Jesus’ Volunteer Strategy

Most church leaders know the importance of utilizing quality volunteers in their ministry. Let’s face it, ministry just won’t happen without a passionate group of selfless servants willing to roll up their sleeves and do the tough work of ministry. I once heard a Christian leader address a group of pastors and tell them that if they were doing their ministry, they weren’t doing their jobs. Their main job, he said, was to raise up other leaders.

The Apostle Paul thought so. In Ephesians chapter 4, Paul told the church at Ephesus that church leaders are to prepare God’s people for works of service. Jesus thought so too. In fact, Jesus used a very simple approach to find, train, equip and release volunteers into ministry that changed the world. Let me introduce you to this 5 step model.

Identify rising stars
When Jesus was looking for his key volunteer group, the Apostle Mark records, “As Jesus walked,…he saw…” (Mark 1:16 NIV). As you walk, start seeing people. Always have your radar up to identify rising stars. Look for FAT people. Faithful. Available. Teachable. Look for people with the right heart. Skills can be taught later. But a positive attitude, a genuine heart, and a monster work ethic are crucial qualities to look for in great volunteers.

VolunteerTeam1Invite them to join you
Jesus never said, “I want you to volunteer in my organization.” He said, “Come, follow me” (Mark 1:17 NIV). Jesus’ approach was relational. His invitation was personal. His mission was essential. So invite people to join you in ministry. People will follow a leader long before they join an organization, so a personal invitation to join you will go a long way. No one responds well to “We need your help.” But there’s real power in “Join me. Let’s do this together!”

Inform them of expectations
When Jesus sent out his disciples to minister, scripture says “These were his instructions…” (Mark 6:8 NIV). Jesus knew that he was sending his disciples into a harsh reality. He said they would be like “sheep among wolves” (Matthew 10:16 NIV). So he gave them clear instructions for the task at hand. Clearly informing your volunteers of the expectations and guidelines will create clarity, give confidence, and eliminate confusion.

Involve them in ministry
Jesus certainly could have done everything he asked his disciples to do. But he didn’t. He involved them in ministry. When faced with a food shortage and a large crowd of hungry people, Jesus said, “You give them something to eat” (Matthew 14:16 NIV). After raising Lazarus from the dead, he told them, “Take off his grave clothes, and let him go” (John 11:44 NIV). Jesus allowed his volunteers to not only watch, but participate because he knew people learn best by doing. Will this approach be flawless? No. But will it be worthwhile? Absolutely! It will allow ministry to multiply in your church.

Invest in their development
Just after Jesus gathered his disciples together, he instructed them to do a few simple things. He called them to preach and have authority (Mark 3:13 NIV). His disciples were probably eager to get going and do that. Sounds exciting. But Jesus also called them to simply “be with him.” Jesus spent time with his volunteers. Today’s leaders must devote quality time training and encouraging their volunteer teams. Relational empowerment is critical to effective volunteer-led ministry.

Volunteers make ministry happen. So identify rising stars, invite them to join you, inform them of expectations, involve them in ministry, and invest in their development. These are critical elements in raising up dynamic volunteer teams to help grow God’s church and advance his kingdom. If you’re a leader, that’s your job! So find them. Train them well. Invest in them with care. And release them into ministry, for the glory of God.