12Stone® Church has four physical campuses and an Internet Campus. Each one is unique and it’s always fun when I get to drive to a different campus on a Saturday night or Sunday. (Or just click on my Mac at 6:00PM on Sunday evening for 12Stone Online! I’ve always known that the people who volunteer to serve are amazing people, and this morning I was reminded of that as I took a little less time to talk with staff and more time to talk to volunteers.
The first two people I talked to were both parking lot team members. It was during the service so they were between parking “rushes”. They were enjoying a cup of coffee to warm their hands and I walked up to thank them for what they do. They both chimed in that they love it and can’t wait for the next Sunday to come! They were so excited about keeping the parking lot hassle free, and even the weather didn’t faze them! They simply had no complaints and love what they do.
The next person was running the sound, lights and video in the tech booth for a room full of young elementary students. I stayed in the back by his control desk and stood in amazement as a boy and a girl fished their hands in a bowl of pork & beans for a “chocolate cricket” – and the winner ate it! The teacher talked about how unique God made all the bugs, and transitioned beautifully to how uniquely God made each of the kids as well. The entire time the tech volunteer was fully engaged, smiling, and even when I thanked him for his service and we chatted briefly, he never missed a thing. He said seeing the kids respond to the love of Jesus is everything, and the “bug thing” was fun too!
I talked with so many volunteers that morning, but I’ll tell you about one more. His name is Jerry and his name badge says “Chaplain of Caffeine”. He’s so dedicated to his ministry that he attends the Saturday Campus to worship so he is completely freed up to serve over 150 gallons of free coffee at our Central Campus. Jerry and his team love what they do. I started to thank him; he stopped me and thanked me instead! How’s that for refreshing, a volunteer who thanks the pastor because he gets to serve?
I’m writing to remind you that you can’t overestimate the value of volunteers and you can’t over appreciate them. Some churches don’t like the word volunteer. Use the word that works best for you. I’ve heard several terms used such as ministry partners, leaders, team members, friends, serving warriors, brother or sister, and just servants. One I don’t recommend was “The Blessed Few!”
Champion the value
There are people in your church who will know the biblical truth behind serving, but the only way your congregation overall will know it is if you consistently cast vision for this value. Ephesians 4:11-13 makes the mandate clear:
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
You can cast vision and champion the value of serving, not only through weekend messages, but also through stories via video, live interviews, printed media and creatively through worship and arts. It’s important that your congregation view serving as something they get to do not have to do. Cast vision so they see God has a place for them and the Kingdom is advanced because of their contribution. And definitely make sure your people know that serving is fun!
A healthy benchmark to target is 50% – 80% of your adult worship attendance involved in some form of consistent service. The reason the percentage variable is so large is that the size of the church makes a significant difference. The larger the church (over about 3,000 in total attendance) the more difficult it is to achieve even 50% of the average worship attendance serving. It’s usually not a good idea to have more than 80% involved in a serving role because that suggests you have too few people attending your church who are new or far from God.
Since the very nature of volunteer service does not include financial payment, training is the next best investment. People want to be on a winning team and they want to do their part well. In order to achieve this, top-notch training is required.
I mentioned consistent serving in the last point. It’s important for me to say that consistent serving includes any kind of organized ministry and in any amount of time. Your congregation needs to know that it’s OK to serve once a month or even just a couple times a year so they know it’s not about duty, working their way to heaven, or pleasing you. This also creates realistic opportunities for the newer and disconnected people and younger Christians to begin serving without making unrealistic commitments to something new to them. As they mature, they will naturally give more time.