In all my years in church, I’ve never served in a ministry that did not need more volunteers. We seem to be in perpetual need of help. But how do we find and motivate more volunteers?
First of all, it’s important to realize the church is a volunteer-driven organization. What this means is that the majority of your workers are not paid staff or employees. Even large churches, with their multi-million dollar budgets and dozens of staff, could never survive without an army of unpaid volunteers. You may as well get used to it, because it isn’t going to change. It comes with the territory of working with churches and non-profits.
Kenneth O. Gangel writes, “From the beginning of the church, people gave their time and talents freely to spread the Good News of Christ. While Scripture does not speak against professional ministry, it does affirm that most work in the church should be done by volunteers” (Leadership Handbook of Management & Administration, p. 303).
One of the theological reasons for this emphasis on volunteers is that God has given gifts to all the members of the church — not just some parochial upper class or spiritual elite. Every single Christian has been endowed by the Holy Spirit with a unique spiritual gift (or blend of gifts) and has a responsibility to exercise and cultivate that gift.
As your body depends on every limb and organ to do its part, so the church body depends on each member to do its part. If you’re not sure of your spiritual gift, think about what you enjoy, and where God’s people have affirmed you in the past. Look for a need, jump in, and get serving!
If your church does have the “luxury” of paid staff (and this is not a bad thing), you need to see your role as one of equipping the volunteers. Ephesians 4:12 says that pastor-teachers are to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” To use a baseball analogy, a pastor is like a scout, constantly on the lookout for raw talent. He is also like a coach, providing input, feedback, support, and critique. In addition, he is like a manager, who must stay focused on the big picture.
I don’t know of anyone who would disagree with anything I’ve said so far. In principle, it’s easy. But in practice, it can be much, much harder. In my next post, I’ll share a few things ministry leaders can do to begin to identify and equip more volunteers. Stay tuned!