic is for another post).

Second, volunteers feel so much more involved with the process when they are asked their advice. The event may have been planned by a team of paid leaders and a few volunteers. Feedback after the event can have all involved partake. Now, even the volunteer who was part of clean up or takedown (who probably was there the entire event) can provide insight and constructive criticism. Talk about buy in form the top down! And it can be as easy as opening the door and asking for help…for feedback.

Finally, often during the feedback process, you will find a new leader. I have read surveys and found some amazing and stute observations. I find myself saying, this person needs to be leading. It is another arrow in the leaders quiver of finding new and valuable leadership among their volunteer teams. Again, a lesson for another post to fully explain, but the leader reading feedback must also be secure and understand the feedback is not against them but making the organization and the event better!


Finally, of the big three, this one is the most advantageous. This feedback needs to be done, not through emails or survey forms, but through personal meetings of small groups of leaders and volunteers. Most leaders are used to brainstorming meetings, so many of these sessions can have a part added where culture, events,  values and actions can be addressed and ideas executed to fix issues and make them better.

Also, small groups of selected people is a way to balance out the large scale surveys to everyone and anyone.  It is a way of having not just the 30,000 foot view, but to come down to those in the trenches and getting feedback from those closest  to the issues at hand. Balance is advantageous in any endeavour.

These small groups, mixed with paid and unpaid participants, provide some of the most valuable feedback an organization can receive. If the organization is only being moved along by the paid leaders, volunteers soon figure this out and can feel used. I know I have been careful to include volunteers in all areas I have led, because I could not have achieved what had been done without those volunteers. Especially in churches, there are always more volunteers than paid staff. Therefore, volunteer must play a crucial role in planning the life and activities of the church. In nonprofits, the same can be said.

Obviously there can be many more ideas on obtaining needed and healthy feedback. But these three cannot, at all cost, be avoided. So what are some of your ideas on gaining feedback?

Feel free to share with us all so we all grow and get better together? (See what I did there? Asking for feedback.) 😉


*Note: The genesis of my thoughts here came after reading, SMART Volunteer Management by Patricia Lotich

8 Ideas to Help You Delegate Better

We all have way to much to do. Sometimes we jest and call it “job security.” Nevertheless, having too much to do all of the time has serious consequences to our health and well being.

Another truth is most people do not delegate because they simply do not know the most advantageous way to do so. Questions like – When do I delegate? How much do I delegate? To whom do I delegate? – can plague leaders and managers alike.

So here are 8  ideas to help you feel more comfortable with delegation, while doing a better job when you do delegate.

Deal with your personal feelings before handing off. Many leaders carry a lack of trust, a fear of being replaced, perfectionism, or impatience into the delegation process. Hand over a task without these feelings attached so the person helping you doesn’t  get sideswiped by your feelings and misgivings.

Establish Clear Expectations. A hand-off should always make the following completely clear:

  • Purpose – why are we doing this
  • Standards – how this is to be judged
  • Process – how this should be done
  • Delivery date – time frame for execution

When possible, delegate complete tasks rather than pieces of a task.  Ownership never happens when you delegate a task piecemeal. Don’t hand off pieces of task you do not like or do not want to spend time doing. Allow some authority and autonomy to be passed when you give away the whole thing.

Delegate the goal not the process. People need a wide lane to travel when  attempting to solve problems and accomplish goals in the way they think is best. If you do have specific process requirements, be clear up front but then back away without being a micromanager.

Delegate adequate authority along with the task. Don’t pass on a high level task or a multi-departmental task without first making sure all parties involved know the one being delegated has authority over that area. Nothing derails a process more than people positioning and rejecting another authority. Many times, this is not the person who received the taks fault, it’s yours as the leader.

Understand there will be issues along the way. Make sure you as the leader and the one to whom you delegate realize issues and failures will happen along the way. Put the person you delegate at ease by letting them know you are both in this together to learn as well as get things done.

Establish check-ins. This is the only way to deal with micromanaging. If you have that tendency this is key for you. Establish when there will be check-in times and stick to them. Only check-in earlier when you have vital info for the task, not just because you are curious or nervous. This may be the hardest for a perfectionistic or micromanaging leader, but it pays dividends in trust for the long haul.

Be prepared to offer acknowledgement and credit. Be generous in your appreciation. One of the major reasons people leave their job is a lack of recognition and praise. Also, make sure that people get appropriate credit within the organization for the tasks that you delegate. The moment a leader takes all the credit for the delegation, others will be less likely to want to work with you in the future. Be generous with your praise.

Obviously, there are many more ideas that can be added here, but these eight can transform how you lead and manage within an organization.

I am curious to hear your ideas. Feel free to post in the comments or on my social media sites!

The Average Pastor: A Review

To begin, I am a bit biased on this review as Daniel has been a friend for a great many years. Nevertheless, his book stands alone as a solid and needed resource in the area of those who pastor churches under 150 people. While the huge publishing companies focus on publishing the plethora of books pouring out from megachurch pastors (only representing around 2% of all pastors in America), Isgrigg’s book stands out as one writing to the other 98% while being in the same bracket as those he writes.

The Average Pastor is written from a faithful practitioner of a church running  under 150. Although Isgrigg stepped down as a full-time pastor to focus more on his PhD, his invaluable experience shines true in this short, but powerful tomb. Probably the best way to describe the book is like setting at your favorite coffee spot and chatting with a good friend who knows exactly how you feel. It’s more about encouragement and knowing your place than a ten step guide to doing ministry better (since we have enough of those books already). 

Typically, people refer to church running under 150 as small churches, dut Daniel Isgrigg challenges that notion. Yes, he gets the idea of small, but is that the right modifier? Is not the better modifier average, as in the fact most church are in this number range.  This is not to say that those pastoring larger churches have nothing to say. Indeed, they have great leadership qualities we can all learn from and apply to our life and leadership. What needs to be said though, is the need for more materials written by average pastors for average pastors while they are in this season of their ministry (whether for the long-haul or for a time).

So what is an average pastor? The Average Pastor will typically pastor about 76 people, is 38% more likely to be bi-vocational, earn around $31,000 if full time, have no full time staff, and the church income will be under $100,000 annually. In other words, the average pastor is not in this for the pay, the glory, or the prestige. They are in this vocation because of their calling and deep love for Jesus’ bride – the local church.

For those pastoring an Average Church, thus being an Average Pastor, here is some good news on the blessings of having average church financing according to Isgrigg:

  • I am forced to be creative.
  • I am forced to use people.
  • I appreciate what giving means.
  • One family can change everything.

In certain ways, success allows us to throw money at issues, but when their is no money, you are often at your creative best. I once heard Craig Groeschel talk about the early days of Life.Church before it was the phenom we see today. He said, “Lack of Resources + Increasing Passion = Exponential Innovation.” Life.Church didn’t create the video venue style church because they had lots of money, but the lack of it. They needed a way to fill in the pulpit when Craig was out for family reasons and they did not have the money to bring in a speaker and thus, video venue was born, as they played an older sermon of his they recorded.

In section two, Isgrigg focuses on reclaiming the role and office of pastor. The pastor is supposed to be a shepherd to his or her people. As a church grows larger, it is much harder to keep the pastor’s role as one of the shepherd as now they are seen more as a corporate office, as in a CEO. Further, the pastor is supposed to operate in the ideals of the parish priest. A pastor has the clearest knowledge of what the church represents. In the same room one preaches on Sunday, in the past week – a funeral, a wedding, and an event could have all happened. The parish has a rich history in and of itself. Further, you become a more community pastor as your church can be open to the public more, you have time to get out more and pastor your city. These are forgotten perks of the average church pastor.

Another set of valuable advice Isgrigg provides is often the average pastor is the only one in charge of planning. So he learned to do so in large blocks of time. His advice:

  • Month long sermon planning
  • Month long worship planning
  • One creative Sunday a month

This type of planning allowed him to do more with less and to still be creative and a bit less stressed when the minutes after the Sunday service, you as the sole pastor, realize that Sunday is coming yet again! Planning is what offers hope to the average pastor do do fun and creative things with less pressure than trying to do so week after week of guess work.

On a more personal level, I know that one of the major reasons Daniel wrote this book was to encourage other pastors in a way that only he was called to do. Pastor can be lonely and Daniel knew that if he wanted to have friends, he was going to have to go and make them. It was not going to happen automatically. Our best efforts should be put to what gives us the best return. Friendship returns more to us than we could ever fathom.

Plus, Daniel didn’t want other average pastors to feel as he did so he was going to make himself available. He personally tried to keep up with other pastors in the area. Although no one had done that for him, he decided he would do it nonetheless. Finally, he knew he had certain gifts to be a blessing and invest in other average pastors. Being an author already, Daniel knew he could extend his reach to invest in other pastors by writing this book. He also knew he could invest in local pastors and help enrich their lives even though it would mean a bit more work on his part. It wasn’t like he had a lot of spare time to do all this. He just knew it was right. This is why I am writing this review, so i can get more people to be interested in my friends unique and solid resource.

I highly recommend pastors, leaders, board members, and pastor’s spouses to read this resource. If more teams read this together they may understand more of what their average pastor is going through and dealing with on a daily basis. The only way to combat rampant ignorance is through the knowledge, which comes through targeted resources such as these.

Do yourself a favor, buy a copy of this book for yourself. Buy a copy as a gift for your average pastor. Buy a copy for your volunteer team to read together. It will be well worth the investment.

Oh, and remember, we often think of average as a negative team, when average means the most common. We like to celebrate what we have in common. So let’s not forget to celebrate the average church and her average pastor!

You can get a copy here: The Average Pastor on Amazon

Daniel Isgrigg also blogs at www.averagepastor.com

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