How to Eat an Elephant

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. So goes an old joke, making the point that even the biggest of tasks can be accomplished with first one step, then another and another . . .

Changing a church’s volunteerism system and culture is a task so big it makes eating an elephant sound easy. Most of us who care about healthy volunteerism must face the reality of a recruiting-oriented culture, where the focus is on filling empty ministry slots and pressuring people to serve. We dream about an equipping culture, where people are aided in finding a place to serve that matches their gifts and interests, even if it’s outside the standard church ministries, and where people are supported throughout their time of service.

Try something.

How do we get from here to there? With baby steps, inviting others to join you. Whether you do it as a leader or simply as someone who cares, you can make a difference.

  1. Start conversations on volunteerism. Ask people what they see that’s going well in the areas of serving/volunteerism and where they see room for improvement. Really listen. There may be much more good stuff going on that you were aware of.
  2. Continue the conversation with people show interest. Learn together by sharing books, websites, articles, and trainings. Find out what nearby churches are doing in volunteerism by checking out their websites or paying a visit. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
  3. Then try something. Creating job descriptions can be a good first step. Build a team specifically for this task. The process helps you identify all the ministries going on, as it also helps people serve. Click on the job description topic at right for resources.
  4. Another good step may be to work with your pastor to design a path that connects new members to serving opportunities through teaching and personalized assistance in exploring ministry opportunities. Check out the ‘church profiles’ topic at right for some examples.
  5. Celebrate what you’ve done. Consider what you’ve learned. Try something else. Repeat.

It’s not easy to eat an elephant. But take your first bite, and start chewing! The kingdom of heaven is rooting for you.

See also: “How to Improve Volunteerism

September 2011

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