Let’s be honest. If you lead a ministry on Sunday, Saturday’s suck.

Not a Saturday night goes by that I don’t dread my phone and email. It’s only a matter of time. The texts will come in. The phone will ring. Emails will hit the inbox.

I’m sick

I forgot to tell you that I was on vacation

I didn’t realize that I was on the schedule

Didn’t I tell you that I couldn’t serve anymore?

Yep, Saturday’s suck. Didn’t you know that Saturday is “volunteer back out day?” What’s interesting is how many ministry leaders are surprised by the last minute messages. It’s like it wasn’t expected. Every week, it’s someone. How long do we have to be in ministry before we realize that this is a thing?

Here’s where it gets real. Small groups often live or die based on how your Saturday goes. How many people called out? How many people are on vacation? Depending on how many people you can rustle up will decide if you can do small groups that weekend or not.

One day I met someone that challenged me. He talked about his Saturdays and they seemed very different than mine. His Saturday’s seemed a lot less stressful. He actually enjoyed his Saturdays. Eventually, he’d reveal to me his system. Yes, there’s a system that can give you Saturdays back. There’s a system that will help your Small Groups win. It was a system for having amazing subs. Subs that you didn’t have to schedule. Subs that you didn’t have to recruit. It sounds too good to be true, right? Here’s what I learned about having amazing subs like he did.

Professional Subs

Can we be real? Whenever we’re working on a new volunteer and they say, “just use me whenever you need, maybe I can be a sub” you’re heart sinks. The word “sub” doesn’t equal awesome. We think of words like:

Part time
Less committed

Change your attitude about subs. Have high expectations for your subs. Stop communicating “anything you do helps.” No, they’re essential to your ministry. I might be bold enough to say, they’re the secret sauce. Every week, someone is going to call out. Expect it. It’s going to happen. No sweat, you have subs you can call. Maybe you have subs who you’ve already scheduled because you’re anticipating what is going to happen – because you’re smart like that.

Delegate Ownership

One of the reasons we dread subs is because they’re part of a reactive process. Someone tells us they aren’t going to be there and we reactively work to find a sub. A volunteer’s absence is our problem to solve and it gets old. But maybe we’re thinking about this all wrong. We’ve created an environment where we’ve told volunteers, “when you can’t come, we’ll fill your spot with a sub.” So your volunteers don’t think anything of it. How great is this? I can call out and they’re going to find someone amazing to cover me. Wrong.

We can change that expectation. We can delegate ownership to our small group leaders. What if we communicate something like this. “Here’s where we need help. There are many more small group leaders than staff/coaches and keeping up with who is going to be out is too much. If you know you’re going to be out, help us out by finding your own sub. Honestly, you can be out as much as you need if you’re willing to replace yourself.”  You’ll be amazed by how many people will take ownership when you give it away.

Cross Train

One of the best ways to make sure you have enough volunteers is to cross train all your volunteers. When check-in stops working, are you the first person people call? When the tech volunteer calls out, who can operate the slides? Can your small group leaders help with the security check out? Would you be able to drop any volunteer in your ministry to help in another area? It’s time to cross train your people. When you’re stretched and you’re out of subs, your best bet might be to slide another volunteer into the open role. It won’t be a great experience unless you’ve already done some cross training.

What’s behind every successful small group program? A lot of things, including a small army of subs at the ready. Change the culture of your volunteers, empower the team, and have a great Saturday!