Wanted: More Church Volunteers

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!

TMU/TMS On Academic Probation

No doubt, most of you have heard that The Master’s University and Seminary have been placed on Academic Probation by the accrediting agency WASC.

As a graduate of both schools, I know them well. I spent eight years there, plus you can add five more years if you count my wife’s bachelors and teaching credential. These schools have been a major shaping influence in my life and family, led to lifelong friendships, and were the source of much spiritual growth. I have a vested interest in both TMU and TMS as an alumnus. And with my son turning 13 this fall, I wonder if this will be a place I can someday send my child.

I’ve read through portions of the WASC report and have also been involved in several discussions with alumni. Problems that have surfaced include a lack of diversity among administration and board members, favoritism toward donors and personal friends, a few questionable advanced degrees, and a culture of fear and intimidation. Another issue that has exploded on social media over the last week is the treatment of minorities and cases of racial prejudice. The grievances are serious. Yet it would be premature to say they are insurmountable.

What I think the school can do is be candid and straightforward. They need to do a full investigation both internally and externally, embrace outside accountability, and be honest where problems surface. I will assume they are already taking steps in this direction. They need to admit where wrongdoing has occurred, and even repent where necessary. This is not a time for cover up, clever spin, or downplaying the seriousness of these claims. The reputation not only of the school, but of the gospel itself, is at stake, and we do not want the word of God to be reviled.

At the same time, what we can do as students, alumni, donors, and friends is to pray for these institutions and these leaders. Our posture should be one of gravity and hope. I sense that some critics are closing in for the kill, like ravenous wolves on an injured sheep. But the Bible says we are to respect our leaders (Rom. 13:1-4), give honor to whom honor is owed (Rom. 13:7), speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), be angry without sin (Eph. 4:26), and be cautious of accusations made against godly men (1 Tim. 5:19-20). Remember how David respected Saul, even after the heinous crimes Saul committed against him personally? Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here.

“How the mighty have fallen!” David lamented in 2 Samuel 1:19, and that’s how I feel now. My heart is heavy. I still respect Dr. MacArthur and have benefited in countless ways from his expository ministry and his influence at the college and the seminary. I am forever indebted to his leadership and teaching, and in turn I have sought to pass on to others the many valuable lessons I learned. But that does not make him, or any other member of leadership, immune from sin or blind spots.

So many institutions and leaders have been exposed for moral failure, doctrinal error, or abuse of power in the past few months. I just keep thinking of 1 Corinthians 10:12 “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” It is a sobering warning to us all.

Lord have mercy, and shine your face once again upon The Master’s University and Seminary.

The blog of Stephen Jones