As a church leader, you have probably experienced the burden of recruiting, or in some cases, begging, people to volunteer for the ministries at your church. Maybe you've encountered situations like these before:
We need two more adult chaperones for our mission trip who can drive us to Tennessee or we will have to leave a van full of kids at home! …. We’re expecting 100 people at this weekend’s conference and only 2 have signed up to help with providing lunch. … We sent out three emails and I shared about this from the pulpit - why is no one volunteering for our after school ministry?
Maybe you’ll find someone to fill a slot just in the nick of time … all until the next crisis springs up. Is there a way to move from survival mentality to generative ministry in the life of your church? If you are trying to solve these problems, ask these questions:
How are you developing the next leaders in your church? You may have done a great job at clarifying the need for volunteers from the pulpit or in the bulletin, but who have you invited to walk with you in leadership? What people in your congregation are you nurturing? Every small group Bible study, leadership team meeting, choir practice, and youth group fundraiser can be an opportunity to draw people into spiritual formation and leadership. Look for ways to love, learn, and lead with the people who are right in front of you! Walk with them in love and service, so that you can invite them into greater leadership as they grow.
Is your organization structured for staff to do ministry, or to equip others for ministry? We often fall into a common trap - it is almost always easier (in the short-term) for us to complete a task on our own. Unfortunately, this approach places the emphasis on our individual ministry successes, and leads others to believe that “paid staff” are the only ones who can work for God’s kingdom - we become solo heroic leaders! This way of ministry runs contrary to the tone and instruction of the early church. Ephesians 4 tells leaders to “equip the saints for the work of ministry”. Notice that more of Paul’s letters are addressed to entire congregations than are written to individuals. 2 Corinthians 5:20 states, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” 1 Peter 2:9 refers to all Christ-followers as part of the royal priesthood. Paul is not just talking to pastors here! The role of church leaders is to equip all Christians to live into their callings. Invite people into the journey, and challenge your staff to lead teams of people rather than to do the work.
Are you preparing your people for your departure?
In his book Transforming Discipleship, Greg Ogden says that effective leadership is proven by “what happens after the leader moves on to his or her next ministry” assignment (p. 134). How do we lead and equip with this knowledge in mind? The kingdom of God is bigger than any one person’s ministry efforts! In the 1700s, John Wesley brought together and equipped lay people to carry the work of God forward. However, George Whitfield kept most of the responsibilities of ministry to himself. Wesley’s ministry grew far beyond himself and the kingdom of God expanded abundantly, but Whitfield’s followers disbanded not long after he departed. You may need volunteers for next month’s mission trip, but by creating a culture of discipleship and equipping at your church, you’ll get so much more - you’ll see the glory of God all around you!