Last week I looked at how Christians can bless their pastor by living out the mission of the church at home, at work, and in service to the church. As I mentioned last week, I’ve never heard a pastor complain about someone desiring to be bi-vocational. To be faithful at their job, while also faithfully serving and assisting in accomplishing the mission of the church.
As I thought through those blogs, I also started thinking through whether ministries are structured and prepared for an influx of volunteers if, like I intended, people magically stumbled upon my blog and they were divinely enlightened to life-changing truth.
While I know many pastors who would love to have more volunteers, there are times it seems ministries aren’t planned or structured in the necessary way to accommodate various commitment levels.
How can pastors help volunteers & lay leaders get more involved? Here are 8 ways I think will help.
1. Affirm the bi-vocational mindset. Be the voice for the priesthood of all believers on a Sunday and beyond. It’s easy for the average church-goer to attend a Sunday service and not see a need because most churches are organized and planned for Sundays.
We need to be reminded and hear that our calling is to be the priesthood throughout the week in addition to helping on Sundays. And I don’t mean mere lip-service of voicing your belief in the scripture that affirms it, I mean backing it up by providing bi-vocational leaders an opportunity for high-level leadership if the Lord has gifted them and equipped them to do so.
Putting a bi-vocational leader in those positions will be the most effective way to convince volunteers that you truly do affirm this calling.
2. Understand the limitations. A bi-vocational leader spends 40 hours a week on something other than ministry. Understand that they may only be able to give 5 hours, but value those 5 hours. Even though there are limitations, don’t shy away from trusting people with responsibility. Consistently ask how they are doing and if they feel overwhelmed.
The limitations actually force you to raise up more lay leaders as opposed to hiring more staff.
3. Plan further ahead than you think. Things take longer when you choose to use bi-vocational leaders. If you haven’t planned for that, you’ll only be frustrated with us and our lack of speed. Most leaders want to be shown that a plan is in place to utilize them and provide them opportunities to contribute.
This will also help you answer all the questions that business minded volunteers typically ask.
4. Delegate and let people learn. It won’t be as “perfect” as you do it the first time, but eventually it will be what you need. You’ll never develop anyone if you do all the work.
5. Explore various volunteer opportunities
Create Project Specific or Seasonal teams. Do you have a busy Christmas season or summer schedule? Or are you working on developing a specific ministry for social justice or missions? You could create a team for each specific project or season that is able to work on things long-term allowing you to provide oversight and direction rather than building it all yourself.
Distinguish between short-term & ongoing commitments. Providing a short-term, a few hour commitments allow people to explore your ministry to get a better picture of what you really do. It’s a great entry point for people wanting to get involved.
The ongoing, long-term projects or commitments reveal you’d like them to focus deeply on one ministry instead of spreading themselves thin across 4 commitments.
6. Have a Leadership Path. This is something we just put together for college ministry, but it clearly showed the potential for growth and development within our ministry. Our leaders really responded well to that because it showed them they could commit long-term and wouldn’t have to move to another ministry for deeper responsibilities.
7. Identify training needs and provide ongoing development. What are the essentials theologically and practical needs for leading in your ministry? What are the most effective way to train people in knowledge and abilities necessary for your ministry? Can you get them up to speed within a month?
8. Ask. Personally invite them to be a part of your ministry. The announcement from stage on a Sunday can get people to sign-up, but a personal invitation often leads to greater commitment. And you’ll be surprised to find that many are waiting if only you’d ask.
Pastors, if you’re tired of being overworked, overextended, and making way too many family sacrifices, the long-term sustainable solution is to develop lay leaders and provide them real opportunities to bless you and the church in their service.