the shape of leadership

The Volunteer Blind Spot

Helping members discover their calling

Quint Lindblad on June 25, 2019

Every leader has blind spots. If you don’t think you have a blind spot, that’s your first one.

By “blind spot,” I mean a gap in self-awareness. No matter how self-aware we are, there is always room for growing and learning.

This is true not only for individuals but also for church leadership teams. We often have blind spots in how we interact with members of the congregation.

I am a full-time pastor. But five years ago, I worked in sales through the week and served as a worship leader for a local church plant on weekends. So, I’ve ministered as a volunteer and as a staff member. The two worlds are very different in their views of church engagement, which brings me to a potential blind spot.

Now I sit in meetings where we, as church staff, talk about how to increase involvement on serve teams, in small group leadership, and in various other volunteer areas. And I regularly remind other staff members, “This isn’t their whole lives.”

Of course, our relationship with Jesus should be all-consuming, whether we’re volunteers or full-time ministers. But until we recognize and promote service inside the church as a calling and a response to Christ’s redemptive work on the cross, instead of just a job someone needs to do, we will regularly struggle to gain traction with the disciples we lead.

It was when pastors started breathing life into my calling to lead the church in worship that I stopped seeing it as a chore and started recognizing why God made me. I believe when we expose people to their calling, everything changes. Encouraging people to pursue their God-ordained gifts and use them to worship their Savior is far different than just guilting them into filling volunteer vacancies.

As we go about our weekly and monthly tasks of leading the church, it’s easy to lose sight of our mandate to “equip [Jesus’] people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:12). Ministry involves equipping and building up the Body — not just roping in members to do work.

I am forever grateful for the leaders who slowed down to equip me so that today I can do the same for others.

We are not here just to do a lot of churchy things. God has called each of us — leaders, staff members, and volunteers — to become followers and imitators of Jesus Christ and to share His message with the world. I am forever grateful for the leaders who slowed down to equip me so that today I can do the same for others.

What does this work of equipping look like? It doesn’t have to be a formal program. It is sometimes as simple as buying a cup of coffee for the person who would be great at children’s ministry, and taking the time to hear his or her story. It is building relationships and investing in people before recruiting them to tasks. It is helping Christ followers see their gifts and abilities, and encouraging them to use these as acts of worship.

Romans 12:1 tells us to present our everyday lives as offerings to God. How can we help people better understand this concept? Through relationship and understanding, as well as through Christ-centered service.

It truly all comes down to intentionality. Certainly, we need all the help we can get to accomplish the work of the Church. But we must ask ourselves this: Are we more concerned with filling empty slots, or seeing people discover what God created them to be and called them to do?

We have a blind spot in the way we view our volunteers. Eliminating this blind spot will require a perspective shift. Rather than seeing volunteers through the lenses of systems and vacancies, let’s lead people into the joy of full participation in the body of Christ.

Any manager can recruit people and fill job openings. But God calls us to point people toward their Savior and also toward His role for their lives inside the Church (1 Corinthians 12:14-15).

Each Christian has unique Kingdom contributions to make. When we, as pastors and church leaders, see past our blind spots and recognize the incredible potential of volunteer ministry, we will start to raise up disciples who are flourishing in their gifts and abilities.

Our small groups will overflow with passionate followers; our serve teams will hum with the activity of volunteers operating out of a sincere calling; and our services and events will pulsate with the vibrant energy of believers who are eager to minister as an act of worship to God. When we begin to see our calling clearly, we will be able to help the body of Christ do the same!

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