Be A Leader Everyone Wants To Follow


Building a solid team of volunteers starts with you, the leader.

The truth is: Amazing leaders attract amazing volunteers, and lousy leaders attract lousy volunteers. So the question we should start with is really: “How can I be an amazing leader?”

Or more to the point: “How can I be the kind of leader that amazing people want to follow?”

The list below (originally pulled together by John Rinaldo) includes a bunch of things that you can do to be that kind of leader.

Say “Hi” to everyone.

When you walk into a room, do you take the time greet everyone individually? A simple hello can go a long way in showing that you care about every person who’s there.

On top of that, by making this simple act of hospitality a priority, you are showing (by example) how you want your leaders to interact with the teens in your program.

Talk about your family.

It may seem like a small thing, but talking about your family and your life outside of ministry helps people realize you’re a real person. Talking about your family helps them connect with you outside of your role as their leader.

Follow through.

It’s important that you do what you say you’re going to do. People need to trust that you’re going to follow through with the plans you lay out (both big and small).

If you don’t follow through, neither will they.

Help people win.

You should be working hard to set your volunteers up for success. Leaders realize that they too are successful when their volunteers win – in both big a little ways.

And when they are successful, celebrate with them. Make a big deal even out of small wins.

Have a compelling and exciting vision.

People don’t buy into a program, they buy into a vision.

The vision for your ministry needs to be compelling and exciting, but it also needs to be well-defined. If you haven’t taken the time to nail down a strong and specific vision for your ministry – you need to do that now.
Chris Wesley teaches an incredibly practical 3-part series on defining your ministry’s mission, vision and values. You get 3 video sessions for you, 3 video sessions for your team, and over 20 pages of fill in the blank worksheets to help you through the process. That video series is available within Thrive.

Share that vision constantly.

It’s not just enough to define a vision, you need to be constantly sharing that vision with your team (and anyone else who will listen).

And make sure your ministry actually reflects that vision.

Be organized and efficient with your time.

When you’re organized, both you and your volunteers are less stressed – and stressed volunteers are unhappy volunteers.

Be efficient with your time so you don’t waste theirs – when you waste their time, it makes them think you don’t value it.

Walk the halls slowly.

When you walk through your parish offices, walk slowly – intentionally taking time to connect with people you work and minister with.

Among the many benefits of this: you’ll learn what’s going on in people’s lives (both personally and professionally), and you’ll end up collaborating more with others because you intentionally connected with them.

Know how to motivate your volunteers.

Get to know your volunteers – figure out what motivates them.

Ask them questions like: What do you like about ministry the most? The least? What is your typical work style? Whom do you enjoy ministering with? Whom do you dislike ministering with? What annoys you about being part of a team? What do you enjoy about teamwork?

Make training and formation a priority for your team.

A key part of setting your team up for success is making sure they are well-trained and equipped for the ministry you’re asking them to do.

Not only does properly training your team make your ministry more effective, but it also makes your team happier – no one likes to be thrown into a job they feel under-qualified and unprepared for.

Schedule time in your year (at least once a month) to do ongoing training and formation with your team.
If you’re looking for content/lessons to use to train your team, take a look at Thrive. Every month you get a Volunteer Training session that includes a 15-20 min teaching video from a youth ministry leader as well as handouts to help them process through the content.

Be willing to fail.

If you’re successful 100% of the time, then you are either a liar or playing it to safe.

A good leader is willing to try new things, even if success is not guaranteed.

But when you do fail, be honest and own it. And then learn from it.

Give your team permission to fail.

Most people get bored always coloring inside the lines or doing the same thing over and over again. Give your team permission to try new things – even if there’s a good chance it won’t work.

If it’s successful, celebrate with them. If it fails, celebrate with them and then talk through why it didn’t work – and encourage them to try again.

Invest in improving your craft.

Not only does it directly benefit your ministry, but it’s also important that your volunteers know that you are continually learning and investing in being a better leader.

They are way more likely to invest their own time and energy into training and formation if you’re doing the same.

We created Thrive as a way to better train, resource and connect youth workers. When you join Thrive, you get immediate access to over 12 hours of training sessions with new trainings being added every month.

What would you add to this list?

Michael Marchand

Michael is a Catholic evangelist, author and speaker.

After spending 11 years as a parish youth minister, Michael left parish ministry to work full-time with ProjectYM (a ministry he cofounded a few years earlier).

Michael's resume also includes preaching gigs at events and conferences around the world, a Catholic theology degree, authoring a book on Catholic evangelization, years of training and consulting with parish/diocesan leaders on technology and social media, countless online projects, and the founding of 2 ProjectYM mission bases: one in Uganda and one in Chattanooga, TN.

Michael is blessed to be part of an amazing missionary family. Michael, his beautiful wife (Crystal) and three kids recently settled in Chattanooga to serve the local Church there.

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