When Do You Stop Developing a Volunteer Leader?

One of the very best investments you can make is to coach and mentor your volunteer leaders. A little development can deliver big returns! Most of the time this is a positive and productive endeavor, in fact, the relationship grows deeper and is even more enjoyable.


Don’t make leadership development a complicated program. Great developmental coaching is often nothing more than the right words, at the right time to the right person. You know the person well enough, and you are paying attention, so when you see the need and the Holy Spirit prompts, you can speak. I can think of several coaching exchanges between John Maxwell and myself that only took a few minutes, but they were life changing. The process is the same for you and your key volunteer leaders.

But what if the development process doesn’t seem to be working?

What do you do?

Here are three indicators that you might need to “press pause” in your developmental process.

1) You are working harder for the person’s growth than they are.

On occasion, I’ve experienced a coaching relationship where it became clear that I was working harder for the leader’s growth than they were. My passion for their progress was far greater than theirs. A little of that is ok, maybe even good. My belief in them can help inspire them to grow. But in time, my passion alone is not enough if they do not demonstrate effort. I definitely care, big time, but my responsibility is to guide change, not carry the full burden for change. They have to be in the game too. Have you experienced what I’m describing?

2) They don’t want to change and grow.

If it becomes obvious that the person is not motivated to learn, change and grow, you have to make a decision.

I think it’s important for us to love and encourage everyone. Jesus modeled that for us. But Jesus also modeled that He invested more focused development into a few key leaders. They were not perfect, but they were in the game! I believe that’s one of the qualifiers for development — they want to grow!

3) There is no progress.

Change and growth are measured by progress. The progress doesn’t have to be big, grand or dramatic. If a person is moving forward in their leadership even a little (both attitude and skill) I’m in! But if not, and there is no desire, I would say something like:

It seems to me like I’m working harder for your growth than you are. I care about you and appreciate you, but we need to push pause in our coaching relationship. I’ll be right here for you. You just let me know when you are ready to dig in and grow, and I’m all in.

Now the question is, can they still continue to lead?

The answer is, “it depends.”

I know you don’t like that answer, but it really does depend. If the load they carry is not overwhelming, and it’s more of a steady ministry than a growing and changing one, they can often continue. Further, if their attitude is good, they love the church and they are loyal to the vision, they can continue. Pushing pause on development doesn’t mean you abandon them or no longer care, it just means you invest those precious few moments in someone else who is hungry to grow.

It’s only if they are over their head in terms of competency or their attitude has gone sour, that you may need to ask them to step down for a season. If you do, never make the time out punishment oriented. Let them know you still love them. The purpose of a break is so they can “catch their breath”, get a renewed perspective, and keep loving the church. At the end of that break, you may need to help them find a ministry that is better suited for their passion and skills.

So my first question is: Are you developing your leaders?

And second, how’s it going?

2 thoughts on “When Do You Stop Developing a Volunteer Leader?”

  1. “I can think of several coaching exchanges between John Maxwell and myself that only took a few minutes, but they were life changing.” I hope you’ll share more details of these in a future post. Would love real-world examples of how these brief encounters lead to big change/growth.

    1. That’s a good idea Todd. I usually tell those stories rather than write them because it’s so difficult to carry the tone and heart when writing a post. But I can put it on the list to give it a try! I can share this now… Context is everything. John cared about me, invested in me, encouraged me and spent time with me… When that describes the relationship, there is much fruit when that comes from one of those “coaching moments.”

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