Recently our church was honored with an award from a local news publication. We received the “best place to volunteer” award for the past year in our area. I was thrilled, honored, humbled and grateful.

But the more I thought about this, the more I realized the people who serve at our churches and campuses are so much more than volunteers, they are leaders. Which led me to this question: How does one move from a volunteer to a leader in whatever organization they may serve?

1. Have a purpose.

The reason so many of our volunteers enjoy their place of service is that they have a purpose for service. They see their role as being a difference maker and have found a place to thrive using their unique gifts and talents. If there is a purpose behind your work, there is a greater success than just completing a task.

2. Be prepared.

Yes, it is the motto of the Boy Scouts, but it is also what separates a volunteer from a leader. If all you do is show up and ask “what do you need me to do?” you might help, but you will miss the chance to see a vision realized. When you prepare, you are doing so expecting something great to happen as a result of your service. There is an investment to what you are about to do, rather than just the time you are about to give that day.

3. Make it better.

Leaders don’t settle for status quo. Leaders don’t walk by the trash on the floor thinking “that’s not my job.” They see every opportunity as a chance to develop a preferred reality. When you volunteer, find ways to make every area of your job better.

4. Ask questions.

Volunteers wait to be told what to do, leaders ask what to do, then they ask how they did, then they ask what they can do next–until they can begin to think like the one leading them.


No, it’s not a word. It’s a sentence. “I see in you.” Once you lead and you learn, then you share. Leaders always have someone they have tapped on the shoulder and said, “I see in you the potential to do something great.” Most of us think that to lead means to do our job in such a way that we are indispensable. The reality is that leadership means to train someone up to do your job even better than you—and then give it away.

Volunteering is great, it is needed, but decide to take it to the next level with some added time and attention to detail and you’ll find the joy of servant leadership.

Good leaders + Good systems = Great results

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