The Equipper Newsletter
February 1, 2009
Churches Equipping Saints for Service

 Helping New Members Serve
 by Karen Kogler

"New member assimilation? We don't call it that anymore. Sounds like the Borg."

Not as many churches "assimilate" their new members nowadays, partly because the bad guy cyborgs on Star Trek used that term for their forced absorption of victims into their collective being. Some churches say they help people get connected. Others talk about discipleship or full participation. But whatever the name, most churches intentionally help newcomers become fully part of their church family.

Participation in worship and Bible study, proportionate giving and serving in ministry are often noted as markers of a fully-connected member. While churches teach and emphasize these behaviors, many also intentionally help newcomers make new friends at church. The more new relationships a newcomer builds within their first months at the church, the more statistically likely they are to be still attending at the end of their first year.

But when it comes to serving/volunteering, do we do more than simply encourage it? Do we need to do more? After all, there's always pleas for volunteers in the Sunday announcements. If they wanted to serve, they'd just jump right in, wouldn't they?

Not necessarily. In big churches, newcomers think there surely are people better qualified to be an usher or a Sunday school teacher than they are. In a small church, newcomers wonder if they'd be intruders in the close groups of families and friends that seem to be doing everything. And in all churches, people wonder what the job would really be like, how much time would be involved, if they have the ability to do the job, if they would like the job, and what they'd do if they tried it and didn't like it! Plus, if the jobs trumpeted in the announcements don't fit them, they have no idea how to find something that does.

 How to Help New Members Serve
Every church welcomes new members, and helps them get involved, in ways that suit the church's size, mission and vision, history and culture. There is no one right way to do it. But intentionally helping people find places to serve sometimes is overlooked. Compare your practices with the suggestions below and consider providing stronger assistance to help new members serve in your church's ministries.
In your new member classes, be sure to include these truths in your teaching:
  • the integral role of serving in the life of every believer
  • the giftedness of all believers
  • the church as the body of Christ in which each member is needed and is designed by God for their role

Provide your new members with information on ministry opportunities; preferably, job descriptions. Provide someone to meet with them one-on-one, but also encourage them to just jump right in to a ministry, use a gifts discovery tool, or take a class on gifts, as they wishh.

Use trained volunteers to meet with these new members. These volunteers should be good listeners who are familiar with the church's ministries. They must be reliable and spiritually mature, as they will be working on their own with people who are at varying places in their Christian life.

Train these volunteers with a thorough understanding of how these new member visits fit into and support your church's big picture of helping people serve. Teach them to ask helpful, open-ended questions (ones that can't be answered with just a word or two) and how to listen well (not as easy as it sounds). Include all the nuts and bolts of how they'll get paired with a new member, where they will meet, how they'll report back, and whether or not they'll be doing any follow-up.

The rest of this article includes the content of the meeting, what to do after the meeting, and comments from volunteers who have led these meetings.
 Got a Question?
    We recently received this question from Brenda in Yorkville, Illinois:

    "Our church's Angel Food Ministry has received a fantastic outpouring of people offering to volunteer. This ministry provides boxes of food at reduced cost to help families in our community. At our November distribution, we had 83 volunteers and in December, we had over 50 volunteers. That is way too many! To handle the orders we receive, 30 volunteers is plenty.We've had many people volunteering since we began, plus people who came forward because of extra holiday efforts, and 'regulars' who just show up. I do not want to discourage anyone from coming. However, I do not want people to feel that they are not needed either. So how do you deal with too many volunteers?"


     Good Stuff on the Web
    • Jesus modeled service when he washed his disciples' feet. "Tending to the Feet of the Homeless" is a network news story highlighting a pastor and volunteers who live out that model of service.
    • Have you heard of Google docs? Google's free online word processing and spreadsheet software is a great tool for collaborative volunteer work -- virtual meetings, schedules, etc.
    • Career issues are on the front burner for many in today's uncertain economy. "Gifts and Callings" can help start discussions on how both gifts and calling affect career decisions. What better place than church to apply faith issues to our work vocation?
    • Group Publishing Company is making available results of an extensive survey on several areas of church life, including "The State of Volunteer Ministry."

    Subscribe here if you received this from a friend.
    To unsubscribe, use "Manage your subscription," below.
    In this issue:


    The Equipper Newsletter published monthly by
    Karen Kogler, Equipper Church Volunteerism Resources