Situational leadership means adapting your leadership style to the motivation and the competence of you follower(s). So far, we’ve delved into the theory of situational leadership, spent time on followers who are unwilling and unable and looked at how to coach people who are motivated, but lack the skills. Today we focus on a third group and one that can be challenging: those followers who have the skills to do the job, but who are unwilling or unmotivated. The corresponding style for this type of followers is the supportive style, which means you have to focus on the relationship and far less on the tasks.


Volunteers who are capable but unmotivated

People can lose their passion for several reasons, because of personal circumstances, a crisis in faith, or because they’re simply stressed out and overworked. Obviously, that’s no reason to kick them out of the teen ministry. It is reason however to take action.

Whenever you have volunteers who have been passionate and enthusiastic, but have grown lukewarm, talk to them. Make sure to communicate that it’s okay, that there is room for them to feel down for a while. We can’t expect people to be at the top of the mountain all the time, there has to be room for being in the valley. Just let them know they’re not alone.

Spend some time with them and find out what’s troubling them. Maybe they need a year off (it can do wonders, I’ve seen it!). Maybe they need a retreat so they can be re-energized. Maybe they need a babysitter to watch the kids for one night a week so they can spend some marriage-time together. Find out what’s bothering them and try and come up with a solution together.

But if new volunteers are obviously unmotivated, even though they have the skills, you may need to tell them that youth ministry is not their thing. I’ve had to do this a couple of times and you know what? Most of the times they were relieved because they felt the same, but were afraid to say so. See if you can find a place somewhere else where they will be more at home.

The same might be true for veteran youth volunteers who have lost their passion and can’t get it back. It can very well be that it is time for them to leave, to do something else. Let them leave in a good way, especially when they’ve served well for a period of time. Extend them the grace to say goodbye without any hard feelings, so they can find closure and start new somewhere else.

Students who are capable, but unmotivated

There are usually plenty of these around, aren’t there? Talented kids you wish you could get interested for a task in youth ministry. As it is so often, relationship is the key here. You see, you can’t motivate these kids by telling them what to do or by just putting them to work. They know their stuff, you don’t need to tell them anything. They just need a reason to do it.

It means investing in the relationship with them. Why are they not interested in doing anything in youth ministry? Is it because they think it’s lame, because they don’t have the time (which can be an excuse, but can also be very legitimate!), because their friends will have a big laugh, or what? The only way you can find out is by spending time with them. Take them out for lunch, talk to them after church, invite them over for dinner. See if you can identify their barriers and take these down, convince them of the merits of doing the job.

Something I’ve found to work is to communicate your trust in them and your admiration for their abilities. I had a student who could come up with a million ideas for things, she was one of those people who can just sit down and think creatively. One of the ways I got her to get more involved, was by showing her my honest admiration for her gifts and talents, and entrusting her with a lot of freedom and responsibility. She stepped up, encouraged by my praise and faith in her and we worked very well together.

Once you get them involved, these students can take on a lot of responsibility. You have to keep checking of course to make sure they’re handling it, but usually they love the freedom to do their ‘thing’. It can motivate them to take it to the next level, which means you’ll have a student who is not only capable, but motivated as well.

How are your experiences with this group? Have you ever had to deal with volunteers who lost their passion, or never had it in the first place? How did that go?