There is this strange phenomena in churches that I call the "age and stage volunteer plan." It goes something like this: If you are a mother to three young children you should serve as a preschool teacher. If you are a sixty-five year old woman you should volunteer with the Prayer Shawl ministry. If you are a forty year old man you should volunteer in parking duty. While this might seem like a logical volunteer plan I believe it's killing the church.
Seem like an overstatement? Well let's look at how this plan really plays out. So 35 year-old mom to preschoolers is asked to be a preschool teacher. She doesn't want to teach. She is TIRED. She knows she is not gifted to be a teacher. She knows her patience with preschoolers is thin, and the idea of being locked in a classroom of 15 crying two year olds is keeping her up at night. But... she's a good Christian girl and has now been asked by the Preschool Ministry Director 15 times to be a teacher. So out of her guilt she says yes.
Meanwhile there is a 65 year old widow who is lonely. Her husband has just passed away and her life is way too quiet. Hoping to "give her something to do," the church invites her to join the Prayer Shawl Ministry where she can come and knit shawls with other widows. She doesn't like knitting, she doesn't want to hear the list of new medications and sorrows from the other widows. She's depressed just thinking of joining this group. But... she's a good Christian girl and has been asked by the Senior Ministry Director 15 times. So out of her guilt she says yes.
What if instead the church followed the Word of God?
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kids of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
1 Cor 12:4-7 (for deeper study read 1-31) emphasis mine.
What if the church listened to the Spirit? What if we served as we're led by God? What if we trusted, really trusted, that if we did this the church body would be healthier and that all our volunteer needs would be met? What if we allowed the church body to serve from its gifting instead of its guilt?
So let's play out the volunteer lives of our two ladies from above. We know what happens right? They serve out of guilting and hate it. Their souls are not satisfied. They serve without the Spirit, because the Spirit never led them there to begin with. Their ministries are fruit-less, because without God we will not bear fruit.
But what if we threw out the plan of age and stage volunteering and taught our congregations about the gifts of the Spirit, and showed them ALL the service needs in the church. What if we told our congregation to PRAY, because the Lord desires to use all of us for the common good.
Perhaps that young mom would find the Prayer Shawl ministry because she loves to knit and loves to pray. She would be a blessing to that ministry with her beautiful handiwork. The older women of the group would be blessed to have a younger member with new knitting patterns and lively stories from a house full of little people. The young mom would get a break from her little ones, be mentored by older women, and would bless the ministry with her gifts.
Our widow would serve out of her gifting as a teacher. She would look forward to her hour with her class of two year olds. Their hugs would be a gift in her week. She would have the time to plan each week's lesson thoroughly, and to pray fervently for her students. Those two year-olds would be blessed to have a teacher full of patience and energy - ready to love on them each week. They would find birthday cards in their mailboxes from their teacher. Her ministry would bear much fruit.
God has a good plan for our churches. Do we trust that?
This fall I have turned down several women who signed up to teach in my ministry. (You would realize how crazy this is if you knew how great our need was.) I told these women that I believe in the Word of God. I believe that God has a good plan for them to serve Him, and I didn't want to usurp that plan through guilt. You see when we say yes to volunteering somewhere we are not called to, most often we close the door on serving where we were meant to be. One of the women I said no to, was Elizabeth. Now please know Elizabeth has been a great teacher, and would be, but... we both felt that this is not where she was called to serve this year. Elizabeth has a wide range of gifts she uses for the Lord, but one of her gifts my ministry desperately needed - she is the craftiest, cutest, most thoughtful woman around. I asked her if instead of teaching if she would several times during the year bless our teachers with some sort of gift of appreciation. I have 112 volunteers so this is a BIG job, but Elizabeth agreed.
She and her family kicked off our new Sunday School year with a bang. On Promotion Sunday her family walked in with baskets of homemade cookies and water bottles for our teachers. See how cute they were! There was even a label of the ingredients. Really! Last week, knowing that most of my teachers teach every other week, she was back with more baskets so that every teacher would feel blessed.
|How cute is this!|