In my years as a church leader, recruiting, coordinating, and developing volunteer ministry teams has been an up-and-down journey. I would say that of all the responsibilities of a pastor, it is one of the more challenging. That might be the reason that so many normal-size churches have solo pastors who seem to do so much of the ministry alone. It’s not that they don’t realize that their job as the shepherd is to “equip the saints.” It’s just that it’s hard to get the saints to get involved.
I’m not writing this as an expert in the volunteer recruitment process, but as a leader who has experienced nearly two decades of trial and error to maximize the impact of ministry. I could probably share more fails than wins - which might be a more interesting read. But my goal is to share one piece of advice that I hope is helpful, even if it’s not particularly interesting.
As you identify people in your church who might be suitable volunteers for the team(s) you lead, there are many things to consider. Undoubtedly, they should have a skill set or a gifting that makes them the right fit. The level of development in that skill/gifting may be negotiable.
In some areas of ministry, there are clearly baseline requirements for their spiritual maturity. It’s absolutely necessary to qualify volunteers who may have a role that is intended to disciple others in the church.
You’ve probably heard (or used) the acronym F.A.T. as a way of describing the ideal volunteer for your ministry. Faithful, available, and teachable people are definitely more enjoyable to serve with than those who are not.
Notwithstanding any of those requirements, I want to insist that the #1 most important, most critical, most vital characteristic of any volunteer in your ministry is one who is COMMITTED.
Wait, stay with me...
Why is this characteristic so important? Or, rather, why is it more important than any other characteristic?
The reason, IMHO, that commitment is such an important characteristic is because when you, as the leader, recognize its importance, you will change the way you invite, recruit, onboard and train your volunteers.
What do I mean by that?
I speak with pastors and church leaders every day who are building volunteer teams in their church. And the single word that I often hear these leaders use in reference to their church members and volunteers is their “involvement.” Our goal seems to be to get people engaged or involved or participating in the ministry of the church. And while there is nothing wrong with people being engaged, involved or participating, I will suggest that there is a difference between participation and commitment.
You will notice that there were two significant players contributing to this delicious meal. The difference between the two is that one (the hen) was involved and the other (the pig) was committed.
As a ministry leader, when we invite people to be a part of our teams, we should never be ashamed of raising the bar to a point of commitment rather than simple involvement or engagement. After all, your role as a ministry leader is to disciple the people God has brought to your church. Discipling those volunteers means helping them grow into a better reflection of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. And Jesus was the most committed volunteer in the history of the world.
When I visualize that moment in the gospels, I visualize Jesus with a steely-eyed gaze towards the place where He knew He would lay down His life for all mankind.
Jesus didn't just participate in God’s plan for salvation. He was fully committed to playing His part. And aren’t we grateful for that commitment?
So, as we call our church family members to live and serve, using their gifts and talents for the sake of the Kingdom, our goal is not just to fill positions so that the work can be done, but to help people become more like Jesus. Following His example of commitment is one precise way of honoring God, building great teams and doing the great work which God has created us to do.
Bart Blair is the founder of Make More Discisples. He has more than 20 years in corporate, church and non-profit leadership experience. Bart lives in Frisco, Texas with his family where he serves as a Church Growth Consultant and Strategist.
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