Making Disciples vs Recruiting Volunteers

The largest volunteer entity in the world is the church.  Whether it’s mobilizing disaster relief, providing meals for the hungry, clothing the cold or welcoming guests at a weekend worship service the church is volunteer central.  At the same time, if you’re a leader at a local church, the resource you are in need of right now is probably more volunteers.  More volunteers on your welcome team, worship team and of course your children’s ministry.

While the church may be the largest volunteer driven entity in the world, it’s mission isn’t to recruit volunteers.  The mission of the church is not “Go and recruit volunteers to fill ministry roles so that you can operate your ministry programs”.  It can seem that way though if we’re constantly begging more people to serve or stressing over who is going to show up to perform the ministry program function.  This volunteer tension can also reveal much about the heart motivations for our ministry.  Is it possible that our ‘volunteer stress’ is a symptom of a more deeply rooted problem?  Consider this diagnostic question:

Are we (am I) using people for the sake of ministry programs OR are we (am I) using ministry programs for the sake of people?

Are people tools to accomplish ministry tasks, or is ministry a tool to disciple people?  What is your response when people back out of a commitment?  If the church’s mission is to make disciples, then how we think about the people in our ministry matters more than we realize.  Are you looking to fill holes for your job, or are you looking for people to invest in and empower to use their gifts?  It can get a bit murky when these questions get asked.  Motivations can be masked, but motivation matters enough that we should do some reflection.  There is a significant difference in merely recruiting volunteers and making disciples.

Recruiting Volunteers Making Disciples
Fills the role with a person Grows a person grows with the role
Teach someone how to complete the task Teach someone how the task is part of the mission
Completing the assignment is the priority Spiritual growth is the priority
Learns about the job Learns about Jesus
The leader evaluates the performance The leader evaluates the heart
Weakness is an obstacle for implementation Weakness is an opportunity for growth
People are resources to use People are assets to invest in
Requires speed and efficiency Requires patience and diligence
Participates in the role Invites others to participate in the role

Inviting people to volunteer and engage in ministry is important.  We should use the best systems and have the easiest on ramps for people to serve.  We just need to keep our motivations in check.  We need to keep our eyes on our primary calling: Disciple-making.  As Bill Hybels says, “In the event leadership and discipleship collide, always choose the path of discipleship.”

When was the last time you wrote a thank-you note or took a volunteer to coffee, not to coach them in their task, but simply to care for their souls?

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