Editor’s Note: We invited Brian Vander Ark from Ada Bible Church to write a series of posts about what goes into doing Family Ministry well. Today, he speaks to the position of “volunteer”—a necessary role in any Family Ministry—and the attitude about service that should be held by both those who are serving and those who ask them to serve.
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).
Many of us have been asked to volunteer in a church ministry, and at times even been the one asking for volunteers. Being in a church ministry myself that finds, feeds and even sometimes fires volunteers, I have had many thoughts and said many things about working with volunteers. Maybe, like me, you’ve said or thought things like, “I just need a body to fill this spot,” “I know this person is not doing a good job, but I’m afraid to confront him/her because I may need to find a replacement” or “Really, this role is no big deal; it’s just an hour of your time.” Sometimes we say these things in a time crunch or when we are overwhelmed.
These thoughts betray us. They reveal that we underestimate what volunteering or service means to our Lord, and what He desires for us and for those who serve with us.
In the passage above, Paul pleads with Christians in Rome to recognize that the importance of service is based on who God is and is demonstrated by what He did for us. We are to give ourselves to God in a way that can only be described as a “living sacrifice.” This is the right response to God who gave us His Son as a sacrifice. By giving ourselves to Him, we are transformed to know Him intimately, so much so that we will understand His good, pleasing and perfect will.
In light of this passage, I want to share a few thoughts about volunteering to help you build your Family Ministry, or any ministry in your church. It starts with having a biblical vision for service.
1. SERVICE FOR THE LORD IS NOT AN ADDITIONAL THING WE DO, BUT RATHER A REFLECTION OF GOD’S OWN NATURE.
To love is to serve. God’s Triune Being is characterized by the giving and receiving of love, and He calls us to enter into His intimate dance of being through service. When we serve, we can know Him and understand Him more deeply. That is the opportunity we offer when we invite people to volunteer.
2. SERVICE REVEALS ASPECTS OF WHO WE ARE IN WAYS NOTHING ELSE CAN.
When we volunteer, we discover our gifts, and we love others by sharing these gifts. In this way, service demands that we reveal ourselves to those we serve and serve with. It requires that we cooperate with people who have different gifts from us for someone else’s good. This mutual service reveals and creates closeness. Love is expressed and joy breaks out.
3. SERVICE MUST BE DONE IN THE RIGHT WAY, WHICH MEANS LEADERS NEED TO SELECT VOLUNTEERS CAREFULLY AND CAST THE RIGHT VISION.
Paul admonishes the Romans to serve in a way that is both competent and authentic:
“If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:7-10, emphasis added).
4. SERVICE, THEN, IS NOT SOMETHING WE CAN TAKE LIGHTLY. IT MOVES US TOWARD OUR FUTURE IN CHRIST BY GIVING US A TASTE OF THE KINGDOM IN ADVANCE.
Consider what John writes in Revelation:
“The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:3-4, emphasis added).
In God’s presence, face to face, we will serve Him, and we will reign with Him. Serving and reigning. That’s our future. It’s where we’re headed. It’s what He had in mind for us when He made us, and it’s what he has in mind for His Kingdom.
So, when we recruit, train and lead volunteers, we need to keep this in mind and help our volunteers catch this vision. Serving is more than finding someone to fill a position. It is the serious business of the Kingdom. We learn more deeply who God is as we serve. Therefore, no volunteer position is trivial. We can’t afford to take a person’s service lightly, nor underestimate its potential to reveal and change the heart of a person.
Service will be the love language of those who reign with Him. We will serve without taint of selfish desire. We will love without hypocrisy. We will take great delight in honoring one another, just like our Lord.