By Jennifer Johnson
Recently, two older ladies in our church began taking Communion to members in the hospital. While this is far from the 24-hour, professionally trained chaplaincy program organized by First Christian Church in Decatur (see related article), for Miss Marilyn and Miss Pat it was a Bigfoot-sized step out of their comfort zones.
“I was scared to death,” Pat said the Sunday after her first hospital visit. But she did it, gathering up the portable Communion set and her car keys and setting out on a faith adventure. Now she and Marilyn are old pros, sometimes scheduling their visits together and texting Matt (my husband, the minister) afterward with updates.
Those of us who have always known the church thing and always served in multiple ways forget how intimidating it can be to jump in for the first time. But whether it’s our oldest members or the emerging generation, people need to serve if they’re going to really grow in faith. The Bible teaches that every believer has been gifted to give back and that serving Jesus with our lives is incomplete unless we’re also serving as part of his body. Decades of management studies have also taught us that people are more likely to “buy in” to an organization’s mission when they are contributing money or time to the cause and feel a personal stake in the outcome.
Yet it’s still a struggle to motivate members. A 2009 study by Leadership Network and the Hartford Institute for Religion Research found that 45 percent of megachurch attendees do not volunteer in any way, while Scott Thumma and Warren Bird’s book The Other 80 Percent offers tips on growing a volunteer base past the infamous Pareto Principle.
Adopting Compass Christian’s “Serve Tour” is one excellent way your church can beat these statistics (see related article). Ask someone to teach a preschool Sunday school class or run a sound board and their first reaction will likely be hesitation; make it convenient and fun to first get a glimpse of other friendly people enjoying these jobs and they’re much more likely to say yes.
“We tell people this is a great church with great leadership, but you have something to offer and if you don’t give back, the church will not be all it can be,” Rich Green told me during our phone interview. “I enjoy watching them catch the vision by seeing themselves as part of it.”
Miss Pat and Miss Marilyn didn’t have the benefit of a sneak peek before jumping into their first hospital visit, and it’s likely a preview of this experience would have calmed their nerves. Whether it’s at our small church or your gigachurch, creating a Serve Tour might be the solution that expands our ministries and stretches our people. Now we all just have to find volunteers to lead it. . . .