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Jayne Poli on Service Teams That Drive Spiritual Growth

Jayne Poli on Service Teams That Drive Spiritual Growth



Jayne_Poli_podcastThanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to listen in to today’s podcast. I’m excited to be speaking with Jayne Poli from River Valley Church.

If you aren’t already following River Valley Church, you should be. It is a fast growing church that is made up of nine campuses and about 6500 people. Jayne is Life Teams Director at River Valley. Life teams are serving teams that use a leadership pipeline to put people on the journey toward leadership within the church. Jayne talks with us today about their model and how they get volunteers to work within their church.

Make the next step easy. // The hardest part in getting people to volunteer in their church is getting them to actually take that first step. River Valley makes it easy by having an online application process that only needs to be filled in once, no matter what opportunities the individual may be interested in. Although volunteers only have to complete it once, the application is kept on record and can be pulled for any area they want to pursue. Some groups may require background checks, such as serving with children, so additional pieces need to be filled out for these specific groups, but the base form remains the same and removes a barrier that can slow down the sign-up process.

Delegate the details and track the overall process. // Keeping track of the life teams and following up with every application that comes in requires a tiered structure. Jayne can’t oversee the life teams at every campus throughout River Valley Church, so there is a point person overseeing each campus who Jayne connects with. That point person interfaces with the team leaders and makes sure everyone understands what they should be doing. Jayne can track information behind the scenes and the system lets her know when people are signing in and when reports are going out. If a team looks like it may be struggling, Jayne can jump in and offer some help to get everyone back on track.

Modeling life teams after Biblical example // Jayne uses Exodus 18 as her template for the leadership structure. The ratio she’d like to see for the leadership and team development is for every 10 life team members there would be one leader, and for every 5 life team leaders there would be one coach. Basing the life teams on the biblical model exemplified by Jethro and Moses provides a solid structure that the church can build from.

To learn more about River Valley Church visit their website at If you’d like to learn more about their model for life teams, you can visit their resources at or You can reach Jayne by email at

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Episode Highlights

01:14 // Rich introduces Jayne Poli and welcomes her to the show.

01:33 // Jayne talks about her role within River Valley Church.

02:08 // Jayne highlights the size of River Valley Church.

03:06 // Jayne talks about developing volunteers within River Valley Church.

03:54 // Jayne talks about their online application process.

06:48 // Jayne talks about their follow up process.

08:46 // Jayne shares the church’s goals for average adult attendance serving.

09:59 // Jayne shares her observations of the impact on growth when having a robust serving culture within the church.

10:45 // Rich states that growth within a church often relies on healthy volunteering.

11:37 // Jayne talks about their leadership ratio and their goals for the future.

13:57 // Jayne shares how the volunteers received inspiration and information.

15:22 // Jayne shares her thoughts on serving and the importance of getting it right.

Lightning Round

Helpful Tech Tools //

Ministries Following // Eagle Brook Church

Influential Book // The Search to Belong by Myers

Inspiring Leader // Rick Warren

What does he do for fun // Family, Church, Painting, Reading

Contact //

Episode Transcript

Rich – Well hey everybody, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. My name’s Rich, the host here and I am just so fortunate that you would take some time out today to listen in. We know that you’ve got a lot going on at your church, gosh there’s a lot happening getting ready for this weekend and we’re just so fortunate that you would take some time out, to plug us in your earplugs and listen in.

I’m super excited to have Jayne Poli with us today from River Valley Church. It’s a fantastic church, you might have heard of them before. If you’re not, you really should be following them. They’ve 9 campuses, about 65 hundred people, a fantastic church, fast growing. Jayne welcome to the show.

Jayne – Thanks, thanks for having me.

Rich – Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your role at the church?

Jayne – Well I’m Life Team’s Director and what that means is, our life teams are our serving teams that serve on a weekly basis at the church and it’s anywhere from GO Kids, which is our kids’ ministry all the way through adults. Our youth group is using it, it’s a system where we use our leadership pipeline to get people on the journey to serving and leadership.

Rich – Okay very cool. Now give us a sense of the scope of, you know the number of volunteers, who’s all in your system? Give us a sense of what that looks like.

Jayne – Currently we have about 26 hundred people serving on a life team.

Rich – Gosh.

Jayne – Yeah it’s a big organization and it’s just exciting to see how God has moved in our serving, the culture in our church, it’s really developed in the last couple of years and we’re so excited. We had to kind of find a way to keep up with the growth of our church and a way to make sure everybody gets a similar experience at all of our campuses.

Rich – Absolutely. Well I think there’s probably a lot of church leaders that are listening in today that they’re just trying to figure out how they can get 20 rather than 26 hundred and they’re really wrestling with that. I think a lot of church leaders, they look at volunteers as kind of a necessary evil, we have to get volunteers to do stuff for us, but clearly you’re doing a lot more than that at River Valley, it’s much more about development, much more about how do we kind of grow people up. Why don’t we talk a little bit about that? What are you doing to develop leaders at your church?

Jayne – Well it’s all about getting people to take that next step and so if they’re not serving we want them to serve because we know that when you get involved in your local church and you’re serving, you take some ownership. There’s a sticky factor to serving and so we really have high value on getting people involved in that way and feel like that’s just part… You know, everybody wants to be connected and Andy Stanley will say like, everybody wants a job and a friend.

Rich – Yes.

Jayne – Well this is a way to have both with our life teams, that’s why we went with the team concept, so that there would be that connection factor along with the job.

Rich – Very cool. So why don’t you tell us about what the experience of an individual is like on one of those? What’s going to happen to them?

Jayne – Well first of all we wanted it to be really easy for someone to join a team, so we developed a really easy onboarding process for them.

Rich – Okay.

Jayne – They can sign up online and it’s a quick and simple application that’s electronic that they won’t have to fill out again for any other area that they serve.

Rich – Okay cool.

Jayne – Which is really cool and it’s easy for us because it’s already put into our database. So it’s a record that we can keep and go back to and get information?

Rich – What database system are you using at the core of that? How are you kind of managing that piece?

Jayne – Well this was trial and error because trying to find a system and a database that works for serving has been problematic. So basically what it came down to is we use Arena for our church database.

Rich – Yep.

Jayne – It was hard to find something that interfaced with Arena very well, so our business manager just hired some programmers to develop something that would be a module for Arena.

Rich – Okay so kind of plugs into Arena.

Jayne – Yeah.

Rich – Then volunteers just have to sign up once but that information is spread or used across multiple locations?

Jayne – Yeah we developed an application and that works for any area that you want to serve in. So it’s like a universal application.

Rich – Okay.

Jayne – Then there’s different addendums that will affect different areas of ministry. So for kids you have to have background checks.

Rich – Right.

Jayne – So there is an addendum to the application for that and for anything with leadership or needing some spiritual maturity, there’s a leadership application that is an addendum.

Rich – Okay very cool.

Jayne – Yeah.

Rich – Now with all of those different positions how do you let people know about what’s available and then their expectations, what does that look like?

Jayne – Well on our website we have a serve page and it lists all of the different options that they can serve on. So they can self-select, they can go on one and say, “I think I can commit to serving on week 2 at the 9:30 service as a greeter.” Then they can add themselves to that team, they’ve got the application and then once they’re approved to serve, which is very simple, it’s a very easy process, then they will get an automatic email that welcomes them to the team, gives them a position manual that explains what it means to be a greeter at River Valley Church and then their team lead will connect with them and make that personal interaction at that time.

Rich – Okay now help me understand what you’re doing at that point to ensure that team leaders are actually following up? I’m sure everyone at River Valley follows up with every contact, every time.

Jayne – Of course they do.

Rich – But what have you done to encourage that, because I think there can be a breakdown with that process?

Jayne – Yeah and this is the typical, building the plane while you’re flying scenario.

Rich – Yes.

Jayne – It’s a growing process. So what we have done is at every campus we’ve identified someone who is accountable and responsible for life teams at their campus because obviously I can’t do that, I can’t be at every campus and oversee that. So there is a point person who takes that responsibility and that point person is the one who is interfacing with the life team leaders and making sure that they understand what they’re supposed to be doing, their responsibilities. What I do is, I’m kind of like Oz, I’m in the background and I kind of look into the system, I can see the communications that have gone out.

Rich – Okay.

Jayne – I can see, we have reports that I’ve developed with our business manager that shows us when people are signing in and when they’re not. Then when we see a team that looks like it’s struggling with consistency, we’ll kind of tap into that campus lead and ask them to connect with that team lead to find out, “Hey what’s going on with your team? Do you need some help? Do you need some support?”

Rich – Yeah absolutely and then obviously you kind of work together with the campus leadership to kind of, “Hey we’ll provide some data, some support,” then they’ll actually implement with the individual campus?

Jayne – Yeah I try to meet at least monthly with everybody, with whoever is in charge of the campus and just kind of go over what I’ve seen with the data and then kind of problem solve, look for barriers, just kind of consult a little bit about where they need some help with training and support.

Rich – Okay very cool. Now what’s the percentage of your average adult attendance that’s serving and how do you think through those issues?

Jayne – We have about 45% of our average attendance, adult attendance, we don’t count the overall house attendance because kids don’t serve, so we wanted it to be more realistic numbers.

Rich – Yes.

Jayne – So our average adult attendance, we have about 45%, now this is a moving target because our growth is just crazy. We are so thankful for it, our church is just expanding and growing, but our goal that we give the church as a whole is we want 70% of adult attendance.

Rich – Oh my goodness, you’ve got a way to go.

Jayne – And we have the spots for it. If everybody served once a month, which makes it really easy, an easy thing, an easy ask, we would have the space to have 70% of our average adult attendance serving. Obviously that’s not happening at this point but we’re moving that way and I’m really excited to see the growth in that.

Rich – Yeah how would you say the kind of connection between the growth of River Valley as a church and the service experience, are you growing the service experience as a response to or do you see it actually as a kind of momentum add or to the actual overall growth of the church?

Jayne – Yeah I would say, I’ve been in my position for 3 years, I would say at the beginning it was a response to, we just had to catch up to our growth and we needed people who could fog a mirror, you know?

Rich – Yes.

Jayne – But what I’m seeing is as soon as we’re getting like over 50%, 55% of average adult attendance serving, we had this huge influx of growth all of a sudden. So I’m seeing a correlation, now this is just my own observation and maybe I’m a little biased, but I see a correlation to when we have a really full, robust serving culture that growth happens.

Rich – Yeah absolutely. I know in our world here, our best predictor of a campus’ growth is its volunteer community and the total number of volunteers.

Jayne – Yeah.

Rich – If you look at a campus that’s kind of struggling with its overall growth, dimes for dozens that campus has a problem with volunteering, so they seem to be low on the service team experience. So I would definitely agree with that, I think those two are connected, I think they’re intrinsically connected, which I think makes sense because people who are volunteering are committed, they love the church, they think it’s great.

Jayne – Yeah.

Rich – They’re getting vision regularly, they’re getting kind of leadership regularly and that’s going to encourage them to invite. People want to invite to something they’re a part of already as opposed to just something that someone else does for me.

That actually speaks a little bit to the coaching and leadership side, what does the structure look like, the kind of leadership structure for volunteers at your church? Obviously every team is a little bit different, but are there some overall principles?

Jayne – Yeah, well whenever I was working with other staff members to develop this model, I was using Exodus 18 as my template. So I really, in my mind, not in reality yet but in my mind I have a ratio that I would like to see for a leadership development structure. I would like to see for every 10 life team members, we would have one leader over that.

Rich – Okay.

Jayne – Then for every 5 life team leaders we would have a coach over that.

Rich – Okay yep.

Jayne – Which is that Exodus 18 number ratio that Jethro gave to Noah, to Moses excuse me.

Rich – That’s fine.

Jayne – Wow okay.

Rich – It’s fine, it’s early, it’s early, it’s fine, it’s good.

Jayne – It is but, alright. Well anyway, so that’s kind of our goals that we look for and typically, we probably should go back to the basics, what does a life team look like?

Rich – Yes.

Jayne – That’s going to be the service time, the week of the month and the position. So that’s our teams and ideally, like a greeter team sometimes will have a team of 10. We would want one team lead over that team. Sometimes team leads can have 2 teams that they’re leading but they’re not leading more than 10 people is the goal.

Rich – Okay now I’ve noticed a couple of times you’ve mentioned that your service team, life teams are serving a week per month, what do you do on 5 week months? I’m sure you’ve been asked that question before, what happens then?

Jayne – Yeah what we do is we do a rotation. So a 5 week month happens 4 times a year and we have 4 teams.

Rich – Oh okay great, good, good.

Jayne – Yeah so the first fifth week is week 1. [Inaudible 00:13:36] week 2.

Rich – Okay cool. Now what are the expectations of the coach, I’d say on an individual morning, let’s say a leader, so they’ve got their group of people they’re leading and say guest connections, those people arrive, are they doing like a huddle, is there kind of a calming experience you’re trying to ensure happens with everyone on your service teams?

Jayne – Well I try not to micromanage.

Rich – Okay.

Jayne – Each campus will have its own little flavor.

Rich – Okay.

Jayne – So some campuses, they’ll do everybody gather together.

Rich – Okay.

Jayne – You know everyone and then the campus pastor or the associate campus pastor will do the huddle time and give inspiration and information.

Rich – Okay.

Jayne – Often there’s also some teams that will meet on their own and do their own huddle time, inspiration and information.

Rich – Yeah.

Jayne – It’s just a huddle, it’s just like less than 5 minutes, it a prayer… yeah.

Rich – So I know you don’t want to micromanage but what would you say is your preferred… You’re the expert, what would you say is the preferred method for that with volunteers?

Jayne – I actually prefer the individual teams to meet with their leader and one of the reasons is, my goal and one of the things we want to do with our leadership pipeline is really empower people to lead. So we don’t want to just give them a title and still do all the ministries ourselves, we want them to do that ministry and leading their team. I think that is also a great team building moment.

Rich – Right very cool. Well this has been great, this has been fantastic. Anything else you want to share before we jump on to the lightning round?

Jayne – I just want to share that I think that serving is essential to people’s discipleship and that it’s part of your growth in Christ, to use your gifts and talents in the church. Then also that we don’t want to use people, we want to fulfil them, we want to pour into them. So I think it’s more, I think typically you think task orientated with serving but we think it’s connection, we think it’s relationship. So when you have that right everything else falls into place.

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