By Jennifer Johnson
Like many churches, West Side Christian Church (Springfield, IL) constantly needs volunteers. Unlike many churches, West Side recently focused an entire weekend on creatively and intentionally connecting people with ministry opportunities—and today 50 percent of their adults serve at church in some way.
“The volunteering emphasis was part of our ‘Cannonball’ initiative, which shared our vision for what God’s calling us to as a church and challenged people to go ‘all in’ with their faith,” says Melissa Sandel, director of ministries.
Sandel and her team focused on removing barriers and making it as easy as possible for people to jump in. Each ministry area prepared a special environment and presentation for potential volunteers, and Sandel met with each staff team ahead of time to review their work and offer feedback.
On Aug. 25, lead minister Eddie Lowen preached on “Contribute or Die!” based on Jesus’ teaching that we find our lives by giving them away. At the end of the message, he challenged people to fill out a card indicating their willingness to get involved and invited them to attend an informational meeting that night.
When people came back that evening, they chose one ministry and attended its one-hour presentation. For example, those who visited the café heard the testimony of a person who came to Christ because of conversations he had with a worker. As a plus, there were also a behind-the-scenes tour of the café and coffee taste tests. The Care ministry developed a “lifesaver” theme and decorated their spot with boats and life vests to illustrate the focus on healing and recovery.
“We wanted the process to be simple and positive,” Sandel says. “Attendees selected an area of interest, learned more about it in a fun way, and had the opportunity to make a commitment. We also had guides at each door to coach people who weren’t sure which ministry might be a good fit.”
To accommodate schedule conflicts, the staff teams repeated the presentations the following Sunday night. Altogether, West Side recruited an incredible 735 new volunteers, and many people who already served in some way signed up to do more.
“This doesn’t include the hundreds who were already serving and maintained the same commitment,” Sandel says. “Needless to say, our staff was thrilled! But it’s about more than filling slots and getting things done. We want everyone at West Side to connect with a meaningful way to change their world, and ‘Contribute or Die’ opened the door for hundreds of people to explore this for the first time.”