A More Excellent Way

Leaders and staff in the church are often faced with the challenging task of creating rosters of folk to fulfill the needs of a given ministry. For example, the outreach at the school may need 50 volunteers to make it happen. Well, how do we go about filling those needs? Often we resort to the way we have always done things: announcements, emails, even reaching out to fellow staff or leaders to help us out.

Now, I am sure these are wonderful, fulfilling opportunities, and certainly part of our calling as Christians is to serve. But offering a more biblical approach to staffing ministry may be more fruitful. As the Apostle Paul said, I want to show you "a more excellent way" (1 Corinthians 12:31).

I picked up on the idea of creating a “so that” statement for ministry from Dr Lovett Weems when I was working on my doctorate. We offer X ministry so that... I am involved in the X ministry so that... It's basically a purpose or mission statement. It's really fun when all the ministries of the church align around a common "so that." Then you know everyone is clear on the commonly adopted mission. 

Church leaders and staffs exist so that we, in the words of Paul, "equip the saints for the work of ministry" (Ephesians 4:12). We facilitate opportunities for others to serve. This can be a very lonely, frustrating process, so we often look to our friends in leadership or staff to help. Staff and leaders already serve, so recruiting others to serve in your ministry is redundant and dramatically decreases your potential pool of servants. Think about it: if the average Sunday morning attendance of a church is 500 and there are 10 staff members, seeking servants from the staff potentially reaches only 2% of the population. Another important point: encouraging staff and leaders to serve in your ministry area  increases the possibility of burnout.

In every setting I have served, I have encouraged the pursuit of spiritual gifts. It's fun to discover your gifts, leadership style, and spirituality type. After this discovery process, folk are excited and ready to serve. You just need to discern what gifts are needed for your particular offering. Do you need folks gifted in administration, leadership, servanthood, helping? Recruit people with those gifts, rather than seeking servants from staff or established leaders. It is a much more biblical approach to ministry, and with minimal effort you will see fruitful results. All that is missing is a personal (not email or voice mail) invitation from you. Announcements from the pulpit, notices in the bulletin, signup sheets in the Fellowship Hall, etc. are generally ineffective—particularly for reaching new people. If after your best efforts you still are having trouble meeting the servant needs of a particular ministry, perhaps it is time to evaluate its effectiveness.

Being a leader/staff in a congregation is tough work, and it is often unappreciated. So thanks for what you are doing! Considering a more gift-based approach to ministry, versus the more common volunteer-based model, will yield better results, many more people serving, less stress and burnout on you, and a broader sense of what it means to be the Body of Christ in the world.