Our volunteers aren’t simply people to fill spots so our services can run smoothly.
We need to have a conversation about volunteers. In episode 49 of The Unstuck Church Podcast, “Barriers To Volunteer Engagement,” Tony Morgan said something that at first sounds provocative, but, if we were to take it seriously and look more closely, might be the key that unlocks your church for growth and health.
He said, “It is not biblical for staff to be doing all the ministry.”
What? Then why even work at a church if you’re not doing ministry?
Maybe it’d be helpful to clarify: your ministry is equipping others to do ministry.
If you are trying to do all of the ministering there is to do by yourself—hospital visits, counseling sessions, leadership development, intensive discipleship, administration and planning, preaching and teaching the Word of God—then you will burn out. No one man or woman is capable of carrying that entire load on their shoulders for the long haul. If there are not other trained, mature, and capable men and women to help you then the weight of ministry will crush you.
In the podcast, Tony mentioned Ephesians 4, where it says that we are to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” (Eph. 4:12).
This means that one of the primary roles of any church is not simply to minister to people, but it is to equip everyone in the church to minister to others.
And that can be easy to miss. Because ministering to people is obviously a good thing. You got into the ministry because you care about people. But you are only, truly able to care for others when you are training other people to care for even more people than you could ever care for by yourself.
It’s the principle of multiplication.
In fact, if you read Ephesians 4 carefully, you will see that Jesus multiplied his own ministry among believers in the Church.
It says, “Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift… And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some shepherds, and some teachers.” (Eph. 4:7, 11)
When we look at those five things, it’s clear that Jesus embodied all of them in perfection. He is the perfect apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher. And he distributed these gifts among us so that we can equip each other for his ministry.
Author Alan Hirsch calls this the Fivefold Ministry of Jesus. He says in his book, 5Q: Reactivating the Original Intelligence and Capacity of the Body of Christ, “We cannot be the Body of Christ as Jesus intended without the fivefold active and present throughout the life of his movement.”
So what does this have to do with volunteers? I would argue that it has everything to do with volunteers.
Our volunteers aren’t simply people to fill spots so our services can run smoothly. They have a gift of Christ for ministry and it is our job as church leaders to equip them to use it to its fullest potential.Our volunteers aren’t simply people to fill spots so our services can run smoothly. They have a gift of Christ for ministry and it is our job as church leaders to equip them to use it to its fullest potential. Click To Tweet
This means that they have a gift of ministry that we are called to cultivate in them and they are called to use regardless if it is inside our church’s walls or not.
Our churches will be crippled until we take responsibility not just for ministering to others, but for equipping our people to minister to others as well, to use their Christ-given gifts for the work of the ministry. To function as a body, not with one part or another doing all of the work while the other parts watch, but the stronger parts training the weaker parts so the whole body can function together as one.
In the podcast, Tony connects cultivating and using our spiritual gifts to our spiritual formation. And he’s right. We will never be mature in Christ until we have learned to use our gifts to minister to others. And it’s the church’s responsibility to cultivate those gifts in believers.
- 4 Barriers To Engaging Your Volunteers | Episode 49 | The Unstuck Church Podcast
- Why Your Church Views Volunteers The Wrong Way