The Equipper Newsletter
August 1, 2008
Churches Equipping Saints for Service

A Culture of Serving: Immanuel Lutheran, Macomb, Michigan
by Karen Kogler
"There's no magic bullet."

Dr. Gary Pawlitz, Minister of Fellowship and Service at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Macomb, Michigan, doesn't mince words when talking about how churches help their people serve. "No system is perfect. And what works in one place doesn't work in another."

Pawlitz, who goes by 'Dr. Gary,' has served this church for 18 years. His senior pastor, Rev. Michael Lutz, has been there 24 years. As Dr. Gary describes the church's volunteerism system and practices, it's clear that the church culture built over their long tenures plays a key role in where they are today.

"Mike came to Immanuel 7 years before I did," Dr. Gary explains. "Mr. Ken Jakes came 4 years after Mike. They started some good things. When I came in to do assimilation, people were ready."

Immanuel is a large church, with 4200 souls and about 1350 in weekly worship. Of the regular worshippers, Dr. Gary estimates about 70% are serving in some way.

New member classes establish the church culture. A 10-week class, taught by the pastors, covers Christian doctrine. Then all incoming members, even staff and those transferring from a fellow Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregation, attend "Living as Christ's Disciple," an 8-hour class that Dr. Gary teaches. (See participant materials.) Some of what he covers in this class:

  • The church's goals and core virtues, "what we're willing to die for"
  • Their five activities: worship, education, witnessing, fellowship and service
  • Small group Bible studies
  • Stewardship of time, talent and treasure
  • A spiritual gifts inventory and a brief personality inventory
  • More on Immanuel's system
  • Recruitment
  • Other aspects of assimilation at Immanuel
  • More from Dr. Gary
Good Stuff on the Web
Church workers are often honored for their "work for the Lord." And those not employed by the church usually think of their "work for the Lord" as their volunteer work at church. True. But we "work for the Lord" in any job. The article "Faith at Work" notes that the eulogies for Tim Russert, the Meet the Press host who died recently of a heart attack, give evidence of a man who effectively shared his faith in his workplace, a man doing what God called him to do. 
"When we don’t stop to ask God if He wants our help here, what ends up happening is, we don’t have the energy left to fulfill the tasks He has assigned us personally." This key thought from a Lutheran Hour Ministry newsletter, is an excellent one to take personally, and then to share to with fellow volunteers, especially volunteers you lead. If we don't pay attention to these wise words, we all end up Running on Fumes.
Book Review
    New Breed by Jonathan McKee and Thomas McKee. Group Publishing, 2008;  171 pages.   
    In this book, a father and son share volunteer strategies and experiences as they've worked with multiple generations and organizations (including the church.)  They identify three essential "hats" that you must wear to work with today's volunteer - the recruiter, the manager and the leader.  Recruiting is likened to a "courting relationship." Recruiters need to understand the value of networking, the do's and don'ts of volunteerism and the generational differences.  Managers are not "do it my way" kind-of-people, but people who empower others, people who coach by performance.  There are two special chapters - one on managing the virtual volunteer (web-based) and second, one on dealing with high-maintenance volunteers (how to coach them and not fire them.)  The goal of the leader is to help the whole church focus on making a lasting impact. The McKees say this starts with passion - your passion and then a volunteer's passion and the leader's ability to focus all this passion into solidarity.  This book has lots of lists, suggested resources and samples of forms.
    Reviewed by Carol Cohrs,
    Resource Library Manager
    Michigan District Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod.
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      Karen Kogler, Equipper Church Volunteerism Resources