In last Wednesday's post, I noted "5 barriers to Involvement, Assimilation, and Other Churchy Ways of Saying Ministry." Here are five ways to overcome those barriers…1 way per barrier…to the point, like the first post:

  1. Mismatching. Utilize gifts inventories in the process of recruiting. The poor man's gift inventory are the questions, "What do you enjoy doing?" among others. Obviously, more sophisticated inventories are preferred. Just remember that those are not "gifts" inventories as much as they are passion inventories. Often people are good at what they are passionate about. But, not always. One more tip: Ask each ministry to prepare a "First Serve" opportunity. The phrase was coined by Willow Creek in the book, The Volunteer Revolution. It is basically a test drive. It gives people a chance to try a ministry out before committing to it for a quarter…or eternity. For instance, if someone expresses interest in the sound ministry, let them sit in the sound booth for a Sunday and watch someone do it. If someone is interested in teaching an adult Bible Class, let them apprentice for a quarter. This will allow them to see if it's for them, and if they are a good fit for the ministry.
  2. Few Open Seats. Every church ministry should have a ministry leader and a leadership team—and both must embrace empowerment of others for ministry as a priority. Each ministry leader should be asked to keep at least a couple of open seats on the leadership team…which is limited to 6-8 people, and has some soft "term-limits" for those serving. People on the team can move into the ministry leader position or move into a different role within the ministry. This isn't a legalistic thing…it's a spirit of the law thing that allows for fresh air flow and involvement in ministry for as many as possible. This sort of system also keeps leadership cultivation toward the top of the priority list. If a ministry knows they will need to fill a couple of seats every year, they'll think work to cultivate more servant leaders. Again, it's a spirit, not letter thing…so be flexible and gentle in this approach.
  3. Failure to Execute. As was mentioned in the post. DO NOT sign people up without a clear plan to follow up with people within 48 hours of signing up. Follow up needs to be put into the hands of the ministry leaders or ministry staff, but extroverts are best as follow-up. Some contacts via email or phone may be "cold call" for people…so people will dodge it if they aren't highly extroverted. Allow the introverts to handle the admin side, and release the extroverts to do what they do best and have such fun doing. Follow up needs to happen within 48 hours to show those signing up that the church values their desire to serve. In addition…the longer you wait, the more things get lost or dropped. If you can follow-up appropriately, don't take signups. It'll hurt your credibility and trust with the church.
  4. Lack of Preparation. As I said in the previous post, "Only people who already know the ministry inside and out are for "throwing them out of the nest and hoping they fly." Prospective volunteers hate it. If you want Sally to never volunteer again…put her in the sound booth next Sunday with no training. When things fall apart and everyone whips around and stares her down…that's the beginning of the end." Each ministry team needs to have a training program to go with the available opportunities to serve. This is ESPECIALLY true in the "public" ministries (i.e., communion meditations, sound booth, etc.)…because the embarrassment and burn factor for all involved is much higher. It doesn't have to be exhaustive, but set up a brief apprenticeship program that allows a person to begin serving well. If they are going to hand out bulletins next Sunday, for instance, have the ministry leader of the greeting ministry call them and give them a 15 minute crash course in it. Tell them what time to be there, what role they play in all that God does through the church on a Sunday morning, how to do the ministry the right way, tell them what to expect, and thank them for being willing to serve. You'll need more than a 15 minute call for many ministries. You want to give it as much time as it takes, but not more than necessary.
  5. Congregational Expectations that Ministers and Elders do Everything Important. This is the toughest of them all. It will take a long time of teaching and practicing the "priesthood of all believers" for this to sink in. The culture will change eventually if ALL LEADERS champion the shift. If some elders and/or ministers aren't supportive…it'll be ten times harder…and likely not stick. This shift begins with a unified leadership committed to the building up of the body through servanthood. There are some other steps you can take: At the ministerial staff level—make equipping people for ministry a part of every minister's "job description;" elders can help ministers feel secure in equipping and empowering others. But here's one big key to making the transition successfully: Quality of ministry MUST stay strong. If people are equipped properly, this won't be difficult. But, if a minister hands off a marriage retreat and the retreat is poorly organized, poorly publicized, and the content isn't very good—it'll backfire. People's feelings will get hurt and the church will wonder what they're paying the Family Life Minister for. He or she won't even be able to say "equipping" with integrity because people weren't adequately equipped. You get the idea. Lastly, remember that there are some decisions and ministry roles that need to be retained by Elders and ministers (see the previous post). However, most do not—and we honor God's desires for the church when we move out of being the primary "doers" of ministry to equipping/mentoring/teaching ministry.

Remember Ephesians 4. Remember that God is with the church and wants it to prevail. He rejoices when people put a serving towel over their arm. He rejoices when the Body is built up.

So, let's get after it, for God's glory…and show grace to one another on the journey.