For years we have complained that people are too busy to serve. Is it that they are too busy or that they are investing their time and efforts elsewhere? I have long contended that people find the time to do what they feel is important. Maybe we need to start asking ourselves why people don’t value serving in the church enough to make it a priority. Why isn’t serving God in and through the church perceived as important, as a worthy investment of their time?
I believe part of the reason is that for too long the church (generally speaking) has acted like a second rate organization, slow to change, and quick to minimize both the service and servant.
Perhaps we’re not doing this intentionally but it happens when we fail to invest adequate planning and hence lack excellence in what we do. It happens when we expect people to do things the way they have always been done and aren’t willing to accommodate to their needs and interests. It happens when we recruit in the church parking lot or use guilt or manipulative tactics. It happens when we do not adequately train people for ministry or fail to say “thank you.” It happens!
And where local churches are trying to change, people still have perceptions of what the church has been like and so they continue to move cautiously.
Here are some problem areas responsible for such perceptions and suggestions for what we need to do to start changing perceptions about volunteering in the church:
— little value perceived in serving
We need to promote a cause worth their involvement. Cast a vision for serving. Promote the difference they can make for eternity.
— narrow or inward scope
We need to be more outwardly focused, to make a difference in the world around us. Build up the saints to grab hold of the big picture. Communicate the truth of the Gospel in non-verbal, as well as verbal, means. Feed the hungry, help the poor, assist those in crisis … in Jesus’ name. People should not feel guilty for serving in their communities. Rather, we should come along side of them with encouragement and resources.
— shabby recruitment efforts
We need to ramp up our efforts. Invest time and effort into promoting, recruiting, and placing people in ministry. Don’t rely on announcements in the bulletin or from the pulpit. Take time to personally talk with people in a non-rushed setting.
— limited choices in how to serve
We need to think outside of the box. Tap into people’s gifting, passions, and availability. Be willing to change. Offer short-term as well as long-term opportunities for serving, low or no prep as well as higher preparation tasks, behind-the-scenes as well as upfront settings, inside the walls of the church as well as out in the community, etc.
— minimal assistance given in serving
We need to come along side of people. Let people know how you will train, support, provide materials, and encourage them and then follow through.
— low expectations in serving
We need to raise the bar. Build in some accountability, along with assistance to do better. Where little is expected, little is given.
— minimal expressions of affirmation and appreciation
We need to demonstrate authentic body life. Let people know how much they are valued. Everybody has a part. We need each other. Don’t take people for granted.
Do you want people to get more involved in the church? Ask what kind of perceptions they might have about serving in your church. Then, under God’s guidance, begin the process of change.
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