Every church is an army of servants. By definition, Christians are servants who are denying themselves, taking up their crosses, and following the Chief Servant, Jesus. Yet, one of the most consuming tasks church leaders face is securing sufficient servants to serve. If you are responsible for “enlisting workers,” here are some thoughts that might be helpful.
Don’t miss the point. The point of enlisting workers is to disciple the worker, never to fill a position or to keep a ministry going. Many churches keep ministries going that God is finished with by recruiting workers based on the ministry and not based upon the discipling relationship created between leaders and volunteers.
Jesus enlisted his disciples. He told them to come and to follow Him (to disciple them). However, that is not the kind of enlisting we should do in the church. I should not tell people to enlist because I am not the Holy Spirit, and they should be serving Jesus, not me. Therefore, I also should be careful about asking members to serve. We must share a vision, call our people to listen to Jesus, and allow our Lord to motivate them to volunteer. This does not mean that we never ask, but that we should seek volunteers more than responders. Someone who responds to your invitation usually will do so on his own terms. As much as possible, do not ask or tell people to serve. (This approach takes time to develop.)
Give the Holy Spirit Space
Because of our theology, which holds that the Holy Spirit indwells each believer, we must be careful not to step over into His ministry. The growth of a disciple comes through the work of the Holy Spirit in a Christian life. The Holy Spirit will use our words and actions in a church member’s life, but only He can produce maturity in a believer. Never play Holy Spirit in people’s lives. Make opportunities known and give the Holy Spirit time to lead His choice to volunteer to work on His terms under the authority of His chosen leader.
Pray. Pray. Pray.
Therefore, our first commitment must be to prayer. Pray for God to call laborers into the harvest. Pray for His people to see His vision. Pray that His church, the people, will commit themselves to Jesus and to the work He has prepared for His church.
The Vacuum Principle holds that God’s people will fill holes much more quickly than they will displace someone already in ministry, even if that person sees herself as a placeholder, waiting for a permanent replacement. Create ministry/leadership vacuums for the Holy Spirit to fill. If the Holy Spirit does not fill, it might be that the ministry position is not in His plan.
I find that strong churches teach service from the pulpit and elsewhere. Then they offer opportunities for people to volunteer to serve. This allows people to serve Jesus more directly, and it means that they generally will have a higher level of commitment and staying power.
True volunteers are self-screening. They come in humility, transparent about their relationship with God and life situation. However, we should be screening future servants before they volunteer. This sort of screening is done by asking God to reveal who they are from His Spirit to yours. It does not replace formal screening, but it keeps us in touch with the Lord and with what He is doing among His people. This approach through prayer is valuable for ministry to people, for discipleship, and for screening. Remember, God already knows far more than you ever could find out.
Training leads to further enlistment. Trained people are more attuned to what God desires for them. Intentionally engage three types of training.
1. Scheduled Training. You know about this. Perhaps the biggest failure of churches of all sizes is neglecting scheduled training. Calendar it. Prepare it. Do it. Regularly.
2. Informal Training. This happens in the hallway on Sunday morning and at a chance interaction in Walmart. Informal training never stops.
3. Equipping/Mentoring. More planned and intentional than informal training. More individual than scheduled training. Use the 120/12/3 Principle. Jesus had 120 disciples who gathered in the Upper Room prior to Pentecost. Of those, Jesus had chosen 12 whom he had called to a special relationship and to leadership. Of those, Jesus invested special time and energy into 3: Peter, James, and John. Tip: If Jesus focused on 120/12/3, you and I might be doing well if we are focusing on 30/3/1.