Often I hear deep lamenting from elders, ministers and staff teams about the lack of volunteer engagement in their churches. And often I have discovered that the problem is not with the people, but a faulty ministry culture that fosters low levels of volunteerism and perpetuates an unhealthy dependence on clergy. The typical approach to ministry in most churches stands in stark contrast to the biblical approach given to us clearly by God.
The typical approach to ministry in many churches looks like this:
(Ministers/Staff) >> minister >> (people)
Typically ministers are hired to minister to people. The number of children increases, so the solution is another minister. The number of sick people is on the rise; therefore, someone is hired to visit people in the hospitals. The typical approach is both illogical and unbiblical. The view is illogical because a church will never be able to afford to hire the entire ministry away. The view is unbiblical because it violates the essential doctrines of the priesthood of believers and spiritual gifting.
The biblical approach is found in Ephesians 4:11-12. “It was he who gave some to be … pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” The biblical approach looks like this:
(Ministers) >> prepare >> (people) >> to minister
In other words, we’ve created a big discrepancy between “Ministers” and “ministers.” Ministers are really leaders who don’t do ministry. Rather they equip and prepare people (ministers) for ministry. Churches that have effectively created a volunteer culture possess a deep seeded biblical conviction that all believers are gifted for ministry, not just the “professionals.” The ministers view themselves as equippers and trainers of the ministers within their church, and the people view themselves as active and essential servants.
How do we foster a culture in churches where people expect to be trained and equipped?