con-trar-i-an (noun): a person who opposes or rejects popular opinion; a person who goes against current practices.
Not too long ago, while I was reflecting on ministry and my years of being a pastor, I had the following thought: What if I took everything I learned about church growth and turned it on its head? (In actuality, that is what I did 11 years ago when I returned to Franklin, TN to restart a church I had previously pastored. To be honest it goes back even farther than that. I have always “pushed the envelope” and thought outside the box. It’s both a blessing and a curse.)
The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea and so I came up with 10 contrarian principles for church growth. My theory is there are a lot of pastors, like me, who are tired of all the books and conferences and experts telling you 10 ways to grow your church and after implementing those 10 ways your church doesn’t grow. My thesis is that many church growth conferences and books leave the average pastor feeling inadequate and discouraged. My question is: “Are there biblical principles about what it means to be a church, that if implemented, will not guarantee numerical growth, and in fact, may stifle, if not halt, church growth, but they are biblical anyway and need to be implemented?
So, this is a third post in a series of posts fleshing out my contrarian church growth principles. And rest assured, I believe in and practice each one. Here is the link to the first contrarian principle to church growth. Here is a link to the second one. This post is about the third one:
Contrarian Principle #3: Instead of recruiting volunteers for menial task around the church building, train your members to minister in their communities during the week.
Every pastor knows the frustration of volunteer recruitment. Very few churches, regardless of size, has enough volunteers. Every pastor knows the 20/80 rule–20% of the people do 80% of the work. Every pastor knows who they can, and who they can’t, depend on. There is never enough volunteers to do the “ministry” of the church and so we beg, guilt, and bribe people into serving.
There has to be a better way.
I think part of the problem is our approach to volunteers. Many times a church decides on what ministries it will have and then recruit volunteers to run those ministries. As a result, most volunteers only serve in ministries that take place inside a building, and many serve in areas in which they have no passion or interest.
Would it not be better to encourage, support, and facilitate getting members to volunteer in areas they are passionate about? Would it not be better if people volunteered at various organizations around the community and in the neighborhood and then came to church on Sundays ready to share how they have seen God work throughout the week?
Is it really important for volunteers to show people where to park their cars, when they could volunteer their time coaching little league and see that as their ministry?
Would it not be more effective for a parent to invite neighborhood children into their homes and bake cookies together or play basketball in the driveway, and see that as their ministry instead of greeting people and handing them a bulletin?
Would more church members be excited about doing ministry if they had permission from their pastor to miss a Sunday at church to go to the local park and volunteer, with others, to clean the river that runs through the park?
Why force someone to do something at church they don’t want to do and do not enjoy when there are thousands of ways they can use their gifts and passions throughout the week to show love and compassion to others?
When we change our paradigm, and realize what we do outside of church is as important as what we do within the walls of the church, the wall between sacred and secular will crumble! That’s the good news. The bad news is that well-loved “programs” within the church will die. But that’s ok. Every church needs to have a few good funerals.
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