Tips and Tricks
Tips and Tricks

Everything You Need to Know to Build Your Ministry with a New Year Emphasis


What you’re going to find in this post:

  • Why the new year is a good time for volunteer teams
  • What to focus on with a new year emphasis
  • How to frame your new year emphasis
  • What next steps to give your team
  • How to measure effectiveness of your emphasis

For us, 2017 was a banner year. We worked hard and God blessed a lot. I hope you have the same view of last year.

Now that 2018 is beginning, you have a massive opportunity. It’s huge. In fact, it’s the best chance you have to make the biggest impact on your ministry all year.

Why the new year is a good time for volunteer teams

The new year isn’t just for weight loss and financial goals. For you, it’s a chance to re-engage your volunteer teams after the Christmas rush and the New Year’s lull.

January is the perfect time to bring your volunteer team back into focus, too.

  1. You can capitalize on the renewed vigor that most people on your team will have toward making and sticking to goals.
  2. The calendar reset means you can give a fresh look at your ministry calendar, too.
  3. You can make a fresh challenge to your team for the new year.
  4. Easter is likely the next big event in your ministry calendar, which gives you a milestone to push your team toward.
  5. If you wait until later in the year, you’ll miss the chance to capitalize on the momentum of the new year.
  6. Your team is likely to be rested after the New Year’s break and ready for a new challenge.

Most of all, by taking advantage of the new year to call your team to renewed commitment, you’re setting a standard for the rest of the year. If done right, you’ll be able to point to your January emphasis all year long as your standard for engagement.

What to focus on with a new year emphasis

Choosing what to emphasize for the new year can be tough. You have a lot of options. In the past, I’ve tried to emphasize multiple things at once for a new year push, but the results were always that nothing was accomplished. If you highlight too many things, people won’t get it. It’s sort of like, if you make all the text on a page bold, then nothing looks bold.

So what you want to do is identify the one or two things that need to improve this year and drill down on those things. Don’t try to emphasize three or more things; you’ll lose all effectiveness.

I’ve had the most success and lasting impact by focusing on two specific emphases each January: training and recruitment. If you can get your team to join you enthusiastically in those two endeavors, your ministry will boom. I guarantee it.

Here’s why, first regarding recruitment. This is what happens when you engage your team in growing your volunteer numbers.

  • Your team understands the need to include the whole church body. And when done right, your team will see each member of the body as vital to her health and growth.
  • Growing your team gets easier…much easier. It’s one thing when a pastor asks someone to serve in their ministry. It’s entirely different when your friend asks you to serve with them.
  • Your team gets bigger, which helps to solve some of the “gaps in volunteers” you might experience at times.
  • Your ministry becomes “the place to be.” Just like the hot restaurant that always has a line out the door, when your volunteer teams are overflowing, more people will see that there’s something special happening there.

The sibling to a great recruitment strategy is a killer training plan. Bringing the importance of training to the forefront accomplishes a ton for your volunteer team.

  • A better equipped team means a better served community. If your people know what they’re doing, they’ll have confidence in their role and serve people with higher quality.
  • Trained volunteers are engaged volunteers. People who have the tools to succeed are excited to show up and work.
  • Fewer volunteers quit or move to another ministry team. There’s a clear correlation between volunteers who are trained and volunteers who stick around for the long haul.
  • People who are good at what they do (meaning they’re properly trained) are happier, have more fun in their role, and recruit more friends to join them.

Now, it can sound a little utilitarian to make your new year’s emphasis “recruit and train”. It’s tough to make it sound fun, but if your only goal for the new year is “have more fun”, then maybe you’re reading the wrong blog.

We’re all about moving the ball forward, making progress, building your ministry, and seeing individuals and families find a church to call home forever. That kind of outcome only happens if we take leading volunteer teams seriously.

How to frame your new year emphasis

Since “train and recruit” isn’t the compelling rallying cry that you might want for a new year emphasis, we need to take a moment and frame the messaging in a new way. What we want to do with the messaging for your new year emphasis is make it something that your team can rally to and get behind.

Your new year emphasis should be compelling to your team, but still support the focus on training and recruitment. To do this, you’ll need to make your messaging inspiring and motivating. It needs to be tied to the mission of your church and the mission of your specific ministry. And, clearly, should be tied to and supported by Scripture.

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” Ephesians 4:11-12

My favorite Scripture passage to use in this scenario is Ephesians 4: 11-12. These two verses are like a call to arms from the King of Kings. They give all Christians the command to minister, the command to equip others and to be equipped as a Christian, and the compelling reason for those commands.

First, we see that it’s the job of “every type of pastor” or ministry leader to prepare Christians for the work of ministry. It’s not just the role of the pastor who preaches or the department director; it’s everyone’s job. You could even say it’s more than a command; it’s the reason those roles were created in the first place.

Second, if ministry leaders have a command to equip Christians, logic leads us to assume that Christians have a command to be equipped for the work of ministry. As Christians, we’re not just called to serve others. We’re called to be well-prepared to do so.

Finally, this small passage gives us a compelling reason that Christians be equipped for ministry work: “for building up of the body of Christ.” The following verses qualify what Paul means by “building up,” but the conclusion is that the body of Christ grows in health, maturity, strength, and unity.

This foundational passage makes it clear that your local church’s health requires and depends upon the effective preparation of Christians for the work of ministry. To me, this is a compelling reason to train and recruit people to serve and my experience is that it will be incredibly motivating for your team, as well.

Now that you’ve established what your focus will be and how your message will be framed, let’s take a look at what you’re going to be asking your team to do next.

What next steps to give your team

It’s time to move to action steps. You’re going to be communicating the mission of your church and ministry and tying it to Ephesians 4, so you’ll need to give your team something to do that’s relevant to both.

Action steps are most effective when they’re simple and memorable. No one is going to take a next step if it’s “Step 1 of 30”. Keeping it simple means making those next steps achievable. You want your people to be able to see what will be accomplished when that step is complete. Giving people a long list of tasks or expectations will only serve to blur the end result from their current perspective.

Since we know that effective recruiting comes from happy, engaged volunteers, we’re going to leave the recruiting action steps for later. First, we’re going to work to get our volunteers more engaged than ever before.

We’re going to do two things re-engage our volunteers after the Christmas break. One is a party; the other is initiating a training program. The party needs to be a party, not a meeting. Some fun and simple ideas for a party include a chili cook-off (winter is perfect for this), a taco bar with group games (everyone likes tacos), or a super bowl party with a chip/dip challenge (who makes the best bowl of dip?!). I’ve had success with all of these options.

Don’t expect 100% attendance at this party, but you should reasonably expect 90% of your team to show up if you communicate it thoroughly enough.

This party, while 100% a party and not a meeting, should also serve as the initial announcement of the training program for the year. Take this opportunity to talk about how you’ll be keeping everyone in the loop on policy changes, new tactics for serving on your team, and best practices for each role.

If you choose to move all or a portion of your training online, then this is a good time to give everyone the good news that there will be fewer training meetings in 2018. That’s something EVERYONE can celebrate!

During your training announcement, it’ll be a good time to briefly mention that 2018 will be the year you lean on your team to recruit new volunteers. This should be the first of many reminders throughout the year that you expect your team members to help grow the team. Future reminders will come by email or text or via training programs.

Following the party, immediately send out a link to the training program online. Whether it’s with TrainedUp or a homemade online program, giving out this link immediately means capitalizing on the recent announcement while it’s still fresh on their minds.

The advantage you have with TrainedUp is that you have content pre-built and ready to go right when you sign up. That means you get started right away and have time to create content after your team is already engaging with the online program.

How to measure effectiveness of your emphasis

Making and communicating a new year emphasis is one thing. It’s a whole different story when you start to hold yourself and your team accountable to following through on those ambitions. Not only does it make your success more likely, it means you’ll know what does and doesn’t work for future efforts.

Tracking recruiting success is fairly straightforward. Keep track of the size of your team, who joins and who quits, and you’ll have a good idea of the effectiveness of your recruiting efforts.

Tracking the success of your training is less clear. Traditionally, you’ve probably counted attendance at training meetings, but that’s not the full picture. It’s hard, especially on teams larger than a dozen volunteers, to know who is and isn’t engaged in training over time. They may miss one meeting or multiple meetings, but it’s how do you know who those people are. Then, what’s more, how do you know who’s listening and grasping what you’re presenting in your training meetings.

That’s where a solid online training program shines. You should have an online program that lets you easily track who is and isn’t engaged in learning, how they’re picking up the new information, and see from a high level how your team is staying up-to-date on new information.

An online training program also helps onboard new volunteers quickly and thoroughly. My biggest frustration in leading volunteer teams was having to constantly train new volunteers or risk losing them before the next team meeting.

With an online training program, I’ve been able to assimilate new volunteers in just a few days versus what used to take a month or more to do properly…if it ever happened at all. In fact, that’s the reason I built TrainedUp to begin with. I needed a way to train new volunteers quickly in a growing ministry.

Again, TrainedUp gives you insightful tools to help you track and measure your training effectiveness for your whole team as well as individual volunteers. There’s no counting or personal follow-ups, either. TrainedUp keeps track of everything and automatically emails people who don’t complete their training they’ve been assigned.

Once you have the data in hand for how your training and recruitment have gone, you’ll be able to make adjustments to create a more successful emphasis next time…which, for me, has always been a pre-summer emphasis and then a back-to-school emphasis. At least, that’s my annual emphasis rhythm.

I hope this post has been helpful for you and maybe gave you a few ideas you can use. If you want to put this kind of plan into action, but you have more questions, feel free to reach out to me personally by email at scott@trainedup.org. I’d be happy to connect!


Scott Magdalein is the founder of TrainedUp. Previously, he worked as project manager for YouVersion and Church Online, a software developer at Treehouse, a digital director for an ad agency, and as an Executive Pastor in multiple local churches. He lives in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife and two boys.

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