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Why your Church is Thinking about Volunteers the Wrong Way

volunteer

I’ve never met a church leader who said that they had enough volunteers. In fact, the opposite is typically true. Having too few volunteers is one of the most frequent complaints and pressure points I hear from church leaders. Most of the time it’s not due to a lack of effort or trying. It’s usually due to thinking the wrong way about volunteerism in the church.

  • Most churches think they need more volunteers to accomplish the ministry…they don’t.
  • Most churches think they need more talented and experienced volunteers to accomplish the ministry…they don’t.
  • Most churches think they need volunteers to do the tasks of the ministry so the church staff can lead the ministry…they don’t.

“Volunteering is the Ministry”

Jesus said, “I did not come to be served but to serve.” Serving others is both the pathway to and pinnacle of spiritual maturity. Volunteering is not a means to an end (getting the ministry accomplished) …it is the end, because volunteers are not roles to be filled but people to be developed. When ministry staff members say things like, “We need more volunteers to make ministry happen” they begin using people instead of ministering to people. Volunteering is discipleship!

“I See Something in You”

Twenty-five years ago, the pastor of a small conservative Baptist church said he saw something in me. Something that I didn’t see in myself. And he invited me to start teaching a Jr. High Sunday School class. I’m not sure what he was thinking. I was scared to death. But I said yes. I wasn’t really all that much older than those Jr. High Students, and I really didn’t know all that more about the Bible or knowing Jesus than them. But I studied those lessons and did the best that I could. That’s where leading church ministry really began for me. All because someone saw something in me. Church leaders need to start seeing “something” in the people around them. Start seeing them for what they could be in and through Jesus, not just as they are. Start speaking those life-giving words into them and inviting them to take a risk and use their gifting for the sake of the Gospel and the Kingdom. And by the way. When I began volunteering, I began growing in my friendship with Jesus in way that I had never done before.

“Join a Team”

The way you talk about something reflects the value you ascribe to it. Words create worlds and so the way you talk about volunteers and volunteerism at your church will either build or erode the volunteer culture you’re trying to create. Unless you tell them differently people are going to think they’re just helpers…just a volunteer. You’ve got to help them see that they’re not just a volunteer but when they volunteer they are actually no longer coming to church they are being the Church. Stop asking people to volunteer and perform a function, get tasks done, or fill a role. Invite them to join a team and make a difference with their life. Help them see volunteering in the church as what it really is…joining a movement to help people meet, know, and follow Jesus.

A big shout out to Brian LaMew who serves as the Pastor of Campus Development and leads the Campus Pastor Team at Sun Valley Community Church who shared these principles in a Sun Valley all staff gathering recently. Keep up the great work Brian!


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Volunteers

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