You Fail to Equip God’s People!
It’s easy to get caught in the trap of growing your staff without proportionately cultivating your volunteer assets. There are certain common refrains I hear as I’m talking with growing churches across the country. This is one of them—we fail to equip God’s people to do the work of God.
I’ve heard many leaders in recent months acknowledge that they’re trying to shift the ministry to volunteers rather than continuing to hire more staff. Likely, the economic challenges have precipitated that shift in strategy. Whatever the case, I think it’s a good thing.
Eric Geiger offered this thought as it relates to engaging volunteers in ministry. He explains how pastors and other paid staff may actually be hampering spiritual growth by holding on to ministry:
People who are gifted by God and called to serve Him are put on the bench as they watch the professional ministers make the ministry happen. Instead of fostering a serving posture among believers, this kind of “ministry” develops consumers. By keeping ministry from the majority of the people, they are taught to be moochers and consumers of the faith rather than participators and contributors. As their spiritual gifts go underutilized, they miss the joy of experiencing Christ by serving others.
Wondering where your church stands on this topic? Do a little math. Take the number of people who volunteer somewhere in ministry at any given time each month. Divide that by the total number of students and adults at your church. That’ll give you a percentage. Here’s my suggestion:
• If the percentage of students and adults serving is over 45 percent, you are in a healthy range for engaging volunteers in ministry.
• If you are in the 30- to 45-percent range, you’re doing okay but there’s room for improvement.22
• If you are under 30 percent, you need a volunteer strategy adjustment.
Now, I can hear the critics and skeptics already. They’re probably saying, “The larger a church gets, the more likely they are to have a big staff team handling the ministry of the church.” It might surprise you to learn I see the direct opposite. For whatever reason, smaller churches I work with have a tendency to rely on the pastors and paid staff to carry the ministry load.
Many churches have a vision for getting more people to volunteer and serve in the ministry. Fewer churches actually make it happen. One of the reasons is because they lean on staff to do ministry.
With that in mind, Lifepoint Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia, needs to be on your radar. They’ve grown by over 50 percent in the last twelve months. But that’s not what’s most unique about this ministry.
What’s unique about Lifepoint is their commitment to giving ministry away to volunteers. They have several strategies for making that happen, but let me highlight the most obvious one—they don’t hire staff to do ministry.
Of all the churches I’ve worked with over the last couple of years, Lifepoint has the lowest staff-to-attendance ratio. They only have 1 full-time equivalent staff member (that includes all staff, not just ministry staff) for every 150 people in attendance. Only about 35 percent of their budget is spent on staff expenses.
Because they have very few staff, they are forced to empower volunteers to do the ministry. Almost 70 percent of their adults volunteer. That’s the highest percentage of adults volunteering of all the churches I’ve worked with.
So, if you’re following at home: Lifepoint has the record for the fewest staff compared to attendance, and they also broke the record for the most people volunteering. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
This is another simple reminder that you can have a strong vision, but it’s good systems and strategies that shift behaviors. This is just one example of that principle.
In His Grip,