I’ve been involved many times in the early stages of new churches that are trying to incorporate people. Most often, there’s far more concern about filling all of the necessary slots for volunteers to run the program than there is about developing people into their giftedness. (I do get that you have to have people volunteering in specific ways to put on a weekly service: parking attendants, greeters, children’s workers, musicians, etc.) But the danger point is when people begin feeling like you see them as just there to serve the church. People can often sense that before you see any sign of it.
The danger in slot filling
In one case I went through a newcomers’ class that talked briefly about spiritual gifts. There was a quiz to determine our gifts. And then the course pivoted directly to, “And now that you know what your gift is, what program can you plug into?” There was nothing about, “What’s on your heart? Where do you feel passion? How might you discern what God is calling you toward?”
Certainly, it’s good to have options of places that people can plug in, and serving in needed places is essential. But a good process goes so much deeper than matching this gift with that service position. When volunteers feel like commodities, it will eventually lead to incomplete projects, poorly done work, burn out, high turnover rates, and/or bitterness, anger.
It’s much better to take the time to develop people according to their individual gifts and passions.It’s good to have options of places that people can plug in, and serving in needed places is essential. But a good process goes so much deeper than matching this gift with that service position. Click To Tweet
The beauty of people developing
Raising up volunteers is also about people’s growth and development in their gifts and in what God may be calling them toward. As they discern and grow, they can move toward that calling—even in cases where it might not be immediately apparent how that meets the immediate needs of the church. People are much more than a commodity, reached in order to be plugged into the machine to reach more people. They are disciples to be developed. God’s intention for them may be beyond what we can currently see, but all callings will eventually contribute toward the greater kingdom.People are much more than a commodity, reached in order to be plugged into the machine to reach more people. They are disciples to be developed. Click To Tweet
But what about those times when you really do just need certain jobs done?
When I was church planting and found myself in that position, I’d approach someone and say, “We know this isn’t your gift. But the church needs X done for a short period of time. Would you be willing to help in this way for two months—and in the meantime, we pray like crazy for your replacement?”
Generally, when people know they’re truly being helpful and that it’s not permanent, they can do it with a joyful heart. Then it’s fun. I have been serving recently in the church I attend as a greeter. I was passing out welcome bags. Is it the best use of my gifts in the church long-term? Likely not. But it’s what is needed right now. It’s that difference that most often helps people feel the difference between volunteers being used to fill a slot and serving as you are being cared for.
The Discipleship Difference– This book lays out an intentional, holistic, and relational approach to discipleship that is individualized to meet each person wherever they are. Also available in Spanish.
Leadership Skills Guides– When filling roles, we often look for people who have the skills that we need. But finding the right person and helping them develop the skills can be far more effective in the long run. This set of guides is structured to do just that. The set covers 37 practical skills that are essential to leadership roles, making leadership development simple but effective.