Getting People Involved Serving Jesus and Neighbor
Many organizations struggle with the “80/20 rule”. It refers to the observation that 20 percent of the people in a congregation end up doing 80 percent of the work.
What means does Grace Lutheran employ to encourage people to get involved with ministry? What can a new member expect in terms of service opportunity and discovery of their spiritual gifts?
1. We attempt to avoid use of the word ‘volunteer’
On one hand, the word “volunteer” is a wonderful word. It comes from a Latin word for “will” and conveys the sense that a person is willing to do the work that the Lord has given us to do.
But there is an unintended downside to the word volunteer. For most people, volunteer implies that serving is optional. As people crafted, equipped, and called by our Lord to serve, we cannot opt out of our service and ministry He has given us. [Ephesians 2:10] Maybe that is why the Bible does not use the word volunteer.
Ephesians 2:10 - 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Instead, God’s Word calls us “servants.” We always attempt to replace the word volunteer with the word servant when discussing roles and opportunities for serving in the church.
2. We talk to and encourage people who are not currently serving by invitation
Like everyone else we may broadcast the need for people to help without asking individual people to serve. It is quicker and easier to add a blurb in the bulletin or make an announcement at the end of the service. However, the quicker and easier approach is not always most effective.
We want to get to know you: Learn about your work, hobbies, skills, things that you enjoy doing; including past experiences. This genuine discovery process hopefully identifies an opportunity to serve the needs of the congregation or ministry in alignment with your interests and abilities.
Everything is about relationships. Our relationship with God is only possible through the mercy and grace of our Lord and His work or redemption and obedience on the altar of the cross. We focus on building relationships with all members of our congregation by sharing the love and sacrifice of Christ. His invitations to serve are clear and compelling and personal and we are not bashful in repeating and sharing his gracious invitation for a closer relationship with Him.
The first invitation of Jesus: Rest.
Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) Obeying God will bring his people rest for [their] souls [Jeremiah 6:16].
We find Jesus' yoke light because he is a Master who cares for us. His yoke is not lighter because he demands less, but because he bears more of the load for us. In contrast to unconcerned leaders who pride themselves on their own position - Jesus laid down his life for His sheep. Our motivation for obedience is not to disappoint the One who loves us as no one else ever can.
The second invitation of Jesus: Discipleship
Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men'” [Mark 1:17]. We are saved to serve; we are redeemed to produce spiritual fruit; we are fished out of clay to be fishers of men. Opportunities abound. Our neighbors are without Christ, children are lost, the harvest is ripe and so Jesus challenges us to be fishers of men.
It is a fair question: but how may I be a disciple of Christ? The answer must come from the Word of God. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, then are you are My disciples indeed” [John 8:31]. Disciple literally means “a learner, a student, a follower.” A recurring invitation for everyone at Grace Lutheran is study and teach the Word of God which includes Sunday School, Bible Study at church and at home, Vacation Bible School, and in small groups.
Everyone is blessed with gifts to serve God and neighbor. We hear from Jesus: “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” [John 15:8]. A disciple of Christ produces the fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance” [Galatians 5:22-23].
Where do we get the faith for living life as a disciple? The Holy Spirit creates, nurtures, and sustains faith by the Means of Grace – the Word of God and His Sacraments. Christ is in us and people who contact us come into the presence of Christ and His love through us.
The third invitation of Jesus: Live in Me
Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you” [John 15:4]. Our salvation is not an occasional rendezvous; it is an actual dwelling with God. David affirms in Psalm 91:1:” He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” Our home and residence are in the presence of Christ. The Holy Spirit only comes to us externally through His Word and His Sacraments to create and sustain faith. By faith we receive the righteousness of Christ. Expect to be invited often to the Divine Liturgy of the church for worship and servant participation in Confession and Absolution, Service of the Word and Preaching, and Holy Communion.
We all need love and there is no greater demonstration of love than the love of God manifested in His Son, Jesus Christ on the cross. Paul sums up the Gospel this way in Romans 5:8 - “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. Expect to regularly be called friend at Grace Lutheran as you serve and grow in service with Christ: “No longer do I call you servants … but I have called you friends” [John 15:15].
3. We strive to provide opportunities to try something new
Our goal is not to overwhelm anyone with all-consuming commitments that detract from the rest of a God-pleasing sanctified life. When possible; servants should rightfully insist that ministries are clearly defined opportunities for people to engage with milestones and planned evaluation before serving longer-term.
If successful – we give people a chance to experience serving in a way that helps them grow in faith and become more comfortable with their service and witness.
We are reminded of small steps – guided by the Word and lifted up by prayer and when we need help – know Jesus is there to carry us home! We prayerfully communicate needs and expect God to answer those prayers with responsive servants.
4. Back to the ‘80/20 rule’
The “80/20 rule” is a common term for the “Pareto Principle.” Pareto was an Italian economist who observed that a minority of people (about 20 percent) have the majority (about 80 percent) of influence and control. They are, what some have called, the “vital few.”
The church is not a worldly organization. It is the body of Christ. As the body of Christ each congregation is made up of many members which, though different in function, are of equal importance to the body (see 1 Cor. 12:12-27). We consciously avoid the “80/20 rule” which depends on the vital few and encourage with Word, Sacrament, prayer, praise, and thanksgiving the inspired service of the “helpful many.”
5. We preach Law and Gospel
The law leads us to contrition and the Gospel in daily repentance as we live out our life in baptism. It is the Gospel that motivates us to do good works by which Jesus serves our neighbors through us.
It is the mission of the church to administer the grace of Jesus Christ. We do this through preaching the Word and proper administration of the Sacraments. The Holy Spirit only works through these external Means of Grace.
God gave spiritual gifts for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, and for serving Him. The Holy Spirit is the one who produces love in our justified hearts [Rom. 5:5; Gal. 5:22; Col. 1:8], and this love ‘binds everything together in perfect harmony’ [Col. 3:14].
6. God Gives Each Member of the Body Spiritual Gifts
God gives His children a variety of gifts to serve in His Body; the church. Ideally, members do not function independently as servants of God; rather as healthy, contributing members of the Church: “Now hath God set the members every one of them in the body. God has deliberately given us different gifts so that we rely on each other. As we serve God, His people, and the world through the spiritual gifts bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit, the love of God—the fullness of God—is demonstrated, proclaimed, and manifested.
If we do not accept and obediently use our spiritual gifts, which are expressions of “the manifold grace of God” [I Peter 4:10], we neglect God’s work of grace in our lives. We will “fail of the grace of God” [Hebrews 12:15]. God forbid we reject God given opportunity to serve Him with His gifts and presence in the lives of others and thank God that He forgives our sins and calls us to turn and serve Him and walk in His ways.
7. Gifts and Service
Spiritual gifts are empowerments for building up the church and extending the Kingdom of God. In 1 Corinthians 14, the Apostle Paul instructs this congregation on the function of spiritual gifts. He repeats several times that they are to strengthen or build up the church.
- The Holy Spirit is the owner and dispenser of the spiritual gifts [1 Corinthians 12:7,11].
- As believers, we are stewards of the gifts of God [1 Peter 4:10].
- Every believer can expect the Holy Spirit to minister through him or her with spiritual gifts. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. [1 Corinthians 12:7].
- Service requires the individual believer to step out in faith and obedience to God’s Word
Be a blessing: For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. [Hebrews 6:10]