Monday, May 12, 2008

Review - "The New Breed: Understanding and Equipping the 21st Century Volunteer"

"The New Breed: Understanding And Equipping The 21st Century Volunteer"
by Jonathan McKee and Thomas McKee. I was delighted to see a recent shipment of books in the church office include this relatively new book. Published last November, it looked like an interesting title but the complete lack of reviews on Amazon kept me from ordering it. (Well, I'll go fix that right now.)

Short review: Great book!! Buy a copy for your pastor! :)

Longer review: Let's start with a bit more context and why this book is so relevant for the church and my ministry right now. I'm getting more involved in our Small Groups Ministry, as a coach, and have been praying for my leaders and getting prepared to kick things off (we're redoing the way we do groups and many aspects including coaching are brand new for us). I began trying to find out some dates/times when we could have our first huddle, hopefully within the week. After a full week with no replies, I get back my lone reply: "Would sometime in July be ok?" Eek! This is going to be harder than I thought!

I'm not quite a "Boomer", but was born right at the tail end of that era and identify quite a bit with the values and traditions of my Dad. I've also made a life transition that I've not seen many of my friends or peers make. I deliberately cut my work hours way down, and chose to make family, ministry and relationships more of a priority. I moved away from the crazy pace of life at Harvard Medical School in Boston and now live and work in Indiana. (Commute time cut from an hour to two minutes!) I'm busy, but nothing like I was before. I don't really feel that constrained about my free time when it comes to using it for a kingdom purpose. Having chosen to "step off" the rat race treadmill and found an amazing sense of joy in the priority of putting God first, I feel sad sometimes when people I care about don't have seem to have time to breath, or need to schedule lunch together a month in advance. Oops, I digress, back to the book...

This book was really an eye-opener for me in understanding how my younger friends and colleagues view work, commitments, relationships, and the search for significance. The 'Boomer' view of commitment was a world apart from how it's viewed by Geneation @ (as the authors call them).

The book has three parts: The Volunteer Recruiter, the Volunteer Manager and the Volunteer Leader. The Volunteer Recruiter looks at this new breed of volunteer, painting a profile of the 21st Century volunteer. They talk about the need for providing easy on-ramps, and treating recruiting more like a courting relationship. The goal is not all that different - this new breed is quite capable and interested in committing, but it's going to be more on their terms, out of passion, and will come after they see themselves making a difference - it won't be signing on "up front" for long-term commitment out of someone else's 'need.' The first part also looks at two great sources of volunteers - retired Boomers and young professionals. It has a great discussion of seven "sins" of recruiting efforts:

Sin 1 - Expecting announcements to work
Sin 2 - Go it alone
Sin 3 - Recruit only those able to make long-term commitments
Sin 4 - Assume "No" means "Never"
Sin 5 - Recruit any BIC (Body In Chair)
Sin 6 - Ask busy people to do busy work
Sin 7 - Recruit professionals who know nothing about volunteer management

Part two gets into managing a new breed of volunteers. The increased need for understanding their individual needs and motivation, feedback, perks, and understanding role of relationships. There's more to having a "huddle" than just a fancy new name for a "Team Meeting." Chapter six has a good discussion on 'Empowerment' and how that differs from 'Delegation'. Chapters 7 and 8 were good inclusions in the book as well: Managing the Virtual Volunteer; and Managing (or Canning) High-Maintenance Volunteers.

The final part of the book is on the Volunteer Leader, with discussion and a case study on successfully leading a volunteer organization. (The book is about any kind of volunteer organization and has broad application, not just in church or ministry settings.)

Overall, the book is a must-read for anyone new to recruiting or managing volunteers, or anyone from the old school working with volunteers who wonders why 'these kids nowadays are so afraid of commitment!'

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