Serving Others Is a Win For Everyone

Don’t read what I’ve written until you watch this video…

Once you dry your eyes, think about some of the huge implications of this story for people who serve in Christian ministry, personally or vocationally.

  • Lots of teams win games (50% actually) but THIS kind of win gets celebrated virally.
  • Sometimes the role of the pros is to serve up the big moment for the big-hearted volunteer.
  • We’re all selfish, until a few of us are not, and the rest of us get swept up in the movement.
  • Popularity is being liked, but influence is using popularity for a far bigger cause.
  • Huggers are heroes. I wish I was one by nature… without the slight awkwardness of trying to be one.

I could go on, but I’d rather you go on. Either in the comments or as you share this on Facebook, offer your own observations.

Two Conditions for Starting a New Ministry

VolunteersOne of the challenges of church planting is staying lean. I became a Pastor under a programmatic mindset – offer enough things and more people will come. Thankfully, I came across a good book long ago that helped to shift my thinking. Instead of a list of programs to attract people, what we really need is a simple process for growing people.

Programs can easily become dead weight and create the drudgery of having to “find volunteers” to staff them. But processes scale with growth naturally. Nonetheless, there will still be times to determine how to best reach out to a new group of people – students, seniors, divorcees, etc. How do you know when it’s time to pull the trigger on launching a new ministry? I have two criteria…

1. There is enough supply.

That is, there is someone, or a group of people, ready to lead it. They may be people whom you’ve raised up, or they may be people who have shown up, but they have the spiritual gifts, heart, ability, personality, and experiences necessary to pull it off. And most importantly, they have the “want to.”

2. There is enough demand.

The second indicator is that God has opened the door with the intended audience. It could be that God has opened your eyes to a new need in the community, or there is an influx of people in a similar life stage.

If you have to scrounge for either volunteers or attenders to make a program work, try something else.

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Even when these two indicators are present, I still don’t recommend starting ministries haphazardly or randomly. In fact, there are still other filters to be considered. Grace Hills Church, for example, doesn’t have a “men’s ministry.” What we do have is a bunch of men we hope to connect in small groups. The same is true for women.

Launching a “women’s ministry” with outings and adventures for “all the ladies” isn’t scalable and doesn’t fit with our vision and values, which is rooted in the idea that people grow in circles (small groups) and not rows (large gatherings). So starting more large gatherings can actually distract people from getting into a group, which would be a loss for us no matter how large the ministry grew.

As you clarify your own vision and values, and chart your strategy for launching new initiatives, avoid the “scrounging” syndrome. If you have to scrounge for either volunteers or attenders to make a program work, try something else.


7 Promises We Should Make (and Keep) to Volunteers

SHAPE by Erik ReesWe pastors often struggle to ask people to give their time and talent to Jesus. Perhaps we’ve been rejected before and don’t like to hear someone say “no.” Perhaps we don’t like volunteering ourselves and we transfer our own rebellious attitudes to others. Or perhaps we know, when we make “the big ask,” that we’re going to exhaust another servant. If the latter is true, we need to change our volunteer culture.

Creating an environment in which people will gladly and readily give their time and talent to the kingdom involves making the right promises, and of course even more important, keeping our promises.

If you come from a denominational tradition similar to mine, you’ve experienced the church-by-committee syndrome where we somehow wind up with more committees than the church has members, yet they’re all full because every member serves on multiple committees. Baptists have found a good way around the issue of finding volunteers. We nominate people during public meetings when they will either be too embarrassed to say “no” or not present at all, in which case they’re helplessly drafted into a role for which God never gifted them.

Thankfully, we’re learning and the culture of volunteerism is improving in many churches. If we’re going to keep improving that culture, we need to set the tone and decide what our volunteers will definitely be able to count on. For example…

Your Time Will Mean Something

If you volunteer here, your time will be invested, not wasted. At the end of the day, you’ll know you met a significant need and that if it weren’t for your sacrifice, that need would have gone unmet. We won’t tie you up recording minutes for a pointless meeting. Instead, we’ll actually have you serving someone.

Your Family Will Come First

We won’t have you at the church more nights of the week than you’re at home, and your spouse won’t think you’ve left them for the church. This is especially needful in the case of a volunteer with a spouse who isn’t a believer. Having volunteers with strong families is better for the church’s growth than having volunteers whose homes are stressed because of us.

You’ll Be Free to Lead

You will be able to make decisions. We’re here to help guide you in the right direction, but you won’t have to complete any forms in triplicate and have the entire church body vote to buy a chalkboard for your classroom. And, you’ll be free to lead people around you, always mentoring the next generation of volunteers.

You’ll Be Encouraged to Rest

If you need a break, we won’t treat you as though you’ve gone AWOL. We’ll understand that everyone needs rest to be effective long term. We will ask you to serve for a set length of time and then offer you a chance to take a break.

We’ll Help You Serve According to Your Shape

God has granted all of us spiritual gifts, a heart, abilities, passions, and experiences, and we’re here to help you discover your shape and find the best spot in the kingdom to serve. We’ll even let you move around and try different things until you find the spot for which God has uniquely equipped you.

We Will Celebrate Your Accomplishments

Heaven throws a party when someone gets saved, so we will join that party and recognize every contribution you make to expanding heaven’s population. That doesn’t mean we’ll hand out buttons and pins. It just means that we will always acknowledge and appreciate your time, realizing how valuable it is.

We Will Always See You As the Hero

There is no such thing as someone being “just a volunteer.” Instead, volunteers are the heroes. We who are on staff are on staff because of our passion for ministry, but we’re also compensated for the time we spend leading. What we really celebrate the most is the contribution of someone who expects no compensation (here on earth anyway).

Can you make these promises to volunteers within your church? Or are there structural changes you need to make in order to value volunteers appropriately? And the more important question is, can you keep these promises?

This post originally appeared on and is re-printed here with permission.

No Lone Rangers Allowed

As I prepared my message a couple of weeks ago on this topic, “No Lone Rangers Allowed,” my Ministry Assistant emailed me to see if I was sure I wanted the title to go into the bulletin as I had sent it to her, which was “No Lone Rangers Aloud.” What’s funny is, it proved the sermon title true. Had I been a lone ranger leader, I would have looked rather silly. That’s why there are no lone rangers aloud… I mean, allowed! Continue reading No Lone Rangers Allowed