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How to volunteer in your local church

November 11, 2010

Because no, it’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.

And yes, it is possible to do it wrong.

It’s not only the thought that counts, and it’s all about your heart or your motives.

I know, this is so unromantic, but I’m trying to help you.

I’m not a pastor, and I’ve only been in ministry a few years, but maybe it’s because I’m a lousy “professional Christian” that I can offer some behind-the-scenes advice to the rest of you who aren’t often back here. (We did this once before when we talked about “What to do when you disagree with your pastor,” and it still gets more hits per month than almost anything else around here.)

I offer the following advice because I know that the heart and the intention of most people who want to volunteer in a local church is to serve and help and be a blessing. And I offer the following advice because I’ve seen good ideas and good intentions become more of a burden on a ministry than a blessing, and I know that’s not what you want to do.

So,

How to volunteer in your local church:

  1. Tithe. Really.
    .
    You should not belong to a congregation that is not doing good work for the kingdom of God. Neither should you volunteer in a local church whose vision and mission you do not agree with and support. Assuming that your congregation is doing good work, and you do support your church’s vision/mission, you should be financially supporting the ministry.
    .
    This is not for bragging rights or trying to buy a good position in the congregation. This is because, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If you don’t believe in the ministry and the work that your church is doing enough to obey the biblical principle of tithing, then find one that you can. And absolutely don’t volunteer somewhere, ’cause you’re just lying to yourself and your leadership.
    .
    Volunteering your time is not a substitute for financial giving.
    .
    I understand that money is tight and times are tough. If you can’t do 10%, start with 5 and ask God to help you get to 10% within a year. Or determine to give $50/month. Make a financial commitment and keep it. Then, once your heart really is invested in the ministry via your checkbook, then volunteer your time.
    .
  2. Follow your passions. Some people have an overwhelming passion for one or two areas of ministry, start there. If you’re not sure, ask Holy Spirit where He wants you. If you’re obedient, He’ll fill in the rest. Some people would say you should just approach leadership and volunteer where ever you’re most needed. There are some people who can do that well, but if you’re not one of them, don’t try to be. Ministry leaders – whether they’re on staff or volunteering themselves – are usually pretty invested in their area of ministry. People that work with children love children, and people who lead the cleaning teams are seriously invested in making sure no visitor encounters a dirty toilet or a smudged glass door. Leaders who love their ministry don’t want lukewarm volunteers.
    .
  3. Do what you’re asked to do. Maybe you have a particular ministry on your heart, but they don’t need any more volunteers there. Maybe leadership has predetermined that  they want people to serve in a behind-the-scenes ministry for a while before they serve on the worship team. Do what you’re asked to do. If your heart is really to serve and support the ministry, you’ll happily do whatever you can do to help.
    .
    Within your ministry, still, do what you’re asked to do. You’ll likely have new ideas and inspirations and there is a time and a place for those suggestions. Sometimes, leadership will ask you to do things that don’t make perfect sense, or that you think could be done better, or that you think don’t need to be done at all, etc. If there is time for you to request an audience and discuss it, do. If not, all together now: Do what you’re asked to do.
    .
  4. Present suggestions and ideas appropriately. Figure out how your leadership likes to communicate and use it. If in doubt, ask if you can meet for coffee and sharing some ideas. And come prepared. Plan to give a mini-presentation. What is your idea? What will it take? What will it do? How long will it take to see results? Who will need to be involved? If there’s a cost involved, get quotes. Put together a plan, and get information together in a format your pastor or leader can take with him.
    .
    If you think there’s a problem or deficiency, similar strategy. What’s not working? Why do you think it’s not working? What are a couple of possible solutions? What would those take to do?
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    Don’t get together with someone in leadership and spew a couple half-formed ideas, or whine about what you don’t like. You’re just wasting everyone’s time, and that’s not helping.
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    Then, revert to #3. We always assume that our ideas and suggestions are great and will be accepted instantly. Prepare yourself for the opposite, and if it happens don’t be offended. There are factors you don’t know about. There are conditions you are not aware of. Maybe your ideas are great but there just isn’t the time or the manpower to make them happen right now. Don’t insist. Don’t get offended. Don’t whine. Don’t complain to someone else. Thank them for their time, offer your extended services if applicable, and keep joyfully serving as you were before. .
  5. Pray for your leadership. Bless them. Pray for their families, their health, their finances, their relationships with Christ, etc. You will destroy the devil’s attempts to cause division in your ministry before he ever gets a foothold, you will create unity on your team, and you will equip yourself to serve joyfully.

So there. Any tips or thoughts of your own?

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