My spouse, Timothy, and I work at a variety of churches. It’s like a church sushi conveyor belt. It’s true! So, in our church nerdiness, we hear one question in multiple meetings in multiple churches. It’s not the only question, but it’s sure close to the top in frequency. It goes something to the tune of:
How do we get more people involved?
Some offer up ideas about a process that might make connections flow throughout the life of the church, through worship and music, through Children, Youth and Family, through Bible studies. Others wondered if the answer is in a perfect protocol, that if everyone followed the protocol up the volunteer/leadership/staff ladder, we wouldn’t ever have to ask this question ever again because everyone would be involved in one way or another.
Others wondered if the answer rested in a perfect practice, something the entire congregation did together that made volunteering and involvement second-nature for every person in the congregation. Another idea was programming – that if we just created the perfect program that was relevant, at the same time every year, and Scripture-based, everyone would have no other choice but to get swept up in the excitement and get involved in the church in some way.
Sorry, I’m being a little sarcastic. I don’t want to say I’m some jaded seminary graduate, but there’s a little bit of that in me as some groupings of my family have been music/worship leaders and/or pastors for as long as I can remember. I’ve seen the highs and lows, dangers and joys of ministry. I can see how people place their hopes for more church involvement in programs, practices, protocols and processes, just to get disappointed that “nothing’s working”.
I might be a little green at being a leader in a church, but I think I’ve learned that people, relationships and trust are the bedrock of involvement. I wouldn’t have been sitting at any of these meetings discussing this questions unless I knew someone around at that table well enough that I knew our values aligned, and something that they went to would be something that I would most likely care about.
A woman in a mission/service committee commented that she would love to help make food for an upcoming fundraiser. It was an offer made out of the blue as the rest of us squabbled about who was going to make the food and how we’re all burnt out. But this woman offered to serve and proceeded to tell us why. She visited Africa on a mission trip through a different church a couple years ago. As her group was leaving to fly back to the US, this small community in Africa collected money, all that they had, and offered it to her and her travel-mates as a gift. All of their money. Through tears she told us she wants to pass on this gratitude. A very short story. A life-time of impact and sense of call.
So how do we get more people involved? Person to person. It is not a magic program, a perfect protocol, a process, or a practice. It’s person to person.
Does your church wrestle with this question? What are your ideas for how to get people more involved – or possibly, why do you think your church is asking this question in the first place, and do they need to be asking a different set of questions?