One of the biggest, ongoing challenges to having a healthy, revitalized church is having enough volunteers to do everything that needs to be done. Maybe that’s a struggle in your congregation. It’s the old 80/20 rule that is commonly talked about. You know, the one that says 80% of the ministry gets done by just 20% of the people. That’s probably very accurate in most churches however it may feel more like 90% getting done by 10%!
With too few people already doing too much, it’s hard to then on top of that, also do what needs to get done for the church to get healthier in order to grow. It can feel overwhelming! Maybe you feel like that at times. What’s the solution? Well one is to stop doing some things that aren’t going to lead to anyone coming to Christ and being made disciples. Like start having less meetings about meeting needs and just go meet more needs! However, another important solution is to develop a process that consistently gets more people engaged in serving in the ways God created them to serve.
In this and the following few articles I will be addressing the fifth VITAL aspect of Church ReVITALization, the “L” in VITAL, which is Life of Service (Ministry). Healthy churches have a plan to move people from unchurched to members to mature ministers who go out on missions! Healthy churches build an army out of the attenders! Members learning to serve in ministry is a natural bi-product of a good spiritual formation (discipleship) process. I encourage you to read these articles about components that go into developing a discipleship process in the church.
Whatever process or pathway you develop that moves people into serving in ministry, it’s important that it allows them to discover who God made them to be. See, he has already made them for a ministry. Each of us has been wonderfully made by God to serve him in some way(s). Look again at Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV), “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” The principle here is this: A Person’s Make Up Determines Their Ministry – who God made someone to be, determines what he wants them to do.
Too often we flip that around in the church. We lead in a reactionary way: there is a need and someone near is breathing and willing so we ask them to serve. This fills the immediate need, however, if what they are doing does not match who God made them to be, they can quickly get frustrated, burn out, and quit. And they probably didn’t do that good of a job anyway! Have you ever seen that happen? It’s common. On top of that they can be hurt or feel like a failure and not be willing to serve in the future.
The better option is to help people discover who God made them to be and match them to a ministry that fits them. If there is no current ministry that fits them, start a new one. God must have them in your church for a reason. When people are in a ministry that matches who God made them to be, the person feels fulfilled because they are in line with God’s design and they are naturally better at it. In short, they are more fulfilled and fruitful. They will be less likely to burn out and will grow in their abilities to serve in that area over time. Leaders will often emerge when they are thriving in a ministry that fits how God created them. Could you imagine how healthy your church would be if your members were mobilized into ministries where they are fulfilled and fruitful?
This is usually accomplished through some combination of heart, head, and hands learning. For example, classes that teach on ministry and the Biblical, spiritual gifts are important. Included in there should be some sort of way for people to prayerfully self-assess to discover who God made them to be (I’ll write about what that looks like in a future article). But also giving people-hands on experience in serving is necessary. Encourage people to learn through trial and error. Let people try serving in areas that they think fit who God made them to be but let them know there is no shame in stopping if it’s not a good fit. Just let them rule that one out and encourage them to keep trying until they find the right ministry.
But what about those pesky needs that keep popping up? Do you just ignore them if no one is around who would be fruitful and fulfilled in meeting that need? The reality is that leading a church on mission is messy. The 80/20 rule is often what we’re dealing with, so sometimes members just have to minister in areas that aren’t a good fit. And that’s okay. It’s just part of being in a family. Mature members will be okay with ministering to needs especially if they have been given the opportunity to minister from whom God made them to be.
The way I learned it is that we all have both Primary and Secondary Ministries. Primary Ministries are serving where God made a person to be; Secondary Ministries are serving wherever a person is needed! Too often we focus on the secondary and never help people find their primary calling. Flip that for folks to find fulfillment and fruitfulness in your church.
The Rev. Canon Mark Eldredge is Director of Church Revitalization and Coaching for the American Anglican Council.