“Our church really needs help. We just keep trying harder to recruit volunteers and it isn’t getting better. I think equipping people to serve is a great idea and would really help. But our leaders don’t ‘get it.’ And what can I do? I’m just a volunteer!”
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When it comes to being an “equipping church,” it’s universally taught that all leaders, and especially the senior pastor, need to be on board and actively involved. I agree. But where does that leave the person who deeply loves their church, and who wants to work to equip people to serve, but is the lone voice because the leaders have other priorities. What can they do when they’re “just” worker bees–a Sunday school teacher or an usher or someone who sets up the coffee and donuts on Sunday?
If you’re that lone voice who wants their church to change its unhealthy volunteerism ways, take heart. All is not lost, even if you’re alone.
What you can do
- Rely on the Spirit. God’s spirit is at work in His church. Leaders are important, but the real power is the Holy Spirit.
- Pray. Pray for your church and its leaders, and pray that God would show you what he is calling you to do.
- Feed your interest in equipping people to serve. Save articles and bookmark websites that you find interesting and relevant. Buy a book or two. Note things that might interest particular individuals, especially leaders, in your church.
- Share your interest casually. Talk to your friends. Mention it in church meetings. Suggest a devotion on gift-based ministry. Comment in Bible class or your small group.
- Share interesting resources with your pastor, specific church leaders, and those who are most influential in your church.
- As you talk and share resources . . .
- Don’t push and don’t be a pest. You don’t want people to turn and run when they see you approach. Take your time.
- Comment, don’t campaign. Not: “We oughta do this!” Instead, when you share a resource, say something like, “This made me think …” “This sounds like our church …” Best of all, ask, “What do you think about this?” and then listen.
- Approach people with their needs and perspective in mind. “I thought of your comment about —- when I read this;” or “This might apply to your role as —-.”
- Share resources in bite-size pieces: an article, or a link to a website, or mark 2 pages in a book. When the website or the 2 pages are interesting, they’ll read more.
- When others show interest, pray and talk and brainstorm with them. What can you and they do that your leaders would support and would contribute to healthier volunteerism? Gather job descriptions? Arrange some training for those who coordinate ministries? Bring in a speaker?
- Support and work with your church’s leadership, never against it. Whatever their current needs or priorities, mobilizing the laity is likely to connect in some way.
- Pray some more. Hang in there. God will help you do the “good works which he has prepared in advance for you to do.” (Eph. 4:10)
You can be an equipper
Even all alone, you can help people serve in your church.
- Affirm people. Every time you thank someone, or make a comment of appreciation, you help them serve. You remind them that their service matters.
- Comment on their gifts. “You’re really gifted in working with kids.” “You’re an excellent organizer; God has really gifted you.” “You really listen well to people; that’s a wonderful gift.” Surprisingly, often people don’t notice or intentionally use their greatest gifts because “it’s just the way I am”
- Be a friend. Relationships are a key reason people enjoy serving and continue to serve.
- Ask people about their gifts and interests. “What do you really enjoy doing?” “What do you think are your best skills?” “If you could do anything at all at church, what would it be?” We don’t want to brag, so an actual invitation to talk about ourselves is a blessing. Tell people you’ll pray that God will give them opportunities to use those gifts.
- Talk purpose. We easily get so involved in our tasks that we forget the “why.” Purpose motivates. I’m encouraged when someone tells me “You introduced those kids to Jesus today,” because all I’m thinking about is how I couldn’t get them to sit still.
Even when church leaders are actively working to equip people to serve, the actions of individuals hugely impact a church’s ability to help people serve. Whatever your volunteer task, be someone who helps people serve.