Adapted for the NW Baptist Witness
NW Baptist Witness blog
With summer nearing its end and people wrap up vacations before heading back to school and work, church leaders gear up for the new church-year – with many of the usual needs to enlist teachers and volunteer workers for various ministry programs and other church causes.
In a recent report, researcher George Barna addressed the issue of church leadership and motivating members to support ministry.
“If you’re looking for ways to get your congregation more involved in important causes, it helps to know what motivates U.S. churchgoers,” Barna said. He listed five factors:
According to Barna, the top reason churchgoers get involved in supporting ministry is that they think they can make a difference. One in six Americans credit their decision for getting involved to a vision cast at their church.
Active ministry gives members a worthwhile goal, especially in areas where they can use their personal talents and skills. When church leaders invite members to join in, give them a clear vision of the task, show them how the ministry will make a difference and give them a tangible goal, members are more apt to support the ministry.
People also enjoy working together as part of a team to bring about clearly defined, tangible goals.
In these days when COVID-19 has interfered with people’s plans, work and goals — even bringing some projects to a complete halt — becoming involved with an active church ministry can offer a sense of purpose.
Work that helps others and is done as part of the church’s ministry provides meaning and value. People live with greater intention when they pursue a goal; they are more motivated to give of themselves when they feel useful and needed.
People also respond to stories that show special, urgent needs. It might the plight of the hungry in the church’s community, those impoverished around the world, mothers who have no milk to feed their babies or a community contracting disease because there is no clean water.
The fact that another person suffers touches the hearts of compassionate Christians, prompting and motivating them to ease the pain of another by meeting urgent needs.
Friends can be a motivating factor in getting people to take part in ministry. Volunteers often admit that what initially drew them to a ministry is that “someone I know personally was very involved.”
One of the best ways to increase church membership and attendance is by friends who bring friends. When friends are enthusiastic about a ministry cause, explain the reasons they are personally involved, share a tangible goal the work will accomplish and issue an invitation to a friend to join in, that often is a motivator for involvement.
One of the best ways to involve members in causes and ministries is to learn the individual’s personal gifts and talents. For instance, if a church member who loves teaching women receives the opportunity to lead a women’s Bible study class, she’ll eagerly study and anticipate it. But ask the same members to care for babies in the nursery, a task she doesn’t enjoy and for which she possesses no gifts, she’ll be more reluctant.
When church leaders take the time and effort to learn their members’ individual spiritual gifts, then invite them to serve in those ministries about which they are passionate, members will get involved, work hard and enjoy it. A person who works in his or her area of skill, giftedness and passion will feel fulfilled and will work more effectively.
When church leaders notice the effectiveness of their work, give them unlimited opportunities to serve and provide generous encouragement, support and affirmation, the church can increase its volunteers and ministries.
At Crosspointe Baptist Church in Vancouver, WA, youth pastor Zack Gregor noted the importance of putting in the time necessary for building relationships.
“While my pool of potential leaders is small, I’ve seen some success in gathering volunteers by making long term investments into church members,” said Gregor. “I begin laying the seeds by just talking to them about youth ministry and showing them the direction I am going and asking them to join me.”
He emphasized the importance of giving people opportunity to make informed choices about their potential influence and for the ministry to stay flexible.
“It is helpful to continually share with the church what you are doing and ask individuals if they would ever consider mentoring students,” said Gregor. “I would encourage leaders to never say no for anyone else, because while many are busy with other ministries inside and outside the church, it isn’t up to us how God will lead them. God will provide leaders as he directs and if they don’t rise up, the ministry may need to shift focus.”
Supporting volunteers through activities together matters, too.
“Keeping and maintaining volunteers is another key component of a successful ministry,” Gregor stated. “I personally live life with my co-leaders and camaraderie is unbeatable when you are excited about what you can do together. I try to acknowledge my leaders with thank you notes, personal words of encouragement and occasional gifts to show my appreciation.”
“We try and bring volunteers in slowly to let them grow and soon they begin to exceed expectations,” Gregor said. “Soon you can see them begin to own the mission on their own as they grow. I also give leaders ownership into their own role, by allowing them to give input into such things as curriculum they will teach, by ‘round tabling’ decisions and delegating authority.
“When we work together the vision is often caught and if they have more sway in the process, they become invested in the ministry,” he noted. “We also pray for leaders and God has provided them out of the blue from volunteer recruitment I’ve done years before. Most importantly, we as leaders can coach and then ask them to listen to how God is directly them.”
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