What if I told you I had a way to solve your lack of volunteer problems? I do! But it is a secret. Keep reading and you will find out. Just promise me you will keep it a secret.
Have you ever heard of the movie Fight Club?
Regardless of whether or not you have seen the 1999 cult classic film Fight Club starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton you may be familiar with a phrase from it. You fill in the blank.
“The first rule of Fight Club is ________________________________”
Can you fill in the blank? If not, let me give you a little help.
“The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.”
Fight Club was an underground secret society that was created by the unnamed narrator of the story, Edward Norton, and a traveling soap salesman named Tyler Durden. It is exactly what it sounds like. A place for men who lack fulfillment in their lives to go fight recreationally. To keep their society safe from being found out by the authorities and to keep some semblance of order, they developed a set of rules. Rule number one and rule number two are exactly the same. “Do not talk about Fight Club.”
While Fight Club is definitely not a movie for everyone I appreciate the power that is portrayed from the sense of belonging that men find from being a part of something they find special. There is also a sense of power that is derived from being a part of something that is a secret to others.
Everyone needs to find a place to belong. Everyone needs to find a place where they can tap into their potential. People will seek out these things in either positive or negative environments. For most, they don’t care if it is positive or negative as long as they find a place to belong.
OK, But Why Fight Club?
Knowing the power of belonging and being part of a secret society I started an underground group called Wolfe’s Warriors in the early 2000s. I did this while I was the Children’s Pastor at First Christian Church. It was a secret club for children in First through Fifth Grade. Let me stop you before we go any further. This was not a Fight Club for children! This was an underground leadership development club for hand-selected children within my ministry.
Here is how it worked.
Each year I would have my Grade Level Team Leaders pay careful attention to the children in their groups. I would ask them to watch for children who were mature beyond their years and showed natural leadership ability. Then I would take recommendations for one boy and one girl from each grade, first through fifth. That would give me a total of ten children per year. Once given the recommendations I would personally reach out to each individual child and their families outside of Sunday morning programming.
I would let them know that they had been identified as leaders among their peers. They had been identified as children with real leadership potential and the potential to do big things in God’s Kingdom. I would next ask them if they were interested in growing their potential. If they said yes and they were willing to work hard they would be permitted to join my group, Wolfe’s Warriors. Do you know that not a single child ever said no!
Wolfe’s Warriors was a secret leadership group that met once a month outside of Sunday morning programming for a calendar year. Each child had to sign a covenant that pledged that they would work hard and keep it a secret that they were a part of this leadership group. We held monthly meetings. At each monthly meeting, we ate together, studied scripture together, prayed together, and shared a leadership lesson. Each month they left with homework that I assigned them. Homework was sometimes something they had to study or other times it was a task that they had to do. Each preceding month they would have to report back on their homework. Everything was documented and kept in a special Wolfe’s Warriors three-ring binder.
It was my goal to speak confidence into them and build them up. I wanted to help them both see and realize their God-given potential. At the end of each year, I would speak blessing over them and encourage them to go and be leaders in God’s Kingdom. To live what they had learned. The end of each year was always bittersweet as we loved our time together. But each new year meant that there was a new group of ten leaders that needed to be developed and deployed.
Why the Secrecy?
I tried to teach them that notoriety in leadership was never to be a motivating factor. In fact, Jesus himself was strongly opposed to it.
“Be careful! When you do something good, don’t do it in front of others so that they will see you. If you do that, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Matthew 6:1
“But when you pray, you should go into your room and close the door. Then pray to your Father. He is there in that private place. He can see what is done in private, and he will reward you.” Matthew 6:6
I wanted them to understand the truth that why we do what we do is just as important as, or more important than, what we actually do. Our motivations must be pure. We do what we do because it is right and it honors God not because we want to be noticed or praised for it.
It was amazing to watch these children grow before my eyes. It was amazing to see them on Sunday mornings leading with a sense of ownership and pride. It was also cute to see them give me a subtle wink or a not so subtle high five when they were leading on Sundays too.
Wolfe’s Warriors grew up a generation of leaders ten children at a time.
As ministry leaders, you have failed if you wait until people become adults before you recruit them to be volunteers. You can go a long way to solving your lack of volunteers problem if you start investing in children while they are young. Leadership doesn’t have an age limit. The only limitations are the ones you place on them as a ministry leader. See the leadership abilities in all and start developing them as young as you can!
If this leadership development model sounds exciting to you, take it and run with it. Create your own group and system. In a matter of a few years, you will have gone a long way to both empowering a generation for service and solving your lack of volunteers problem.
It doesn’t have to be limited to a long term solution to your volunteer program. This can also be a short term fix too.
The Truth About Youth
Let me share with you a humbling truth. Teens from your current student ministry can be better volunteers than most of the adults that you are currently trying to convince to join your volunteer ranks.
Why is that? Let me give you a few reasons.
- Teens are already living their Monday through Fridays in an inclusive environment at schools. They get it already! Interacting with others with disabilities comes more naturally to them.
- Teens don’t have the years of misinformation and myths built into them as to why they shouldn’t jump in help. The older we get the more bad information we take in and the more walls we put up. If teens are given an opportunity to start serving while they are young it will stop any of these walls from building at all.
- When given the choice younger children will almost always gravitate towards someone who is closer to them in age than someone who is further removed. Younger children see teenagers and think to themselves that is going to be me sometime soon. While younger children see adults and think I’ll never be that old! This natural connection should be capitalized upon.
Find the system that works for you and your ministry and start now! Don’t wait till people have grown up and have it all figured out before you recruit them to serve. If you do that you will always be doing ministry alone.